The decreasing support of Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner isn’t exactly a new thing. We can date the arrival of those calling for an end to his reign back to last season, when consistency became the enemy and Michigan failed to clear any major hurdles. So in enter the Shane Morris truthers—those who say the true sophomore is better equipped to lead the Wolverines’ offense. Fans are expected to do that, but to my surprise, joining that bandwagon recently was Bleacher Report.
B/R featured columnist Phil Callihan—who is also the Publisher of UMGoBlue.com—says the choice seems obvious at first glance: Devin Gardner. But when you look beyond the stats, it’s Morris who actually prevails.
“Gardner’s strengths include toughness, athleticism and a flair for the big play. His weaknesses include overconfidence in his arm strength, an inability to recognize defenders in pass coverage and a lack of ball security when running the football.”
Callihan points out that Gardner “was expected to improve under Nussmeier’s tutelage…” But when are we ever this critical of a quarterback trying to work with a new offensive coordinator? We excuse these situations almost unanimously across the board, but when it comes home to Ann Arbor, there is this problem all the sudden—a problem because Gardner is supposed to be the cure-all, the answer to everything.
This is the third offensive system Gardner has had to learn in his college career, and he has done it at two different positions. Nussmeier said himself that there aren’t excuses, but Callihan then infers this means Nussmeier is acknowledging that, after a decent playing career, Gardner has reached his peak.
But after observing performances against Indiana and Ohio State last season, how can you say Gardner has “reached his peak”? What that means is we’re looking at a lack of consistency, which is something we’re all well aware of. In a sense, you could say Gardner has reached his potential (probably), but he didn’t stay there. This digression isn’t to be confused with mediocrity, though. And back to the original point, what has Morris done to prove he’s the guy for Michigan? I don’t have anything against Morris—he has good potential—but now isn’t his time.
Today against Miami (OH), more than a Michigan win even, I want to see Gardner get back on track, find his groove and maintain it through the rest of the season. And then, just maybe, the Shane Morris truthers can be put to rest for 2014.