Michigan Football began their second week of fully-padded spring practice on Tuesday and from the sounds of it, the starting quarterback position is up for grabs.
While some might see the starting job already in the grasps of fifth-year senior Devin Gardner, that doesn’t seem to be the mentality of the players, especially sophomore quarterback Shane Morris.
“Oh no, of course not,” Morris said in response when asked if the quarterback competition was a two-man race. “There’s six quarterbacks, so it’s a six-man race.”
The 6-foot-3 sophomore (then a true freshman) was named the Wolverine’s starting quarterback after Devin Gardner was unable to play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl due to a broken toe. Despite the eventual 31-14 loss to Kansas State, Morris showed great potential in a game that was never really a competition.
Not only did he showcase his talents, but the 19-year old from De La Salle got a taste of what it’s like to be the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan, and it sounds like he is hungry for more.
After being asked if he felt that he could take the position from Gardner, Morris paused following a subtle laugh and said, “Yeah, that’s what an open competition is.”
He wasn’t the only one to acknowledge the fight over the starting job, even Gardner spoke to the idea of an open competition.
“Everybody is fiercely competing,” Gardner said after Tuesday’s practice. “That’s what you expect from guys that want to play.”
A list of competitors that isn’t exclusive to Gardner and Morris.
In regards to the legitimacy of freshman Wilton Speight as another competitor for the starting job, Gardner said confidently, “Oh yeah definitely. Wilton’s got game, he can play.” Speight, standing at 6-foot-6, is making a lasting impression in practice after an early enrollment has allowed him to participate in spring ball.
That list also includes Russell Bellomy, who is also receiving first-team reps, acknowledging that he is also in consideration for playing time once the season begins.
Regardless of all the talk, is there a legitimate chance that Brady Hoke will strip Gardner of his job?
The notion of the starting job being completely vacant makes for great conversation, especially considering the potential success of Morris under this new chapter of the pro-style offense, but Hoke isn’t one to stray away from his veteran leaders. (For example, Fitzgerald Toussaint last year or Dennard Robinson in 2012.)
As long as Gardner’s health doesn’t become an issue, it’s likely that he will be Michigan’s starting quarterback when the 2014 season kicks off against Appalachian State.
That statement doesn’t come along with the assumption that he will have a rebound year, or that he will still be the starting quarterback at the end of the year, or even that he is the right man for the job. The only assumption is that, if he’s healthy, number 98 will be Michigan’s quarterback at the start of the season.
“I haven’t taken any steps back as far as health is concerned,” Gardner said. “I feel like I’m getting better and better each day.”
As far as his limitations go, Gardner said there are some drills that he doesn’t participate in for precautionary reasons but he personally felt it was important to participate in spring practice from day one.
There’s no doubt that the conversation of an open competition is compelling, although, that’s all it might be. Just a conversation.
As spring practice continues, check out our Michigan Football page for the latest news, rumors, and opinion.