“I like that we’re young…I like this football team!” – Coach Brady Hoke when asked about what defines his 2013 Wolverine team.
For coach Brady Hoke and his Michigan Wolverines, any success to be achieved in the 2013 season will depend on the performance of the man taking snaps from under center. And that responsibility falls into the arms and rest on the legs of the Devin Gardner.
“I have a lot of go-to guys” – Starting quarterback Devin Gardner when asked about his preferred go-to wide receivers now.
After a solid performance Saturday, Gardner appears to be right on track for a successful second season as starter for his Wolverines team (Gardner started five games last season taking over for the injured Denard Robinson).
Gardner made some crisp throws at times and moved well in the pocket when needed. There were a few passes including a shovel-pass attempt that Devin would like to have back, but overall Gardner looked like a man in charge of the offense. There were no “jump ball” type passes and literally all his attempts had a nice trajectory from the throw to catch.
On the day Gardner completed 11 of his 16 pass attempts and easily could have had a few more completions to his credit. He started the day with a nice 30-yard pass down the sideline to sophomore receiver Amara Darboh and threw for one touchdown with his 12-yard pass to the freshman tight end Jake Butt.
Of course, all the quarterbacks wore the “hands off” orange (not red) jerseys yet that might not have mattered today.
Gardner split time with players that most Wolverine supporters probably hope not to see much during the regular season as they were not technically in Michigan’s plans this year but now due injuries, they’ve earned a much greater focus.
The walk-on out of Detroit Brian Cleary threw for one touchdown as well yet only on two completions. Sophomore Alex Swieca had a nice scramble run up the middle and into the clear before being shoved down out of bounds.
Freshman Shane Morris is not yet on the field and the most seasoned returning QB Russell Bellomy tore his ACL and is not scheduled back anytime soon.
Overall, if Devin can stay healthy, quarterback shouldn’t be a concern.
With the graduation of Denard Robinson in the off-season and with him the majority of the Wolverine running attack from last year, the expectation now is that offensive coordinator Al Borges will really be able to convert the offense into the pro-style system Michigan fans have found comforting over these many years.
In order for that scheme to be successful, much will be expected out of the running game and the next “great” Wolverine back will need to step up. Redshirt senior Fitzgerald Toussaint is on pace to return to from last season’s leg injury to start the year, but Fitz aside, players like junior Thomas Rawls, redshirt sophomores Justice Hayes, sophomore Dennis Norfleet the the rest of the running backs have a great opportunity to shine.
Rawls had a nice outside 25-yard run into the end zone.
Opening up the holes for the running backs will be equally as important and youth and competition is the theme for the position group. Fifth year senior Taylor Lewan will man his left tackle position and Michael Schofield will have right. What the final grouping in the middle looks like has yet to be decided but most regardless of who it is, size is on their side.
In this regard, there are many big bodies, albeit youthful, inexperienced bodies, that should do the trick. Outside of Lewan and Schofield, all the other lineman are either sophomores or redshirt freshman.
Overall, the line blocked some plays well Saturday and allowed the running backs a few lanes to run.
“The intangibles. I know how to read coverages…Me and Devin are pretty-much on the same page with everything.” – senior receiver Drew Delio when asked about what he brings to the field.
The two constants in the receiving corps in 2013 will be the redshirt senior Jeremy Gallon who led the Wolverines last year with 49 catches for 829 yards and senior Drew Dileo and his 20 grabs a year ago.
Beyond them, players like sophomore Amara Darboh or senior Jeremy Jackson could fill that third receiver spot.
The tight end position should also help the passing game significantly with sophomore Devin Funches’s size and speed primarily the go-to player here.
“There are no more excuses on defense as far as what we don’t know.” - Junior defensive end Frank Clark when asked about what is expected of them (the defense) in year three under Greg Mattison’s guidance.
The defense as a whole didn’t disrupt much in the offensive backfield until later in the scrimmage when the freshman Taco Charlton got two consecutive sacks. Junior Frank Clark put on some pressure and had a strong showing.
With Jake Ryan standing on the sideline, opportunities have arisen for someone to take his place and that player could be redshirt senior Cam Gordon.
Overall the last practice of Spring was what it was; an opportunity to put on a show for the public. It was nice to see Devin Gardner playing with such command of the offense. The Wolverine running game had it’s moments and broke a few nice runs. Devin Funchess caught a nice field position altering pass before leaving with the slight injury (that coach Brady Hoke said wouldn’t be an issue). A few touchdowns were scored. A few passes were broken up.
My first impression when watching practice was that it was somewhat crisp and well executed. Each position group had their moments and that was good to see.
At time the offense had the advantage. At times the defense was strong. The main take-away though was how efficient quarterback Devin Gardner look in his passing.
Now we wait ’till August and Team 134 gets to do it all again.
Hail Yeah! Go Blue!!