Sunday, November 4, 2012
Decision '13: QB or WR?
By Chantel Jennings WolverineNation
MINNEAPOLIS-- As Michigan transitions from its quasi-spread offense to Brady Hoke's preferred pro-style set for 2013, the Wolverines will be fortunate enough to have a talented wide receiver and quarterback on hand to help power the offense.
Unfortunately for them, it's the same player.
Jeremy Gallon had four catches for 72 yards against Minnesota and leads the Wolverines in receptions (22) and yards (390).
And unless Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges can figure out a way to have Devin Gardner be on both the passing and receiving end of the ball at once, then Michigan will have to make concessions at places within the offense.
It'll become a juggling act of balancing depth at each position along with deciding where Gardner's skills can be utilized best. But, this season has prepared the player for whatever comes next, as he has said that playing both positions has helped him progress.
"It definitely does [help]," Gardner said. "Playing receiver, you know what kind of balls you don't like. It really helps in practice because when you throw a bad ball you have to redo it and you get really tired of rerunning routes and the quarterback doesn't really get tired because you're just dropping back. It just helps me appreciate what they do."
Gardner had a solid quarterback performance against Minnesota (12-of-18 passing for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns), but he knows there will be competition for the starting job next fall.
That competition will be among Gardner, Russell Bellomy, now a redshirt freshman, and 2013 commit Shane Morris, the jewel of the recruiting class at No. 26 in the ESPN 150 and the No. 4 pocket passer in the nation.
Bellomy's struggles against Nebraska are well-documented, but with Denard Robinson graduating and Morris not enrolling early, Bellomy should get a good number of snaps during spring ball and could be a factor.
Morris has a cannon of an arm, and the southpaw could be a serious contender, especially considering how well Gardner has played as a receiver and how crucial he has been to the Wolverines' success in the air. Though Gardner has played receiver for less than a year, he has a team-high four touchdown catches.
"I think his growth has been really substantial," Hoke said. "I think part of that is playing wideout and how [wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski] practices those guys."
If Gardner were to transition back to a full-time quarterback for the 2013 season, it could be a serious blow. The Wolverines would lose both of their biggest downfield receivers -- Gardner (6-foot-4) and senior Roy Roundtree (6-0).
Juniors Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo will return, and while they've accounted for 42 percent of the Wolverines' receiving yards this season they're not really the receiver body type the Michigan coaching staff is hoping to put on the field in the future.
But they've made it work for now. Even at 5-8, Gallon has been one of Michigan's most effective receivers in jump-ball situations. That vertical was on display Saturday in the back of the end zone when Gallon elevated over 6-0 defensive back Derrick Wells and extended Michigan's lead to 14 points. And Dileo -- who's 2 inches taller than Gallon but at 5-10 smaller than a lot of receivers -- has made up for his lack of size by being a blue-collar workhorse for the Wolverines.
"If you want something done ... send Drew," offensive coordinator Al Borges said after Dileo burst onto the scene during the Michigan State game. "Because Drew tends to get it done. ... That's just him."
Neither of the receivers in the 2012 class -- Amara Darboh (6-2) and Jehu Chesson (6-3) -- has caught a pass this season, but the Wolverines remain high on both. All three committed receivers in the 2013 class stand at least 6-2.
Whether Michigan decides to put Gardner at quarterback and test youth and height at receivers or put Gardner at receiver and test youth and inexperience at quarterback will be a balancing act that starts as soon as this season is done.