Spring Game Preview: The Quarterbacks

Shane Morris

As Michigan gets set to take the field at the big house Saturday here's a closer look at what to look for out of a quarterback position boasting the most depth since the arrival of Wolverines' coach Brady Hoke.

An off-season in flux for Michigan as the Wolverines look to correct several issues offensively under newly hired coordinator Doug Nussmeier, Saturday’s spring game should serve as a perfect rehearsal for what could be an interesting quarterback competition this fall.

Here’s a closer look at Michigan’s quarterbacks and what can be expected come Saturday when the Wolverines run out of the tunnel.

QB #98 – Devin Gardner

2013 Season Statistics:

Starts: 12

Passing: 208-of-345 completions (60.3-percent)

TD/INT: 21-11

Pass yards: 2,960

Rush yards: 483

Rush TD: 11

Spring Overview:

Is this 2014 Michigan team Devin Gardner’s or will the Wolverines look beyond and into the future with a different starter? No, the spring game won’t determine who the guy will be heading into the fall but Gardner’s play this spring and Saturday afternoon could help ease nervousness over the position moving forward. Brady Hoke came to Gardner’s defense this spring swiftly stating Gardner would get the start if Michigan played a game this spring but if the turnovers persist in practice the Wolverines might not hesitate to look elsewhere as expectations are high for a team that finished 7-6 a year ago. Good news for Gardner and Michigan is how quickly he was able to work his way back from foot surgery, participating fully this spring as he gets up to speed on the new offense and terminology.

What to look for Saturday:

How quickly has Gardner been able to pick up this offense and is he making quick, sharp decisions? Details appear to be huge for new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and turnovers will not be accepted. Turning the ball over so many times in 2013, Gardner will need to have that corrected, now without his go to man Jeremy Gallon catching nearly everything thrown his way on the outside. Also, Gardner never appeared comfortable standing in or stepping up into the pocket (if one actually developed) last season; comfort with the football and a good feel of where the pressure is coming from will be key in recognizing his primary reads.

QB #7 – Shane Morris

2013 Season Statistics:

Starts: 1 (5 games played)

Passing: 29-of-47 completions (61.7-percent)

TD/INT: 0-2

Pass yards: 261

Rush yards: 40

Rush TD: 0

Spring overview:

Perhaps the worst thing that could’ve happened to Morris his freshman season is Michigan’s 7-6 mark. With closer than expected games, especially in the non-conference, Morris was unable to earn some early, quality snaps late in games to start getting a good feel for the offense and the speed of the college game in general. Able to add one start to his belt in the bowl loss to Kansas State, Morris came into the spring fresh and eager to compete after an efficient showing. A positive for Morris is an even playing field this spring. Sure, Devin Gardner has the leg up in experience and athleticism at the quarterback position but every quarterback started on a fresh slate with the new offense of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Perhaps possessing the most arm talent of Michigan’s quarterbacks, Morris could be a good fit in this scheme and showcased good presence throughout spring practice.

What to look for Saturday:

Even going back to his high school days at Warren (Mich.) De La Salle, Morris is a leader and commands attention from his guys on the field, encouraging and invigorating the huddle each play. Saturday, that’s No. 1 and No. 1a; is Morris mature enough and capable of leading this team should he be named the starter this fall? Saturday can go a long way into letting people know just how ready the left-handed sophomore might be for primetime. Next, obviously solid decision-making and the pocket presence he displayed in his first and only start will be important as well, knowing full well he can still zip the ball in the there with the best of them.

QB #19 – Wilton Speight

2013 Season Statistics: N/A

(At Richmond (Va.) Collegiate high school)

Led team to state title

Pass TD: 33

Pass yards: 2,845

Rush yards: 292

Spring overview:

Easily Michigan’s biggest quarterback on the depth chart at 6-foot-6, 230-pounds, Speight enrolled early to further add competition at the position to speed up his development -- and it’s helped. Drawing praise from Coach Brady Hoke and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, Speight is a quick study and good decision-maker, something he displayed day in and day out at the Under Armour All-America practices in Orlando in January. Speight isn’t possessing great velocity on his footballs but throws a nice deep ball and has great precision in intermediate passing, something he’s brought with him to Ann Arbor. Will all of this be enough to be a true factor to start his first season on campus? That remains to be seen with experience in front of him.

What to look for Saturday:

As is the case with most freshmen, Speight will need to simply prove he belongs on Saturday. No it isn’t going to be a packed house or crazy atmosphere for the spring game Saturday but Speight will have the chance to show he’s capable of handling the huddle and taking what the defense gives him. Speight rarely tries to do too much with the football, simply making the right throws at the right time and if he can put his receivers in good positions Saturday his chance for playing time this fall goes up.

QB #8 – Russell Bellomy

2013 Season Statistics: N/A

Bellomy missed the 2013 season recovering from a knee injury.

What to look for Saturday:

Bellomy hit the practice field leading up to Michigan’s bowl game in December following a lost season due to a knee injury. Experiencing easily his most challenging moment of his short Michigan career in a loss at Nebraska in 2012, Bellomy can still be a serviceable backup for the Wolverines with tons of talent ahead of him. A quarterback that can move around a bit in and out of the pocket, Bellomy, who likely could be part of the scout team this fall, can show he’s ready to help Michigan in some capacity with a confident showing Saturday.

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