Michigan Wolverines Can't Shelve Shane Morris After Russell Bellomy's ACL Injury
Shane Morris is one of the Michigan Wolverines' marquee quarterback recruits in years.
The former 5-star (finished high school as a 4-star) Warren De La Salle staple has the build at 6'3" and 183 pounds to become the pro-style signal-caller that the Wolverines have waited for since Chad Henne's departure in 2007.
The popular theory was that the Wolverines would redshirt Morris, allowing him time to gain experience with the scout team, build confidence and take in knowledge of Al Borges' offense.
Well, in light of Russell Bellomy's ACL tear, throw all of that out of the window. There is absolutely no way possible that Michigan can shelve its freshman superstar-to-be at this point—who will back up Devin Gardner?
Bellomy, obviously, was the Wolverines' best option for a No. 2 quarterback. Now that he's out—likely for the entire 2013 season—Michigan has to speed up plans of molding Morris into a college-ready quarterback.
Should Morris be pushed into the No. 2 role due to Bellomy's injury?
This season holds immense promise for a program that finished 8-5 in 2012. Relying on an unproven walk-on doesn't make sense, nor would it be the proper course of action for Brady Hoke's staff if Michigan is to continue its ascent.
If Morris isn't the heir apparent, then it looks like Brian Cleary, a redshirt freshman out of Detroit Jesuit, will be the one called upon to handle second-fiddle duties behind Gardner.
If you're not familiar with Cleary, don't worry, you're not the only one. Maize and Brew, a Michigan blog, does a great job of introducing the 6'3", 199-pound quarterback. The Michigan blog points out that Cleary, "an enigma," shares the No. 6 jersey with Raymon Taylor.
OK. That clears up things.
Maize and Brew also brings to light Cleary's lackluster 40-yard dash time, a snail-like 5.04 seconds ran as a high school senior. OK, so he's no Denard Robinson. Hopefully, for Michigan, Cleary has the arm to make up for his speed deficiencies.
The Detroit News' Angelique Chengelis reports that Cleary received endorsements from Borges, Hoke and Morris.
Well, that's a little better, right?
Endorsements or not, Cleary isn't the logical, nor ideal, replacement for Bellomy, who isn't exactly an ideal backup for Gardner in the first place. Remember the Nebraska game, and you'll relive Bellomy's horrid experience against the Huskers defense that forced the youngster to the ground at will.
Bellomy couldn't complete a pass if he wanted to, evidenced by his 3-for-16, three-interception fiasco that left Wolverines fans running for cover; they either changed the channel or muted the broadcast while peeking from underneath a couch cushion or pillow.
It. Was. Bad.
Would Cleary be much better? That remains to be seen. But there are other options for Michigan at this stage of the game, another batch of inexperienced kids that will surely be eaten alive by get-at-it defenses in the Big Ten.
Michigan's approach to quarterback should be along the lines of keeping three or four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster while allowing a walk-on or two to make his way into the fold. Depth at quarterback is protection, an insurance policy for the insurance policy—the No. 2 guy.
And the Wolverines are now much more vulnerable in that department.
Meet the Other Potential Backups
Alex Swieca starred at The Frisch School (New York state), but he has zero in-game experience in college. The redshirt sophomore isn't a viable replacement for Bellomy, either.
There goes that idea.
Austin has gained about 10 pounds since arriving to Ann Arbor—he's close enough to home to eat the good stuff, so maybe that's why—and has late-game heroics potential. As a junior, he led Plymouth to an 85-yard touchdown drive during the final two minutes of a state semis battle against Rockford.
If not Morris, who should be the No. 2 QB?
Who was the beneficiary of Austin's game-winning touchdown toss? None other than Brennen Beyer, that's who.
But then again, Cleary and Swieca were recruited by Michigan, so they're capable of doing the same—right?
Giving underclassmen experience is a necessity. At times, it's almost a chore—such was the case with Bellomy against Nebraska.
While there are talented arms in Michigan's stable, none are likely better than Morris, a deep-ball-throwing lefty that's turned heads for the past couple of years. Morris was rated as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback of the 2013 class for a reason. He's good.
Instead of mulling around in an attempt to find who the next man's next man will be, Hoke and the Wolverines need to consider Morris above anyone else.
That's the only logical option at this point. Should Gardner get injured, a freshman that's been said to throw a professional ball is a better choice than walk-ons who haven't played in a meaningful game in at least a year. That's not a knock on them, it's a fact.
If Morris is as talented as Michigan thinks he is, the time to see is now.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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