Bowlettes [Updated for clarity]:
Devin Gardner has been taking most of the snaps at QB this week. Denard is obviously limited during his recovery, but I think it's curious that Bellomy has gotten only "a couple," regardless of whether he's the No. 1 or No. 2 backup. You'd expect Gardner and Bellomy to split reps equally and compete for the top backup spot. Plausible explanation: Bellomy is also limited by some undisclosed injury. (I don't know for sure, but it's an educated guess.) Either way, it sounds like Gardner is the bona fide starting QB until Denard recovers.
As of now, Denard is expected back for Saturday. Hoke says the final call on the quarterback situation will be made just before game time. If you have been paying attention to Michigan's football program over the last season and a half, however, you have surmised that Michigan is highly unlikely to make this kind of decision just before game time. That decision will probably be made very soon if it has not been made already.
If the distribution of QB snaps (see above) and Michigan's track record for saying things that turn out not to be true (e.g. previous injury reports and recovery projections, most notably during the Nebraska game, "Michigan says Denard will return to the game in the second half ...") are any indication, I would guess the probability that Denard plays on Saturday is around 50%, maybe less. In the absence of real information though, anything is possible; I'm not optimistic, but I never am.
Amara Darboh and Joe Reynolds have gotten the reps at receiver that Gardner is now missing.
“Thought we came out yesterday and had a really good practice. That’s good to see. We didn’t play as well as we’d like to. I think everybody understands that, but I think we’ve moved forward and did a lot of things as a team very well. Competed very well. We’re pretty physical with each other, which is always a good thing. You don’t have guys feeling sorry for themselves, so the intensity level was good.”
Can you talk at all about the division of snaps at quarterback?
“You know, I couldn’t give you an exact number, to be honest with you. You know, Denard took some, Devin took a lot, and then Russell took a couple.”
Will Denard play on Saturday?
“We’re planning on it.”
Does he have any physical limitations?
“Not really. Not right now. He’s better. It’s not all the way cleared up yet, but it’s better.”
Did Denard take as many snaps as he could have next week?
“No. No. Part of that was to get more snaps for Devin. Devin hasn’t taken a ton of snaps throughout the process. He’s taken snaps, not a ton of them, so we wanted to get him back a little fresher.”
How did Devin look?
“Eh, he looked all right to me.”
Is that to get him prepared just for this week or is this for a longer term?
“This week. I think it’d be more of a this week thing.”
Is Denard having any discomfort?
“Not really. Not really. You know, he threw it. He took snaps under center and snaps from the gun.”
Have you decided on any protective equipment?
“I think him and Smitty probably talked about it. I don’t get into the equipment side of things.”
You said Devin got a majority of snaps and Russell only took a couple. If Denard were unable to play Saturday would Devin be the next guy in?
“Well, we’ll see. We’ll see how the week plays out.”
Is the main concern that Denard might fall on it again?
“That’s what it seems like. You know, if you can protect it, like anything, maybe it’ll help.”
MGoQuestion: Have any of the other backup quarterbacks taken snaps?
MGoClarification: Further down the depth chart, I mean. [Ed: This was probably not the best question in the world, but the rationale was to get an idea of how many reps Denard and Bellomy have been missing. The further down the depth chart this goes, the more worrisome the situation is. I don't think the following response shines light on the full situation, but I didn't expect it to.]
“Jack’s taken some, yeah. Jack does every week.”
So Russell is the backup?
“Yeah. It’s still -- we’ll see who competes the best. If we decide Denard isn’t good enough -- and we expect him to be good enough -- then we’ll make a decision.”
Is there a chance then that Denard can’t play?
“I don’t think so. We’re counting on him.”
When do you make that final decision?
“Probably Saturday -- what time’s the game, 11?”
So it could legitimately be a game time decision?
Does it make a difference for which arm Denard tucks the ball under?
“I don’t think so.”
Does it make a difference in terms of offensive playcalling for each quarterback?
“Well, some of it changes a little bit. You always have a little bit of a plan, which we do weekly. We do full line against each other twice a week, and most of those plays are I-back, two-back set, two-tight end, hard-hitting stuff that we like to do, so we’ve been doing it the whole season.”
Are there things you can do in game planning to protect him a bit?
“I think you just turn him loose. That’s what he wants. He’s very competitive. Very -- competitive’s the best word, I guess.”
What as he had to do in terms of therapy? Is he taking cortisone shots or anything?
“I don’t know … ”
They don’t talk to you about it?
“Well, just ‘How is it?’ ”
Is Devin still taking snaps at wide receiver?
“Took a couple. Took a couple.”
Is he available at wide receiver this week?
Does taking reps at quarterback change what he can do at wide receiver?
“No. No. He’s far along enough within what route combinations and those things. He’d be okay.”
Who gets Devin’s reps at wide receiver that he’s vacating?
“Amara’s taking a few more. Joe Reynolds is taking a few more. Depends personnel groups, what you’re in.”
You and Al both talked about running the ball more in the red zone. Is that more of an emphasis this week?
“Well, you emphasize it a little more, but I don’t know if we’ve put more plays on the script, you know, because we do a pretty good job of getting the looks and what we feel the red zone defense is going to be and all those things.”
You are statistically the number one passing defense in the country. Do you bring that up at all?
“I don’t know. We don’t bring it up.”
Is it more difficult to gameplan the offense because Denard has special skills that Devin and Russell don’t necessarily have?
“Probably a little bit, but I don’t know if it’s something that Al hasn’t -- I know it isn’t -- been through before.”
How has Raymon Taylor progressed since he’s entered the starting lineup?
“Well I think he gets better each week. I think the one thing about Raymon, he’s pretty physical. He’s tough. I think he’s making progress.”
In what areas would you say?
“I think in support as much as anything. I think that’s an important part of what our corners -- if they’re going to crack safeties and all that, I think that’s part of it. Recognition is really key, and then your eye discipline that you have to have in playing that position.”
Is run support one of the more difficult skills for a corner to develop?
“I think they all want to be cover corners, so any time it comes to physicality, that’s always difficult.”
How would you characterize your offensive depth across the board.
“Oh I don’t know. I think we have a lot of kids that are working hard.”
Are there areas you feel like you have good enough depth?
“I, you know -- we have guys working hard everywhere.”
You obviously want to score touchdowns in the red zone --
“Yes. It’s a good idea.”
But when you have a guy like Brendan Gibbons, do you have to think twice about putting him out there?
“No. Not really. He’s, to me, he’s so steady from a mental point, you know. His confidence level, I think all that stuff is -- you see it in him. Practice, in games. When he does miss a kick, he self-evaluates pretty well and he knows what he did wrong. So if you ask me do I have confidence in him? Yeah. No doubt.”
That brunettes thing. Did you really say that to him?
“Come on. 18 to 23, let’s go … next question."
Is Brendan the guy for longer field goals now?
“I don’t know about that. Matt’s still got the stronger leg.”
Have you had a chance to look at the new NCAA policy changes?
“My thoughts are I have not looked at it to be honest with you. When I get a chance I’ll look at it. We hope to do things the right way to start with, but I’ll look at it some time.”
Jibreel said he’s fallen in love with his new position at DT. What have you seen from him?
“That’s probably right. I think he’s improved. I judge a lot by practice. I work with him and grade him every night and all that. I think he’s really playing a little more vertical. He’s using his strengths, which are his fundamentals and techniques, but his quickness that he has. He’s got some quick twitch going. I think you’ve got to really express that to him and verbalize, ‘Look, use your strengths that you have. You’re not going to be --’ His brother Larry plays at Indiana. He’s 300-some pounds. Larry’s a big ol’ cat. Well, Jibreel, he doesn’t have that, but what he does have is a quick twitch to him and an explosiveness. If he’ll be fundamentally sound with it, then he’ll be very good.”
Craig Roh says Quinton Washington can throw guys out of the way. Is that a rare quality?
“Well, Q’s a pretty strong young man. I think his confidence level has grown unbelievably. I think he’s really just finding out what he can do, to be honest with you. It’s fun. It’s fun to see him in development.”
Was that all that was with him? Just confidence?
“I think it’s part of it. I think with a lot of guys, it takes some confidence. Especially some guys who haven’t played a lot of snaps, and now you’re the starting nose tackle at Michigan replacing Mike Martin. There’s a confidence level there.”
Can you talk about special teams as a whole and how you feel about that group?
“You know, I think we’ve been a little more consistent than a year ago. We’re better in kickoff return. Punt return we’re better, I believe, statistically. And you can’t always believe the statistics, but we’ve got to be a little more consistent in punting the football, pooch and regular punts. I think both of those. Kickoff coverage is the thing we’ve been a little bit hot and cold. That’s one of the places that I think we need to be better. We have all defensive guys but two on that team, and the understanding that we try to convey to them is you’re helping your defense. I think we got a lot of guys a lot of snaps on special teams, which is a plus because they’re a lot of young guys.”