Join The Big House Report as we preview each position heading up to Michigan’s spring game on April 5. We kick it off today with a look at the quarterbacks.
Last season was supposed to be the exclamation point on a sort of confusing career for quarterback Devin Gardner, but it was anything but exciting for the fifth-year senior. The season opener against Appalachian State saw Gardner complete 13 of 14 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. It would take him almost a month and a half to throw his next three, however, as Michigan’s offense completely stalled each Saturday. Turnovers and injuries were the stories of the season, and in the end there was much to be desired. Should Gardner get a shot in the NFL as a wide receiver, he will become the program’s second straight quarterback to switch positions at the next level.
• Alex Malzone (early enrollee)
• Zach Gentry
• John O’Korn (transfer, will have to sit 2015 season)
Projected Depth Chart
|1st Team||Shane Morris||RS Jr.||6-foot-3, 205 lbs.|
|2nd Team||Wilton Speight||RS Fr.||6-foot-6, 235 lbs.|
|Backup||Alex Malzone||Fr.||6-foot-2, 218 lbs.|
|Backup||Zach Gentry||Fr.||6-foot-6, 230 lbs.|
|Backup||Brian Cleary||RS Jr.||6-foot-3, 205 lbs.|
|Backup||Joe Hewlett||RS Fr.||6-foot, 192 lbs.|
|Backup||Garrett Moores||RS So.||6-foot-3, 211 lbs.|
|Backup||Matt Thompson||RS Fr.||6-foot-5, 214 lbs.|
Shane Morris has had a few opportunities to show what he can do at the collegiate level, but never has his chance come under any type of ideal circumstance. He’s made two starts and last season did a little relief work for Devin Gardner. The 6-foot-3 lefty does show a lot of promise with a cannon for an arm, though, and if Michigan can run the football the way it wants to, Morris won’t need to be any kind of hero on the field.
Competing with Morris for the starting job will be Wilton Speight, who took a redshirt last season. Speight hasn’t taken a snap in a collegiate game, but his 6-foot-6 frame makes him an ideal candidate to run Jim Harbaugh’s offense. His progression is yet to be truly measured, but he seems to be a strong candidate in these early spring practices.
From there it will come down to a pair of true freshmen, Alex Malzone and Zach Gentry. Malzone was a long-time Michigan commit, while Gentry jumped ship at the last minute after Harbaugh arrived. Gentry is not part of Michigan’s official roster because he hasn’t enrolled, but Malzone has been on campus since January. That head start could be the difference in this two-man race.
A combination of multi-year members of the program will fill in the remaining four spots this season. All are on walk-on status.
Player To Watch: Shane Morris
Shane Morris has a real opportunity this season to do what many have been expecting him to do since he arrived at Michigan. He hasn’t had the luxury of operating within a system friendly to quarterbacks, but those days seem to be over. From watching Morris last season, one advantage he already has is the ability to throw on the run off of play-action, which is something Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will be pushing for.
Morris can’t be the same quarterback he was last season and expect to be a starter in 2015; his development will be imperative. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quarterback on this roster who stands above the rest, though that’s exactly what Harbaugh is hoping spring ball will give him. If there’s a player capable of taking those necessary steps, though, it’s Shane Morris.
Position Grade: B-
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of the Big House Report. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.