Like most Michigan fans, I'm disappointed that Devin Gardner isn't redshirting this year because of the hope that he would stick around and start for 2 years (2013 and 2014) after Denard and Tate graduated. The liklihood of keeping Devin around for 5 years has decreased dramatically.
That said, people need to settle down about it. Its not as simple as trading marginal contributions in 2010 for presumed dominance in 2014. Heres why the benefits playing Devin now are underappreciated and the costs overstated :
- The 5th year of eligibility (2014) should be recognized as a CHANCE of a 5th year of eligibility. It's far from certain. Injury (e.g. Antonio Bass), transfer (e.g. Ryan Mallett, Jason Forcier), early entry (e.g. Drew Henson, Vince Young) are all viable scenarios that make "investing" in the 5th year payoff a waste of time.
- More experienced backup/3rd string QB in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Starting QBs get hurt regularly. The chances of needing your 3rd QB are small but non-zero. If it happens, you want someone who is ready. There is value in having a backup player with more experience.
- Option of red-shirting retained in 2011, 2012, 2013. Redshirting in the sophomore, junior, or senior years is unlikely, but not impossible. Consider a scenario where Devin loves Michigan but is clearly locked in as 3rd on the depth chart -- its 2012, junior year, light at the end of the tunnel starts becoming visible, but playing time remains elusive with Tate and Denard ahead. Red-shirting might not look so terrible.
- Additional scholarship-year available to another player in 2014 (assuming no red-shirt). Scholarships are scarce assets. Anytime you use one on a player who doesn't contribute to on-field success (red-shirts) you are wasting a scholarship year. If you "invest" in a red-shirt, you hope to earn a sizeable payback later on, but its risky. There is value to having Devin's scholarship available in 2014, even if its used to incentivize the walk-on program.
- Positive Recruiting Ramification 1: Reinforce that freshman play. People probably already know given Tate/Denard, but another true freshman playing helps Michigan look more attractive.
- Positive Recruiting Ramification 2: QB job availability. Recruits will understand that the QB job is locked up for 3 more years, not 4. This will help with 2012 and 2013 QB recruits who want to see the field faster.
The above points are facts, even if they are of marginal consequence they are clearly benefits to playing Devin in 2010... now heres a few more reasons that are based on conjecture/opinion
- Less dramatic play-calling transition when Denard exits. Gardner is (according to the coaches and most other observers) a better runner than Tate. If so, there is less need to deviate from the Denard gameplan in 2010. This team could still use all the stability it can get.
- Reward off-season work and leadership. It was rumored Devin impressed far more than Tate in this regard. Team values and so on...
- Maturity lesson for Tate. Another rumor was that Tate was acting a little spoiled and not putting in the off-season work. Given last week, Tate seems to have grown up a good bit. The Devin-Red-Shirt decision may have played a role.
- Reinforce "the best will play" mentality Perhaps Devin earned the job and the coaches simply chose not to redshirt the 2nd best QB coming out of camp. If they hadn't done so, their stated value of "the best will play" would have been undermined. They're always talking about the value of competiton. If Devin won this one, what would it say to the other players to make him the 3rd stringer.
- Accelerated Devin’s development. (Would Tate and Denard be the same QBs they are now if they hadn’t played last year?)