The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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88 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW QB That's Nussmeier's constant, insistent, uncompromising demand with regard to the fifth-year senior. There cannot be as much freelanc- ing, while still allowing for natural play-making ability. The new quarterbacks coach praised Gardner for his hard work in getting healthy, after the foot injury that sidelined him for the bowl game. Gardner jumped fully into spring practice, allowing him to not only study the new offense, but run it as well. Now, Michigan's starter for the past year and a half simply needs to hone in on making the most of every situation, beginning with the plan in place, Nussmeier assured. "The biggest thing for a quarterback with Devin's attributes, the ability to create plays on his own, is learning to work within the system," Nussmeier observed. "He has to make the offensive system work for him. "Then, when there's a breakdown, you let your natural athleticism take over and make a productive play out of what would not have been a productive play. It's natural for a guy with Devin's attributes to try and take the game over. "Sometimes you do too much, and it creates problems for you. Whereas if you let the offense work for you, and then create within the structure, you end up having better results." Gardner said the message cannot be missed, the way Nussmeier is getting it across. "They put a lot of pressure on us," Gardner said. "Coach Nuss puts pressure on to be perfect. Obviously, you're not going to be perfect. But striving for that greatness is what's making everybody better, both offense and defense." Neither head coach Brady Hoke nor Nussmeier has insisted with- out question that Gardner will be the starter come the opening weekend of the season. Some of that could simply involve keeping the fifth-year senior motivated throughout the summer, but Hoke has urged him to continue developing as a leader while Nussmeier con- tinues requiring a higher level of technical precision. Gardner has absorbed those messages as well. "There is definitely competition," Gardner acknowledged. "Coach Hoke and Coach Nuss have let me know: I'm the quarterback right now, but it can change. If I'm outplayed, and he feels like Shane or Wilton can help the team better … it would be selfish of me to say not to play them. "My job is to make sure that's not an option. That's what I'm go- ing to do." Morris got his taste of action in a winged helmet during the bowl game, and did not look overwhelmed. He went 24-of-38 passing for 196 yards, with one interception. The rookie also scrambled for 43 yards, including a 40-yard run, on a night featuring a total of 65 net yards rushing by the Wolverines, 13 of them by the running backs. The Wolverines as a team didn't hold up well in the 31-14 loss to Kansas State, but Morris certainly did not look out of place behind QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Doug Nussmeier (first season). Returning Starter: Devin Gardner (21 career starts, 16 at quarterback). Departing Starter: None. Projected New Starter: None. Top Reserves: Shane Morris (1) and Russell Bellomy. Newcomers: Wilton Speight. Moved In: None. Moved Out: None. Rookie Impact: None. Most Improved Player: Morris. Best Pro Prospect: Gardner. FYI: Gardner is making an assault on the Michigan passing records book in 2014, with a top-12 standing in a host of categories … He enters the season 11th on Michigan's all-time list for passes attempted (504), 10th in completions (301), ninth in passing yards (4,440), tied for sixth in highest touchdown percentage (6.7), eighth in average yards per completion (14.8), tied for ninth with most 150-yard passing games (15), tied for fifth with most 200-yard passing games (12) and third for most average passing yards per game (177.6) … Gardner set the Michigan record for most passing yards ever in a single game, throwing for 503 in the shootout win over Indiana last fall … He came back and posted the second-best effort in Michigan history in the regular- season finale, throwing for 451 yards in the one-point loss to Ohio State … Gardner's 2,960 passing yards last season marked the second-highest total ever by a U-M quar- terback, behind John Navarre's 3,331 in 2003 … Gardner has thrown for more than 250 yards in a game five times in his career … He threw four touchdown passes in games against Notre Dame and Ohio State in 2013, tying for the most ever in a single contest by a Michigan quarterback … Gardner's 24 yards per completion against Indiana last season represented the fourth-highest average in Michigan history, behind Denard Robinson's 30.7 against Notre Dame in 2011, Robinson's 30.5 versus Illinois in 2010 and Jim Harbaugh's 30.0 against Indiana in 1986 … Gardner's 21 touchdown passes in 2013 tied for the sixth-most ever in a season by a Michigan quarterback … Morris in 2013 became Michigan's first true freshman quarterback to start in a bowl game since Chad Henne got the nod in the 2005 Rose Bowl. Sophomore Shane Morris made his first start as a Wolverine in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last December, going 24-of-38 passing for 196 yards, with one interception, and also scrambling for 43 yards. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 86-90.QBs.indd 88 6/19/14 8:51 AM

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