Meeting with media nearly every Wednesday during the regular season Gardner would constantly be asked about his health and the beating he endured on Saturday’s, insisting, every time, he was fine and that he’s ‘a football player.’
Now, just nine days from kicking it off with Kansas State in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ari., Gardner might not be taking the field.
Battling what Michigan coach Brady Hoke has termed as turf toe, Gardner continues to be held out of full activity in practice.
“We just want to make sure that he’s rested enough and don’t want him to get out there too soon,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.
Hoke adding, “It’s more, if anything, of just wanting to make sure that he’s totally healthy. And he’s into the game plan and things like that, he’s thrown the ball a little bit but we haven’t done a whole lot.”
Hoke says in order for Gardner to be completely ready to go for their Dec. 28 match-up with Kansas State, No. 98 would likely need to return to the practice field this week.
Even so, Hoke isn’t ready to put a percentage on or anoint a status to the likelihood Gardner plays or doesn’t against the Wildcats.
“I don’t know (if he’s) questionable or,” Hoke said. “I think as he progresses I think we’ll feel better.”
In Gardner’s stead and presumably taking the majority of the first team reps in practice is freshman quarterback Shane Morris.
Morris appeared in just four games during the regular season, completing 5-of-9 pass attempts for 65-yards and an interception.
Should Gardner be out a week from Saturday, Michigan and offensive coordinator Al Borges believe Morris has improved drastically since the beginning of the season despite his lack of experience and remain confident they could mold the game plan around him once a decision is made.
“You just give him what we give,” Borges said. “Because we’re not sure how this thing is going to end up so just give a normal game plan, pretty much like any other week.
“If he had to play maybe, cause you can always cut back, that’s not hard to do. But we just kind of pour it in there, you’ve got a little time to evaluate when it comes time and starts getting close, you just cut to the chase a little bit and make sure you know what he’s capable of if it comes up.”
For Morris the mental aspect can be just as big of an uphill climb as any of the physical attributes necessary to lead an offense in college football. Either way, now in December of his first year on campus in Ann Arbor, progress has been made.
“He just understands it a lot better,” Borges said. “And with more time in bowl practice to prepare him, that helps.
“When you first get here it’s overwhelming, I mean really overwhelming for a freshman, particularly if he hasn’t been in spring football. He’s, all this stuff is hitting him at one time and it’s tough. But now he’s had 12 games, a little bit of bowl practice, he’s catching up.”