The Michigan Wolverines have hit the reset button on quarterback for the 2014 season. And believe it or not, that’s a major positive for the program.
“I think (the starting quarterback for next season) is an unknown,” Hoke said on Monday, per MLive.com’s Nick Baumgardner. “We were 7-6 (last season). And we’ve got a lot of young guys (on the team). We’ve got a lot of competition.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Yes, soon-to-be senior Devin Gardner has earned his reps as Michigan’s starter under center over the last two years. However, his performance, albeit statistically solid, hasn’t delivered the school the results it wants.
The Wolverines are just 10-7 with Gardner starting.
Freshman quarterback Shane Morris’ performance in relief of an injured Gardner in the team’s bowl game certainly didn’t help clear things up. He threw for 196 yards on 24-of-38 passing and rushed for 43 yards in Michigan’s 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
“I thought (Morris) did a really good job of being composed, he did a great job with his preparation and I thought he represented himself well in that game," Hoke said, via Baumgardner. “I think he probably surprised some people with how athletic he is. … he surprised me even a little bit.”
The biggest foreshadowing of change being on the horizon was the recent hiring of Doug Nussmeier as offensive coordinator.
Formerly with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the same position, Nussmeier worked magic with quarterback AJ McCarron. In just one season, he transformed McCarron from a game manager into a game-changer.
Just take a look at the numbers:
|AJ McCarron Before and After Working With Nussmeier|
Offensive coordinator? Quarterback whisperer is more fitting.
Obviously, the move suggests that Hoke and his staff are going back to the drawing board as far as the offense is concerned. So why not invest in the future now with Morris—who has three years of eligibility remaining—instead of riding out Gardner’s senior season, only to start all over again in 2015?
Then again, it’s a pretty big gamble to throw an untested sophomore into the fire when you have a well-seasoned senior waiting in the wings.
But that’s what makes opening the job up in the spring so brilliant. This way, Hoke and Nussmeier can find out exactly what they have before any of the real action begins.
No harm, no foul.
And, if nothing else, all this competition talk will hopefully serve as motivation for Gardner.
Throughout his four seasons in Ann Arbor, the Detroit, Mich., native has thrown for 4,440 yards, 34 touchdowns and 17 interceptions on 59.7 percent passing for a passer rating of 149.2. He’s also added another 658 yards and 20 scores on the ground.
The Wolverines will need a lot more if they hope to compete with Ohio State and Michigan State in the Big Ten next season. But hey, there’s nothing like some pressure to bring out the best in people.
And if it doesn’t workout, Gardner could always move back to wide receiver. After all, he spent eight games in 2012 at the position, hauling in 16 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns.
All in all, nothing bad can come out of this move by Hoke. In fact, it might turn out to be the best coaching decision he’s made since taking the job in 2011.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.