While Devin Gardner has his positives, the negatives are starting to outweigh the plus’s by a landslide.
First, while likeable, Gardner is 11-6 as the starting quarterback at Michigan. So essentially, he’s had close to two years of starting experience, and he doesn’t seem like he’s getting any better.
And, no, I’m not blaming him for the overall struggles of the program. I’m just pointing out where his development is at as a fifth-year senior, who is entering his third year as Michigan’s starting quarterback.
Yes, he started off this season 19-of-20 passing. And I’m aware he wasn’t responsible for the two missed field goal attempts at Notre Dame. Which is disheartening for any offense on the road. But good quarterbacks regroup, they don’t lose composure.
With his team trailing 21-0 at ND, he panicked. He tried to be Superman, and he wilted. He threw three second-half interceptions. He threw an interception on Michigan’s opening possession of the second half, when the offense needed points the most.
Furthermore, he looked flushed in the pocket. He had no awareness of pressure or finding his open receiver. He simply looked lost. Maybe, he hasn’t recovered mentally from the beating he took at Michigan State last season. But clearly something isn’t right with his confidence and as soon as he feels pressure, he folds, simple as that.
Second, the offensive line excuse has to stop. Yes, they are young. Yes, they do breakdown. But they have shown flashes of consistency. They ran the ball better than Notre Dame. They gave Gardner time to throw the ball. At times, which is a lot, he simply holds onto the ball too long, instead of throwing the ball away. Again, he tries to play Superman.
Third, if you were at the night game scrimmage last month, you saw these same inconsistencies in Gardner’s play. He was sloppy, he made bad reads, for some reason he doesn’t know how to step up in the pocket. Again, his pocket awareness is shaky at best. He was lined up against the No. 2 defense for most of the scrimmage. Which made his struggles even more alarming.
Now to his counterpart, Shane Morris. The backup quarterback is always the most popular player on a struggling team. But the time of Morris is now. Gardner has a big enough resume, that you know what you’re going to get with him. Morris, well, needs his opportunity.
Morris made his first career start in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last December. While the Wolverines lost, he had his moments and didn’t looked overwhelmed. While he’s not as fast as Gardner, Morris showcases better pocket presence. He feels the pressure and steps into his throw. He looked like the better quarterback in Michigan’s scrimmage last month, too. He also did most of his damage against the No. 1 defense.
The excuse that Gardner needs to stay as the starter simply because of his experience, or his speed to get out of the pocket, or even that he wears No. 98 needs to stop. A quarterbacks best weapon is his head – not his legs. They need a QB who can feel the pressure, find the open man, or simply throw it away. And Gardner has shown he can’t do that. His confidence is lost.
And I feel that Shame Morris can. It’s his time to shine or bust. We know what Gardner can do. Now it’s time to see what Morris can do.
Will it cost Michigan some games this season? Sure it can. Do I think Morris will cost Michigan a three loss difference compared to Gardner? No way. The Big Ten is down this year. U-M still could win nine or ten games with Gardner or Morris. But when Gardner faces a “pressure” defense, he loses. It’s proven. Last year against MSU is prove enough. So give Morris his shot.
And from a positive standpoint, you’ll see if Michigan has its quarterback of the future. You utilize Morris’ ability to stretch the field with his big time arm. And frankly, it gives Michigan a crutch this season that they were using a young inexperienced QB. Plus, you move Gardner back to wide receiver where he has better shot of making a professional team anyways. And U-M could use a second WR to play next to Devin Funchess, too. Both moves could make the offense better. Isn’t that the point anyways?
Now, will it happen? Will see. But based off Gardner’s recent play, it should.