Michigan is walking a dangerously thin line at quarterback. There is little depth behind projected starter Devin Gardner, and there isn't any help coming. According to Nick Baumgardner of MLive, adding a transfer quarterback is no longer a goal.
“I think we’re pretty set with what we have,” head coach Brady Hoke said at a camp Friday. “I believe in the guys we have in the program.”
What Hoke means it that he has all of the confidence in the world in Gardner, his only QB with any playing experience. Russell Bellomy tore his ACL in April, creating a one-man show at the position.
The thought of having to start anybody else is a road the coaching staff doesn't want to travel down. Freshman Shane Morris is the only other scholarship quarterback, but Michigan would prefer to redshirt him.
As the Wolverines' only reliable quarterback, Gardner will have to make sure his instincts are sharp. He could get in trouble the second he loses focus and takes an unnecessary hit.
Dual-threat QBs are prone to injuries because they take more hits than a traditional pocket-passer. Gardner was sacked every 11.4 pass attempts last season and took even more hits when he ran the ball 47 times. Those hits begin to take their toll. Although he only played quarterback in five games, Gardner was already feeling the effects. He injured his ankle against Ohio State and was seen wearing a walking boot, according to
He will now be asked to remain healthy over the course of an entire season. That means limiting hits, making better decisions and changing his playing style. He will now have to run out of bounds instead of fighting for those extra yards. He will have to learn when a play is over instead of giving a stiff-arm to a defensive lineman and trying to break free. Remember, every hit counts, and that injury meter continues to turn every time Gardner is picking himself up after a tackle.
If that wasn't scary enough, Michigan also has a questionable offensive line. The tackle positions are held down by future NFL players in Mike Schofield and Taylor Lewan, but the interior consists of young players who are being asked to grow up. Ben Braden at left guard and Kyle Kalis at right guard are freshmen. Center is still up for grabs, and one of the players in the mix is Patrick Kugler—you guessed it, another freshman.
Although it is a talented unit with potential, expecting a world-class offensive line is asking for a bit much. There will be growing pains, there will be bad protection and Gardner will be hit in the backfield.
This has been the year of the transfer quarterback. Florida State's Clint Trickett and Arkansas' Brandon Mitchell both picked new schools. Oklahoma State's Wes Lunt remains on the market. Michigan swung and missed on the first two, but could have had a shot at Lunt, who has limited options. Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy has prevented him (h/t Yahoo! Sports) from transferring to a Big 12, Pac-12 or SEC school, though.
Not having any depth is putting a lot of pressure on Gardner, who has only started five games in his career. That injury meter continues to turn. Now the question is: Where will Michigan turn when another quarterback is needed?