The Michigan football team enters spring practice with Devin Gardner as its leader of the offense.
Gardner, who started the last five games for the Maize and Blue last season after the elbow injury to then senior starter, Denard Robinson, is showcasing a new found ‘maturity' this winter off-season.
"I like how he's handled himself," said Michigan coach, Brady Hoke at Thursday press conference at Bo Schembechler Hall. "I like how he's, the right word is probably matured and seriousness about being the quarterback at Michigan."
At 6-foot-4, 203-pounds, Gardner threw for 1,219 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions last season. He completed 59 percent of passes, while also playing wide receiver to start off the season. He recently was notified he would have his medical redshirt eligibility granted earlier this month, after sustaining a back injury in third game of freshman season.
"You never know how those things can turn," Hoke said on the eligibility announcement. "I think it's obviously , an opportunity for him to play and be at Michigan another year. To keep elevating his game from the intelligence of playing the position. To Again, the leadership is always something. And so I think he feels pretty good about it."
Now, that Gardner is in the fold, the Wolverines' are expected to utilize his deep throw passing ability through the play-action next season.
"I think the play-action game off of the run game is, you know, going to big part of it," Hoke said. "We're not going to lineup in one-back sets and three wides and four wides and just start out throwing the football. That's not who we're going to be. We certainly get into the season there is game plans and those kind of things. When you look at what we are and we want to be with our two-back sets and with you know being able to run the football and do those things, it's all part of it."
Youth Movement on the O-Line
"We got a lot of young guys up front who are going to have great opportunities to prove what they can do at the line of scrimmage," Hoke said. "I like having Taylor (Lewan) back and having Mike (Scholfield) back gives you two solid guys, obviously, at the tackle position. You got tight ends that are going to be a big part of it. A.J. Williams and his improvement, (Devin) Funchess, Jake Butt, you know is a guy who's been here since January. Running the football is something that we're going to stress. And stopping the ball on the other side of the ball. I think there is a lot of young youth that going to get a lot of opportunity.
"I think the run game depends on what you do up front. No who's back there. Gale Sayers could be back there and if you're not blocking the line of scrimmage you got problems. So, that will get a lot of work done with how we want to play up front during the spring."
Hoke pointed out that Justice Hayes, Thomas Rawls, and Drake Johnson have all made improvements this winter. He said sophomore Dennis Norfleet has move back to running back. Also, injured redshirt senior Fitzgerald Toussaint has made strides in his leg injury. The one back that has stood out he most—is Johnson.
"I think Drake Johnson at the end of fall and bowl practice we liked a lot what he did," Hoke explained. "(He's) Big. (He) ends up going downhill. Can break tackles. Has a love and fire to play. Has enthusiasm for it."
On the backup QB situation
Hoke noted that incoming freshman quarterback Shane Morris will compete from day one of fall camp.
"He's going to compete," Hoke said of Morris. "I don't lean anyway with anybody. We feel pretty good about Russell Bellomy. I think at times he is the lost man in this whole conversation. But Russell Bellomy, you look at what he's done over the winter and what he looks like. He's a competitive guy. And obviously, we thought he was a pretty good quarterback or we wouldn't of went down to Texas and recruited him. And so, we're excited about him. And Devin and him they'll compete. I mean, don't assume this is, ‘here you go.' I mean, they got to compete."
Hoke said there is chance of a Maize and Blue scrimmage for the Spring Game. He said it depends on the depth issues.
He said redshirt senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is working hard and improving this off-season.
Hoke runs through U-M's spring question-marks
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