in town for free camps
shane morris is not usurping devin gardner's job okay
It says somethin' about somethin' that Michigan had even the barest semblance of a Quarterback Controversy this offseason. It's not so much that Brady Hoke was going around saying it to people—football coaches' public statement are 95% motivational lies. It's more that a lot of people wanted it to be true.
By the midst of spring practice it seemed like half of the Michigan fanbase had an I WANT TO BELIEVE poster they'd adorned with Shane Morris's head in their room. Beat writers sent out a never-ending stream of WHAT ABOUT THE QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY articles that message boards passed around, nodding sagely about, until yrs truly was twitching every time I checked twitter. Finally, the dam broke:
WHEN IS THE LAST TIME MICHIGAN REPLACED A FIFTH YEAR SENIOR QUARTERBACK WITH AN UNDERCLASSMAN VOLUNTARILY
DON'T LOOK IT UP I'LL TELL YOU NEVER
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT SHANE MORRIS'S PERFORMANCE IN THE BOWL GAME THAT CONVINCES YOU HE'S THE GUY, EXACTLY
THAT ONE SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT OTHER SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT END AROUND THAT TECHNICALLY COUNTS AS A PASS
THE DUDE AVERAGED 5.2 YPA, WHICH IS THREET/SHERIDAN PRODUCTION
HE THREW AN INTERCEPTION THE INSTANT MICHIGAN LET HIM THROW DOWNFIELD
MICHIGAN SCORED SIX MEANINGFUL POINTS
DEVIN GARDNER WAS 80% DEAD MOST OF THIS YEAR AND STILL HAD 8.6 YPA
That about sums it up. The moment passed, people were yelled at to take their posters down, and Hoke named Gardner the starter in the middle of fall camp. But the discontent still lingers.
[After THE JUMP: SURROUNDED BY THE ENEMY STOP OUR LINES ARE BROKEN STOP SEND LOVE TO MY WIFE STOP]
News bullets and other important items:
- Delonte Hollowell has a cast on his hand and Ondre Pipkins was held out of two-a-days as a precaution.
- Shane Morris is the backup QB. They like the progress he’s made, but he’s the backup.
- Wilton Speight is competing with Russell Bellomy for the third-string QB job. Decision on whether Speight should redshirt will be made in a couple of weeks.
- The first team offensive line should be determined over the next week.
- May use by-committee approach to running backs, but they would like to have a featured back.
- Drake Johnson and De’Veon Smith are 1 and 1a on the RB depth chart, with Derrick Green at 2.
- Team is still searching for an identity, though Hoke wants it to be one that can run the ball and have toughness on both sides of the ball. Toughness was mentioned a lot today.
- Brian is probably going to have to eat a lemon.
“Good morning. I’m glad you’re here. Overall, we’re really happy with the progress we’ve made from spring. I think in the practices that we’ve had, we went two yesterday-- really good effort and good competition, which is what we’re striving for at every position but also offense versus defense, the kicking game versus the kicking game, all those things, we’ve come out and competed hard. Now we are not, as far as being a good football team yet. But the way they’ve come to work every day and what they’ve done, I think the identity of this team is still one that we’re developing and trying to develop. I think the team has invested themselves in a lot of ways in each other and in what we’re trying to get done. This next week is a grind and should be because you’ve got some double-day practices in there. We’ll scrimmage sometime during that time, during that week, trying to get reps and see what matchups we like as an offense and defense. Really looking into the situational football standpoint of it, how we match up and how we will match up during the course of the year. Excited about where we’re at knowing that we’ve got a lot of hard work that we’ve got to put into it. Staff-wise, player-wise, trainer-wise, manager-wise, everybody that’s involved. So from that standpoint there’s a lot of positives. From the standpoint of where we want to be, we’re not near that yet.
Can you say anything particular about any injuries that have occurred?
“You know,there are some guys who are banged up. Delonte Hollowell, he’s got a cast on his hand. As far as anything real major besides a couple guys we held out, Ondre Pipkins in two-a-day days, trying not to overwork him. We’re doing a lot with some of the GPS tracking that we’re into. I think the first time around doing all that stuff you’re trying to get some baselines and some data and all that and I think that’s helping us when we go out to practice.”
What can you tell me about your thought process through the kicking game this year? Special teams particularly, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of new faces. So what can you tell me, from long snapper to holder to PK…
“Yeah. Matt Wile has done a nice job in his career so far in the kicking part of it. Will Hagerup, it’s great to have Will back. He’s had a good camp so far. Kenny Allen is a young man who’s walked on here who’s worked really hard and is developing a little bit on kickoffs. He’s a very good punter. Snapper, Scott Sypniewski and Danny Liesman are two guys that are really competing there. Scott we brought in a year ago and were able to redshirt him, but losing Jareth Glanda, that’s a big loss but Scott’s done a nice job in that part of it. When you look at the return game there’s a lot of different guys. Norfleet’s really taken most of them but a guy like Freddy Canteen, a guy like Jabrill Peppers, some of those guys have a skillset that we think is pretty good. And the other part of that is having Drake Johnson back is a real plus.”
I’m curious to know how is the development of your wide receiver group going and the transition to a new offensive system?
“The wide receivers, I think, are learning every day. I think the pressure and the stress that we put on them and how we practice as a whole team but for those guys when you’re talking about formationally getting lined up and the different personnel groups and depending on what the quarterback sees and what he’s pointing and all that, I think they’re learning a lot there. I think with Devin [Funchess] and Jehu [Chesson], Amara [Darboh] coming back is a real plus for us. He’s had a real good camp so far. Again, it’s not like we’re in three weeks of it but he’s done a nice job. Freddy Canteen, I think all those guys, Bo Dever, Da’Mario Jones, all of them have improved. They fit what we’re doing. We’ve recruited them to fit what we’re doing offensively.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Ryan, leadership, Gardner, and more.]
The college football offseason is a long, lonely time. Some fans are lucky to have a basketball, hockey, or baseball team worth watching in the meantime, but for those whose monogamous life partner is college football, the offseason is between eight and nine months long, and often seems even longer. So you can imagine what it’s like to be a college football writer. Sure, you’ve got National Signing Day and spring practice. And you’ve got the occasional Fulmer Cup issues and other assorted stuff. But that won’t sustain you. No, no. You need narratives. And nothing… and I mean NOTHING… chews up clock like chaos at the quarterback position.
So, in light of that, we’ve assembled a How-To manual for selling a quarterback controversy.
THINGS YOU WILL NEED:
Having two new guys doesn’t do it. Sure, you can milk a few “who will replace Johnny Graduate?” stories out of it, but that’s just a quarterback battle. We need a quarterback CONTROVERSY.
Notice that you don’t need a bad incumbent. I mean, if the incumbent sucks, that’s fine. But it isn’t a requirement, and in fact may not be enough. Instead, you need…
A Disappointing Season
We’ll call this the Football Leadership Ability Correlation/Causation Observation Effect (or the “FLACCO Effect” for short). Regardless of numbers, the eye test, or the relentless nagging nature of numbers and stuff, people will inevitably correlate team success with the righteousness and overall gooditude of the quarterback. Win a Super Bowl? Massive contract, because you are ELITE. Go 7-6 despite incomprehensibly huge numbers? Constant complaints.
Does the defense have something to do with it? Maybe the offensive line, or the receivers, or the schedule, or the coaching? Yeah, yeah. Excuses, excuses. Winners win, dammit, and winning quarterbacks win when they quarterback. You didn’t win. You aren’t a winning quarterback.
Take, for a completely random example, the University of Michigan. Michigan was 7-6 last year, and the offense struggled. Devin Gardner led the offense. It was therefore Devin Gardner’s fault.
An Intriguing Challenger
This part isn’t terribly important, but it helps. And by “intriguing,” I don’t necessarily mean “good.” Again, if he’s good, cool. Go with it. But all you need is somebody plausible. In other words, you need a blank slate with a soupçon of positivity. You can have some data on the guy, but it better either be (a) good, or (b) scarce.
Do you have a former four- or five-star recruit lying around? Maybe he played a game or two and didn’t crash into a wall or vomit repeatedly? Cool. Go no further. You’re in.
Check all that apply:
- Did the Incumbent have a bad game at any point?
- Did the Incumbent throw any interceptions at bad times?
- Did the offense stall from time to time?
- Were there moments where the Incumbent made mental errors or displayed anything that could be perceived as weakness or a lack of desire?
- Did unrelated good things happen to other people?
Notice the lack of an “if yes, explain” box. There’s no need to go fleshing this out with context. Data points don’t need context. That’s how data points work.
Check all that apply:
- Has the Challenger ever looked good for any stretch of any game?
- Has he thrown any touchdown passes?
- Did the offense move the ball from time to time under the direction of the Challenger?
- Has the Challenger ever demonstrated positive intangibles of any kind?
- Does the Challenger have… uh… physical/demographic characteristics that seem more “quarterbacky” to some readers?
- (Optional) Does the Challenger have any trait or skill that the Incumbent lacks, or has it in greater quantities than the incumbent?
It’s all about body language. Who looks more into the game, huh? HUH?
Quarterback controversies don’t just fall from the sky. They must be conjured by a powerful force. A wizard is preferable, but failing that, coachspeak will do just fine.
Question: To be clear, when Devin is healthy, obviously he will be at some point, Shane is going to get a chance, Devin is going to have a chance or is Devin going to go in as your starter?
Answer: “I think that is an unknown. Again, we were 7-6 and we’ve got a lot of young guys. We’ve got a lot of competition. Now does Devin have the most experience – yes. There is no question.”
Did you miss it? Let’s try it again, but this time without that messy ‘rest of the answer’ crap.
Question: “…is Devin going to go in as your starter? “
Answer: “I think that is an unknown.”
See how easy that was? Heck, we can take it one step further, in headline form:
Brady Hoke: Quarterback position “is an unknown”
And we’re off to the races.
Putting it all Together
The rest is pretty simple. Rehash the disappointing season, introduce the new guy, compare the apples to the oranges, and throw in a quote or two to prove you didn’t make it up. Let’s see how this all works, and tell me if this sounds familiar.
After a disappointing 7-6 season, Michigan has a lot of questions to answer. One big question is whether Devin Gardner will be the starting quarterback next season.
Gardner started 12 games last year, but doubts linger as to whether he’s the best fit for the offense Brady Hoke wants to run. Gardner, who was recruited to run Rich Rodriguez’s spread option attack, struggled at times last year. He threw key interceptions in near-calamities against Akron and UConn, and the offense he led stalled in losses to Iowa and Nebraska. The Wolverines also lost, once again, to rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. Both arch-enemies up in BCS bowl games, while Michigan ended up in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Brady Hoke is under serious pressure, and he has to be looking for a change.
Enter Shane Morris.
Morris was a five-star recruit out of high school, and sat most of his freshman year behind Gardner. Morris started the BWW Bowl and showed flashes of the kind of arm strength and poise that make him a threat to take the reins for Big Blue. He threw for nearly 200 yards and completed over 63% of his passes (higher than Gardner’s 60.3% completion rate). If Hoke wants to return to the days of the big-armed pocket passers, Morris looks like his guy.
Hoke insists this is an open competition, saying instead that it’s “unknown” who will start.
Of course, I just made that whole thing up, and the only part that required me to do more than look at box scores and pull fun narrative storylines out of my ass was the last sentence. See also: here and here and here and okay stop clicking those links.
What If We’re Wrong?
Oh, that’s the best part. You can’t be wrong. You’re not claiming the new guy WILL start… you’re just saying the new guy MIGHT start. It’s 50-50. Heck, you can even give the incumbent a 60-40 edge. Repeat after me: “this battle will go right through fall camp and right up until the season opener (and maybe beyond), though if I had to make a prediction, I’d guess that Gardner starts.”
What’s even better is that almost nothing can refute your narrative, and just about every piece of news can confirm it in some way. Devin Gardner has a poor spring game? “See, the door is open.” Practice reports indicate Gardner is an unstoppable hell-beast? “The competition is bringing out the best in Gardner.”
If things get slow during the off-season, this particular well won’t go dry. You just need to add a fresh ‘source,’ such as “buzz from practice,” “sources inside the program,” or even “the word out of Schembechler these days.” You can also ask hilariously loaded questions, like asking the new guy “do you think you can be the starter?” (as if anyone is going to say, “nah, I’m not that good, so pray that this guy stays healthy ‘cause I’m basically a 7-loss season waiting to happen).
It was terrible that Hank left him in that safe house all alone. I wonder how long he stayed.
You may be starting to think to yourself “this is kinds sounding plausible.” And you might even start believing it yourself. And in doing so, you might be tempted to engage with people who think you are completely full of crap. DO NOT DO THIS. This “controversy” is an oblique attack. Stick and move. Don’t get tied up on the ropes. If you do, people will probably point out some of the following tidbits:
- Devin Gardner is going to be a 5th year senior. He’s been on campus for 51 months. Shane Morris will be a true sophomore. He’s been on campus for 10 months.
- Gardner has 17 starts as a Michigan quarterback (and another 8 at wide receiver). Morris has played approximately 5 quarters.
- Devin Gardner completed 60.3% of his passes last year. He threw for 2960 yards (247 yards per game) at 8.6 YPA. Those are pretty damn good numbers.
- In Big Ten play, Gardner threw for 14 touchdowns and 3 picks.
- And he put up those numbers despite (a) having absolutely no running game (and in some cases LESS than no running game), (2) having absolutely no pass protection, and (d) playing through a broken Devin and three cracked Gardners.
- You probably can’t name the last time an incumbent starter who threw for 8.6+ YPA didn’t start the next year. I know I can’t, and I looked back to 2005 to try to find someone. Couldn’t.
- In his most recent game under center, Gardner threw for 451 yards and accounted for five touchdown without a pick. He did so on foot so busted he was limited in practice three months later.
- Shane Morris’s bowl performance was basically a series of bubble screens and those jet-sweep-in-front-of-the-QB things that somehow still count as passes. His downfield throws were… an adventure.
- Insider buzz has apparently confirmed what history and basic logic would indicate: it’s Gardner.
- Incumbents always always always win these “battles.” In 2012, Andrew Maxwell completed 52% of his passes at 5.8 YPA. And he STILL started the opener (and likely would have continued to start if he hadn’t thrown for under 3.5 YPA).
Wow. I wouldn’t put that stuff into your articles. It kinda makes it sound like the earlier stuff was complete bullshit.
the solution to Michigan's OL issues is clear: get the mustache back
Yeah but all those other guys.
I am shocked that a discussion regarding Nussmeier working with last year's assistant coaches has not yet been brought up. Besides being forced to run a system for which they were unfamiliar, one of the assumed major downfalls of Scott Shafer and Greg Robinson's tenures was that they did not pick their assistants.
First, would you assume that Nussmeier was given the opportunity to make changes to the offensive staff? Why wouldn't he choose assistants he has worked with in the past? Are Borges's and Nussmeier's offenses similar enough that the assistants' philosophies are in line? Why are we putting so much faith in assistants (esp. Funk) that fielded such underwhelming position groups?
Looking forward to your response,
Dazed and Confused (Brad)
Most coordinators do not sweep out the assistants en masse and replace them. OSU just hired a new guy after Everett Withers left, but hired their DL coach before the DC and then picked up the DC. Alabama did not make Nussmeier-initiated changes when they hired him and did not make Kiffin-initiated changes when they hired him. Notre Dame is replacing both coordinators; neither will bring in a new staff with them. For whatever reason, the "mass firing followed by a totally new regime" thing is just not done.
Those reasons include recruiting, which is somewhere between 20% (OL coach) and 80% (RB coach) of any particular position coach's job, as well as familiarity with the players, continuity, and the difficulty of hiring four or five coaches all in one swoop who will all work together well and get along.
Meanwhile, the OC is near-irrelevant for Jackson and Hecklinski, who will teach their guys the same things (don't fumble, catch the ball, run to the hole, follow these rules on zone runs) in just about any system. There is an art to the zone that is different than running power, but Jackson's coached an awful lot of stretch and inside zone over the last decade—the fit is fine. I'm not even sure what Ferrigno does with the tight ends that couldn't be split between Hecklinski and the OL coach, so whatever.
The big fit thing is with the OL coach and the OC, as the things the OL can do affect the things the OC can call and how he structures his offense. All offenses do everything and teach everything; all offenses should have a bread and butter that they stick to. Nussmeier ran a lot of shotgun power and inside zone at Washington, and did much the same at Alabama, albeit with more under center stuff. When Funk goes to coaching clinics he gives three hour presentations on inside zone minutia. I think the fit there is good.
As for the thing about firing the OL coach after a couple of years of really disappointing performances, I don't think you'd find a guy who would object if Funk was cut loose after this season. Hoke's hanging his career on his evaluation of his OL coach. I liked the guy myself and shudder at the hand he was dealt; even so, last year's performance was alarming. We'll have something definitive either way next year.
Yeah but what about the defense?
I'm as excited about the new OC hire as everyone else, but I think it may be overshadowing an equally concerning issue.
In the last 2 years, Michigan's defenses have not done that well against good offenses, and sometimes have been lit up by mediocre offenses. To my untrained eye, it appeared that in the bowl game we consistently put overmatched CBs on an island against their sole elite WR with disastrous effects. Isn't that the DC's job to get them some help? In his first year, Matteson used the blitz masterfully when he had a front 4 that couldn't get consistent pressure, but since then it seems that he's often content to rush 4 and get no pressure. I realize that the leading edge of our top notched recruiting classes were only true sophomores/red-shirt freshman last season, but it seems like seeing player and scheme development this next season is just as critical on the defensive side as the offensive side.
Rod [ed: not that Rod]
It is the DC's job to get them some help but that's the thing about offenses that consistently threaten you with the QB as a runner: it's hard to give guys help. If you put two safeties back you're asking your overmatched defensive line to hold up short a guy. If you bring a safety up he has to stay in the center of the field and Tyler Lockett can roam down the sideline with impunity. That is a choice you have to make. Michigan went into that game betting that their corners, who had performed well all year, could handle Lockett and tried to cover up for the issues in the front seven. They chose… poorly.
When you have a guy who can cover Tyler Lockett, you're good. No one has that. When you have a front six that can beat seven guys, you're good. Michigan did not have that. The spread is relentless. It forces you to win one on one matchups. Michigan did not.
I'm disappointed, sure, but Michigan just did not have the horses in the final two games against the best rushing offense in the country and the best WR in the country. Before that the schemes were holding up as well as you could expect the personnel to do so.
While I'm as disappointed in the passivity of this year's defense as you are and as concerned about Michigan getting ripped by spread teams as you are, on defense it was more about a severe personnel deficiency at defensive tackle and safety (remember Jarrod Wilson was out for the OSU game with disastrous results) than the chaos that reigned on the other side of the ball.
Head asplode rating.
On a scale of 1-10, how much did the Borges firing blow your mind? I would have bet good money against it.
I don't know. On the one hand, Michigan finished last in TFLs allowed this year and rushed for negative yards in consecutive games and that's aside from that game where the top tailback ran 27 times for 27 yards. So 1.
On the other, I'd heard from various people that a change was not likely, and Hoke said he didn't anticipate any changes a month ago. So, like, 8. I do wonder if Nussmeier's unexpected availability moved the needle there, that Brady was grudgingly content to move forward with Borges until a confirmed QB guru who'd run pro-style offenses (shhhh) was suddenly on the market.
Can Heiko ask Nuss about bubble screens.
No, because Heiko is going to be a doctor. And given what I've seen from Washington's 2011 campaign (post on this forthcoming) there will be no need to badger the OC to throw a WR screen from time to time when the OL is terrible. Washington's 2011 OL was and Washington tried to run every WR screen in the book.
m a sports debater person on the University's student radio station WCBN. Yesterday on our daily sports report we discussed the possibility of Gardner switching back to WR next year to prep for the NFL and then a QB battle would ensue between Morris and Speight (one of the guys on our show also threw out the idea of wildcat sets and all the yummy trick plays that go along with having 2 or 3 really good QBs on your roster). Does the Nussmeier make the possibilities of the Gardner move more or less likely? Does Michigan stay their current course with DG as the signal caller and then transition after he graduates or do they make that jump during this offseason?
Seriously did we not learn our lesson about going into a season with like 1 quarterback on the roster last year? And I mean seriously what about the six points Michigan scored before the bowl game was over makes you think that Devin Gardner is a worse option? Do you know how hard it is not to put this response in all caps? Super hard.
Over the last one and a half years, Devin Gardner:
- Completed 60% of his passes.
- Averaged 8.9 yards an attempt.
- Had a 32:16 TD:INT ratio.
- Had this combined statline against Notre Dame and OSU this year: 53 of 78, 68% completion rate, 9.6 YPA, 8 TD, 1 INT.
- In 2013, ran for 751 yards on 130 attempts, 5.8 yards per.
- Did this behind a line that gave up 36 sacks.
- Did this without any run game whatsover.
- Did this with a damaged shoulder, hand, rib, foot, and soul.
Devin Gardner is not getting replaced by a true sophomore. Repeat after me. Or I swear to God I will come to your radio station with a posse of boxing kangaroos, and you will be sorry.