The weekly roundtable wonders about this whole "let's not get another Gardner" plan (that isn't the plan). Our depth chart:
|What, my Henson-ian athleticism isn't good enough for ya? [Upchurch]
- Brian Cook: Field General!
- Seth Fisher: Legit 4.4 Speed!
- Ace Anbender: Top Recruiter!
- Heiko Yang: Huge Arm!
- Blue in South Bend: Super Accurate!
- Coach Brown: Reads Defenses!
- Mathlete: Academic All-American!
This one comes from the mailbag, a guy appropriately named "Dual Threat." If you notice a whole lot of positivity in it, it's because it was sent before last Saturday. I'll posit his question as he sent it:
My point of view is we should be recruiting more dual threat-ers. While Morris and Speight are no doubt going to be good pocket passers, leaving the running aspect of the position off the table leaves a huge hole in the offensive arsenal going forward.
I feel dual threat QBs are going to be the future of dominant college football programs going forward (I see Alabama as a current exception, not the norm in the future). Would you not sacrifice a bit of QB passing ability for a chunk of QB running ability to open up that attack dimension? Wouldn't you be foolish not to? Thoughts?
Brian: It's clear that all things being equal, Michigan's going to prefer advanced passers to guys who can glide for 35 yards without looking like they're moving particularly fast. And that's a little bit of a bummer to me, since a guy who can make people pay with his legs opens up many more possibilities in your offense.
What remains to be seen is whether Michigan is going to completely eschew athletic types that need some molding. Would they go the Charlie Weis route and recruit Terrelle Pryor as a wide receiver? I have nothing to base this on but I don't think so. If there's a Gardner or Pryor in the area, Michigan will probably go after them as hard as they would Morris.
We have no evidence to support this because there's an utter dearth of dual-threat types in the Midwest this year. Ohio State chased two out-of-region guys who ended up at Clemson and LSU before settling for a generic three-star from Georgia whom two of the three sites who split QB rankings declare a pocket passer. There was no one in the Midwest any power school pursued who even vaguely fits the definition of dual threat except maybe DeShone Kizer, a 6'5" guy with a 5-second 40 who seems to be listed as a dual threat largely because of his skin color. (See: Campbell, Jayru.)
Meanwhile, in 2015 there's a bounty of California pocket passers and 2016 features Messiah DeWeaver, who seems like he wants to go to Michigan and will be good enough to get his offer. It might be a while before we get any referendum on whether Michigan is going to completely deprioritize being able to run for seven yards an attempt in its QB recruiting.
Coach Brown: I've always been the kind of guy that thought a running quarterback is the only way to go. This even goes back to my early video game days of always finding the QB with the highest speed rating and going with him, even if a pocket-passer type was rated much higher overall. I know that example isn't close to what it shakes out to in real life, but my thought process in choosing a starter or a recruiting target would be similar.
|Ack too runny. [Upchurch]
A quarterback that can run adds a completely new dimension to the offense that defensive coordinators have to gameplan for. If you have a statue as a QB, that is a huge threat the defense no longer has to worry about. To me Denard was a little too much of a running quarterback, as we saw solid defenses weren't threatened by his passing ability and keyed entirely on his running attack. Devin SHOULD be much more balanced as far as arm strength and accuracy are concerned. Until recently I would've said his decision making too, but after last week that has become a question mark too.
College football offenses are definitely favoring that type of quarterback right now and a lot of the top 25 teams have what is considered a dual-threat guy at the helm or at least a guy with some mobility. Aaron Murray is an example of a pocket-passer type with good athleticism. He was originally recruited as a dual-threat type, even though now his offensive scheme doesn't really require him to be.
The QB position at Michigan looks like it should be in good shape with Shane and Wilton, but I definitely have always been in favor of a quarterback who can hurt the opposition with his feet. Michigan has always had a tough time defending those kinds of players so why not utilize that if you can?
Of course the ultimate bomb to this whole theory is, of course, Alabama. They do it the way Brady Hoke wants to do it. Studs on the o-line, bell cow running backs, NFL type receivers, and a smart, consistent QB. AJ McCarron doesn't get a lot of hype or throw out video game numbers like a Marcus Mariota, but he has multiple national titles and a clean jersey.
If the coaches at Michigan can do it this way with success anywhere near what Alabama has had, I'm all for it. Until then, I'll stick with my opinion that a QB needs to be able to scramble and pick up yards on the ground.
Seth: You know why Michigan didn't lose to Akron? Because when our quarterback had one of those passing off-days that quarterbacks have, and the line wasn't able to establish a running game because of all the things, once again Michigan turned to the bottomless well of Rodriguezian quarterback legs and…
click to bring up lightbox
…hey look we're winning again. How many times in the Hoke era has Michigan come in with a plan of THIS TIME WE'RE TOTALLY RUNNING POWER and then have to scrap that when the game is on the line? I'm asking your question, aren't I? I feel you; let me answer you.
I am of the opinion--like Coach Brown--that football is a game that was designed to be played by athletes, but the bigger your roster and more time you have for practice the more you can get out the specialists. Before Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson there were Rick Leach, Harry Newman, and Benny Friedman. Running QBs aren't a recent takeover; they're a return to normal.
The reason the NFL became a league of overpaid, over-tall white guys who sling it 40 times a game is the league bent every pass blocking rule and made it nearly illegal to lay your hands on the studmuffin, who is also the product's lead spokesman and the subject of 85% of easy-to-write stories the media will gleefully manufacture to avoid having to learn what an inverted veer is.
|Speight comes with all you see here, including like five more blue-chip recruits. [Scout]
College football doesn't afford you the practice time to learn all of the routes and stems that Brady or Manning have mastered. For a time NCAA teams went a-slinging because the shotgun let you Ty Detmer people to death but you couldn't run from it. With the spread and zone read and pistol variation, and a QB with legs, now you can again, and that's why running QBs are again the dominant offensive tools in college football.
That said, everybody is after "athletic" QBs these days, and you can't have everything or coach everything. So Michigan is going to trade the thing that is at a premium value in order to max out on other things. With Morris and Speight they found guys who get the ball to large, talented receivers all over the field, AND who can act like a second recruiting coordinator, bringing in more than enough talent elsewhere in the lineup to offset their limitations.
So yeah, if you can reach into your back yard and find a Devin Gardner who can pass, run, lead a team and study like a champion every year GO GET THAT GUY, but honestly that guy doesn't come along all that often. The NFL still wants Ken dolls with SUPER THROWING ACTION arms, and somebody can make a killing providing them. Because that type of QB is by nature more erratic on a game-by-game basis, it's not the business I would have gone into, but it's a respectable niche that comes with other benefits. George Campbell!
|Remember when people used to always be yelling "Put in Kapsner"? Also: if Michigan's cornering the market on Tom Bradys while getting the occasional Henson, I mean, how upset are we really?
BiSB: I think the 'mobile QB' debate sets up somewhat of a false dichotomy. The question isn't really "do you want a running quarterback or a passing quarterback?" so much as it is "what do you look for first?" This regime obviously looks to the throwy stuff first, and when in doubt the better passing quarterback will probably get the offer. And surely we have seen the last Denard-like creature in a winged helmet for the foreseeable future (/sigh), but it seems inconceivable that Borges doesn't appreciate the benefits of a guy who can pick 'em up and put 'em down. He is still using Devin's legs, just in more traditional ways.
Bottom line: you don't NEED a super-mobile QB to run a West Coast system. Steve Young did it, but so did Joe Montana. The thing that concerns me is that a mobile quarterback is a hell of a safety net. If Kovacs was Brian's binky these last few years, mine was QB Iso. I'm a believer in math, and I enjoy watching a running attack that starts with a +1 in the blocker-to-defender department when compared to a traditional running attack (whether through QB power or through optioning a defender into irrelevance). If they stop doing the easy stuff to generate mathematical advantages (plz keep running the veer, k thx), the onus will be on Borges to manufacture those advantages. That seems like a less secure bet.
On a related note, let's not confuse Shane Morris with Chad Henne. Morris wouldn't be confused with Vince Young, but it seems like he has enough mobility to at least SHOW defenses some of the same clubs that are in Devin's bag. Is one option keeper in every ten option gives enough to slow a defensive end down? I don't know, but it's worth a shot, even if Shane's keepers are worth 8 and not 40.
Ace: I'm not sure anyone on this blog is going to say that they'd rather go full-blown pocket statue instead of having a quarterback who can run—all things being equal, you'd have to be insane not to want the latter—and I think the coaches feel the same way, albeit not as strongly. Shane Morris may not be a Denard/DG-type; he still has the capability to escape the pocket and move the sticks with his legs. Wilton Speight is more statuesque; he was recruited because he can really throw the deep ball, and obviously Al Borges is pretty big on that. The ability to execute Borges's passing game is priority one; being able to move around may not be too far down the list, however.
|But no, seriously, we can trade this for running zone reads that aren't actually reads if you want. 
As Brian mentioned, the 2014 class is completely devoid of good dual-threat QBs with any interest in Michigan who are actually dual-threat QBs. We know the coaches are at least considering a dual-threat guy in the 2015 class, as Heiko noticed
CA TX QB Sheriron Jones's name on a whiteboard in Al Borges's office; depending on which site you look at, another California QB under consideration, Kevin Dillman, is also considered More Than Just A Pocket Passer™. A couple other dual-threat prospects, Anthony Ratliff (from the same school as Channing Stribling) and Cinjun Erskine have interest as well. While the coaches may not have had any idea what to do with Denard Robinson, they seem comfortable recruiting a quarterback that can run as long as he can also execute in the passing game, and that's fine by me. We won't have another Denard at quarterback; we will have more polished passers, and some of them may be able to run, too.
If Michigan isn't going back to the spread—news flash: they aren't—then I'm fine with this. With the talent being built on the offensive line and at the other skill positions, they don't need somebody is going to carry the offense in the air and on the ground. I'd prefer to see a guy with some mobility taking snaps, and for that to be utilized—as Bryan noted, MATH—but it'd be nice to see what a pinpoint passer can do once Michigan can actually execute POWER and boasts receivers who are Jeremy Gallon But Tall. If that pinpoint passer can run, great. If he can't, they'll have plenty of other weapons—including what should be a kickass defense, which counts as a weapon—to help them win games.
|Honestly, this is the game you picked to highlight overvaluing of running QBs? Oh, low-variability offenses: YES.
Mathlete: For a program like Michigan, on its current recruiting trajectory, the question is how do you beat Ohio State and whoever you face in a major bowl game. It's not that there aren't going to be other quality programs, but on Michigan's best years, it's going to be defined by those couple of critical games against teams with elite talent each season. The sample size on mobile quarterbacks on elite teams is still fairly small, there does seem to be some evidence that the most potent offenses with mobile quarterbacks are fantastic about seizing any small advantage for a massive pile of points, but they get caught up against big physical teams.
The prime example is obviously Oregon and if you look at the teams that have tripped them up, you have LSU, Stanford, Ohio State and Auburn in recent years. It's always dangerous to draw big conclusion from such a limited sample, but there could be something to the idea that this style of offense struggles when facing the best defenses. One thing that seems like a trend is that the path to the national championship is great defense and a low variability offense. With that said, I agree with the idea that it's all about who is available. I think Denard and to a greater extent now Devin have shown them that the QB run can be a great security blanket for the staff. Given two guys to chose between now, I think the staff would go for the guys with running ability now, while they probably wouldn't have done that a couple years ago. But I don't see them ever going after any quarterbacks who they don't think can be elite passers first.