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Posts Tagged ‘Brian Cleary’

Predicting Michigan 2015: The quarterbacks

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015


Shane Morris(Tony Ding, AP)

For the past few years, Michigan was haunted by underwhelming performances at the most important position on the football field: quarterback.

While Devin Gardner showed flashes of brilliance and put together a few heroic games, like his 451-yard, 4-touchdown effort against Ohio State in 2013, he never really blossomed into the talent his five-star recruiting ranks hinted at.

Now, with the dual-threat era of Gardner and Denard Robinson firmly in the rear-view mirror, Michigan will look to get back to its John Navarre and Chad Henne-type roots under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

He’ll certainly have options. Harbaugh brought in a slew of potential contributors under center, likely hoping at least one of them will turn into a quarterback worthy of leading the Maize and Blue.

Potential starters

Though no one is ever really sure what Harbaugh will do, it appears he’s got a two-horse race for the starting job in 2015. His options could hardly be more different.

Jake Rudock

Fifth-year senior transfer Jake Rudock will battle Shane Morris for the starting spot this fall, bringing experience to a position severely lacking it (Charlie Litchfield, The Register)

On one hand, Shane Morris enters his junior season after a disappointing — though incomplete — sophomore campaign. While called upon to lead Michigan during Gardner’s struggles, Morris simply couldn’t get the job done. He completed just 14 passes in 40 attempts on the season and threw more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (zero).

Morris was considered one of the finest prospects in the country during his junior year of high school when he committed to the Wolverines. But after missing his senior season due to a battle with mononucleosis, some of the steam evaporated from his arrival in Ann Arbor.

Morris has one of the strongest arms Michigan has seen on the football field, but his greatest challenge is knowing how and when to use it. He showed some improvement during the Spring Game, when he dialed back at times and found receivers with a soft touch he hadn’t shown on any previous Saturday.

Morris’ stiffest competition will come from senior transfer Jake Rudock, who left the Iowa Hawkeyes to join Michigan for his final year of eligibility.

Rudock was solid in his final season at Iowa a year ago, completing 61.7 percent of his 345 passes for 2,436 yards, and 16 touchdowns. The greatest advantage for Rudock is his tremendous ball protection: He threw just five picks last season, a huge upgrade over Gardner’s 15.

While Morris’s ceiling is certainly higher than Rudock’s, the fifth-year senior offers a much safer bet for a team that hopes to rely on its defense and rushing attack to lead the charge. Rudock finished in the top five in the Big Ten in passing touchdowns, passing yards, and passing completions last season. With that kind of production under center, Michigan’s 2014 season would have been a much different story.

Who will win the starting job? It’s unlikely that Rudock would burn his final year of eligibility transferring to Michigan unless he was certain he’d be the No. 1 guy. Though nothing is set in stone, Rudock offers a far more polished quarterback for Harbaugh in his first season, which is sure to come with unrealistically high expectations.

Iowa fans were often frustrated by Rudock’s tendency to dink and dunk the ball, pleading for more passes downfield. But Michigan fans, who’ve not seen an organized passing attack since 2007 will appreciate Rudock’s touchdown-to-interception ratio and career 60.3 percent completion percentage.

Projected Stats – Rudock
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
2,300 17 7 60.0% 185 3
Career Stats
2014 2,436 16 5 61.7% 176 3
2013 2,383 18 13 59.0% 218 5
2012 0 0 0 N/A 0 0
2011 0 0 0 N/A 0 0
Totals 4,819 34 18 60.3% 394 8
*All at Iowa
Projected Stats – Morris
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
250 3 3 55.0% 35 0
Career Stats
2014 128 0 3 35.0% 28 0
2013 261 0 2 61.7% 40 0
Totals 389 0 5 49.4% 68 0


The most obvious difference in Michigan’s quarterback unit heading into 2015 isn’t the standout talent at the top; it’s the quality of arms lower on the depth chart.

Michigan brought in a pair of highly-talented freshmen to add to the mix in Alex Malzone and Zach Gentry.

(Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

True freshman Alex Malzone battled Shane Morris in spring camp, but shouldn’t factor into the upcoming season (Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Malzone was ranked the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the state when he committed to Michigan, tossing 38 touchdowns and completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,794 yards as a senior at Brother Rice High School. He enrolled early and went head-to-head with Morris in Michigan’s Spring Game, struggling to find receivers but showcasing his excellent arm strength. He completed 15-of-27 passes for 95 yards, but was tagged for a pair of interceptions.

Malzone will benefit from sitting behind Rudock and Morris in 2015, using the time to get used to the speed of the college game.

Harbaugh’s first quarterback commitment t0 Michigan came from Gentry, who flipped from Texas to the Wolverines on Jan. 24. Gentry, a four-star recruit from Albuquerque, N.M., is a towering 6’7″ and weighs 230 pounds. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards his senior season and ran for over 1,000 more. He scored 48 total touchdowns that season – 26 through the air and 22 on the ground.

But don’t expect Gentry to be a typical dual threat quarterback at Michigan. His size and athleticism powered much of his rushing success in high school and his elite arm strength will be his main weapon at the college level. Gentry has a quick release and a strong gun, which will give him a shot to compete for the starting spot in 2016. That being said, he likely won’t have much of an impact as a true freshman, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Harbaugh slapped a redshirt on this young phenom this fall.

Perhaps the only quarterback in this group that could have a major impact on Michigan’s 2015 season is redshirt freshman Wilton Speight, who was injured during the spring and didn’t play a snap in the Spring Game.

Speight, a former four-star recruit who started in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game, threw for 5,879 yards and 68 touchdowns in his final two high school seasons and gives Harbaugh another physically imposing option. At 6’6″, 235 pounds with a powerful arm, Speight is primed to dominate the college game if he can crack the lineup.

Speight is probably on the outside looking in as far as the battle for the starting job goes, but don’t count him out just yet, as he’s got all the tools to be the No. 1 guy.

Projected Stats – Speight
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
300 5 2 60.0% 15 0
Career Stats
Redshirted in 2014
Projected Stats – Malzone
Little, if any, playing time
Projected Stats – Gentry

Meet the rest

Four other quarterbacks fill out the roster, but it would take a catastrophic turn of events for any of them to see the field this fall.

Brian Cleary, senior, 6’3″, 205 from Gross Point, Mich. (Detroit Jesuit), no career stats
Joe Hewlett, sophomore, 6’0″, 192 from Novi, Mich. (Northville), no career stats
Matt Thompson, sophomore, 6’5″, 214 from Cincinnati, Ohio (Indian Hill), no career stats
Garrett Moores, junior, 6’3″, 211 from Detroit, Mich. (Detroit Catholic), no career stats

Do you agree with these projections? Do you see the quarterback race turning out much differently? We’d love to hear your opinion. Post your stat predictions in the comments below.

Brady Hoke transcript from Big Ten Media Days

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Today kicked off Big Ten Media Days and each head coach in the conference spoke for approximately 15 minutes. Brady Hoke was the sixth coach to speak and touched on a number of topics from Devin Gardner and the transition away from the spread to his phone call to Grant Reid who “beat Michigan” to how the Detroit bankruptcy affected his program. Here’s the full transcript provided by the Big Ten and

Brady Hoke spoke at Big Ten media day (Jerry Lai, USA TODAY Sports)

Opening statement:

First off, I know we’re all excited that you’re all here and you took the opportunity to travel up here and it’s really an honor and a privilege to represent the University of Michigan and the team 134.

We’ve got 12 days until fall camp, look forward to it. We’ve had some good things throughout the summer and since we got back from the game with South Carolina a year ago. Not a year ago, but in January.

We’re a young team. We’ve got to replace some guys who have been very important to Michigan football. But with that youth comes a lot of competition, and that competition is always good.

And the expectations, though, never change. And that’s to win Big Ten championships.

A year ago we were eight and five, and that’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable at Michigan. It’s unacceptable for us.

And in those five losses, we had 18 turnovers. So it tells you a little something that we need to be a little more diligent in taking care of the football. We need to be a little more diligent in making better decisions. And those are things that we’ve talked about and we’ve had through spring ball, had a good spring.

I like our football team. I usually don’t say that. I said it after the spring. I will continue to say it because I like how they’ve handled themselves on the field and off the field so far this summer. I like their work ethic, and I like how they’ve represented Michigan in a lot of ways.

Me liking them doesn’t guarantee us anything, because we have a lot of work ahead of us still. And at the same time we’ve gotta do a job as coaches to make sure that we are doing everything capable to help our kids perform at a high level.

We’re excited about the season, the challenges that lay ahead. Questions now?

Q. Devin Gardner took over for you in the season last year when Denard was injured and it’s always been Denard’s team since Devin was there. How have you seen this off season Devin take ownership of the quarterback position and be that type of leader that maybe Denard was, but just that transition to him now being the guy?

HOKE: Well, I think a few things. I think number one, I think he had some strong help on that side of the ball when you look at leadership. I think Taylor Lewan and the decision that he made in January spoke volumes about the University of Michigan, Michigan football.

I think Devin, his maturity and understanding what it is to be the quarterback at Michigan, I think he’s absorbed that, understands the decisions that we have to make as a football team and the decisions that he makes as a quarterback. They’re going to be very important.

Q. Can you talk about the depth that you have now on the defensive line and the offensive line and how it has evolved since you’ve gotten here?

HOKE: I think when we came in a couple of years ago, we had eight offensive linemen on scholarship. Eight or nine. And I think we’ve improved those numbers. I think we’re at 15 right now, maybe 16.

I would say the same thing a little bit with the inside people on the defensive side of the ball, because of — style of defense had a lot to do with that.

But I think our numbers are up. I think our competition throughout spring, I think the competition that — in how they did things through summer have improved both positions, particularly the interior of the offensive line and the interior of the defensive line.

Q. Denard Robinson, when he got hurt last year and you had to insert Devin Gardner at that position, did you expect that Devin would perform the way he did? And if Denard wouldn’t have gotten hurt, would Devin Gardner be a wide receiver this year instead of a quarterback?

HOKE: No, he was always going to go back to quarterback. That was already — him and I had talked about it. He really showed a lot of unselfishness by moving to wide receiver, and it reallybecamepartofhisDNAandwhathewanted to do to help the football team.

With Denard obviously getting hurt, the opportunity for Devin to get experience and move back to quarterback meant a lot. And it meant a lot for his experience and how he learned from those things, good and bad in spring ball.

Q. It seems like the trend in college football is to get more toward the spread offenses, put people in space. You’re obviously going back to your pro style offense. Could you talk about that, what you like about that?

HOKE: I think everyone believes in a philosophy, obviously. We all have our own quirks and beliefs. But I think the physicalness that the game of football needs to be played with, I’m of the feeling that playing physical football, some pro style, and then there will be multiple enough personnel groups that I think that will be big.

I think also with Devin at quarterback, you still have an opportunity to do some of the things out of the spread that may be there. But I think the physicalness that will help your defense, when you run some downhill schemes, the combination blocks. I’m an old defensive line coach, still am, and I think teaching that every day and going through that every day is something that’s important.

Q.What were your thoughts when you initially heard Michigan being compared to cancer, and what was the reaction from Grant Reid when you called him and offered him tickets to the game?

HOKE: Well, number one reaction is we were glad. We were excited for that young man. And being a father, our children are so important and you try and put yourself through what that family has gone through.

So him beating Michigan in this context, we were all for it. But it’s just something — I’ll be honest with you, it was something that we had talked about, Justin Dickens (Michigan Sports Information Director) and myself, because our kids do an awful lot in Mott Hospital, C.S. Mott. And our daughter was five months in the hospital when she was born, and so you just imagine what that family was going through.

And I spoke to Grant a little bit. He’s doing well. He was excited.

Q. I was wondering if you shored up that backup quarterback position yet, and should Gardner go down this fall, what was the plan going forward for that?

HOKE: Well, we looked around to try and find maybe a guy who had graduated early and could transfer. We looked at some junior college prospects. And we just didn’t feel comfortable enough. In 32 years or 33 years of coaching, I try and think how many times you’ve gotten to your second quarterback on the teams that you’ve coached. Hasn’t been very many.

I think Brian Cleary and obviously Shane Morris are two guys that we feel very good about. And so it would either be one of those two guys if anything would happen.

Q. What is it about Devin Gardner that makes him maybe a better pro style quarterback than Denard Robinson?

HOKE: I think typically when people talk about pro style quarterbacks, a lot of times they talk about the heights. And they also talk about the running quarterbacks obviously is how they’ve performed in the gun, read zone, counter, whatever it might be.

But I think Devin has a nice dual threat capability, because he probably spins the ball a little tighter. I think his height helps him over the line of scrimmage. So I think those reasons.

Q. How has the bankruptcy in Detroit and the situation there affected your community and the players that are from that area?

HOKE: Could you ask it one more time? I didn’t quite hear the beginning.

Q. How has the situation in Detroit, the bankruptcy, the economic, affected your program and how your personnel that are from the Detroit area?

HOKE: Sure. I think that, you know, everything’s a little different for every kid. Every individual, every family. It’s a little bit of a different path they all have taken. Obviously we’re pulling for Detroit. We’re pulling for the city and the state to get together or the federal government, because it’s a great town. It’s a great city.

For our kids, I think every situation is different, but I think all our kids, you know, maybe they haven’t thought in detail enough about it. But it’s all been positive.

Q. Is there any change on Jake Ryan’s status? Has he accelerated his return during his rehab?

HOKE: I think we’re very excited about his progress. So I don’t think anything’s really changed besides he’s done a great job of being very committed, very disciplined to getting himself back through the rehab and everything he’s doing. We’ll find out a little more as we keep going and getting closer. But I think sometime in October I think would still be a likely date for him.

Q. How much importance do you put on instate recruiting? You get a lot of Detroit, Michigan guys. How much focus do you put on that?

HOKE: We put a lot of our efforts in the state of Michigan. That’s important to us. And that’s something that– the high school coaching is very good. The caliber of the athletes we really like. And also they understand playing at the University of Michigan. So that’s always a very important part for us in our recruiting.

Q. Your schedule is pretty loaded up for November particularly this year. Is that a good thing for a team where you’re going to bringing guys along on both lines throughout the year, especially that interior of the offensive line?

HOKE: The goal is, every week you have to get better if you’re going to win championships. And the good teams I’ve been fortunate to be with, that’s what they’ve done, from week one to week two and so on.

So as far as the back end of the schedule, we’ve got a great schedule. And if we keep coaching and doing the things we need to do for our kids, then I think we’ll be competitive and it will be a lot of fun.

Predicting Michigan: The quarterbacks

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

With less than six weeks remaining before Michigan opens its season against Central Michigan, we are kicking off a preview series of position breakdowns and predictions. Naturally, we’re starting with the quarterbacks, and the newest member of our team, Derick, dives into what we can expect from the position this season.

Looking Back

The Denard Robinson era is officially over. While the flashy 5’11” quarterback that Michigan fans so affectionately referred to as ‘Shoelace’ basically passed the baton to Devin Gardner midway through the 2012 season, his days in the Maize and Blue have officially come to an end. Robinson often drove fans crazy by forcing throws and tucking the ball too quickly to run during his tenure as starting quarterback, but the last couple of years could have been very ugly for Michigan without his unconventional play that kept defenses guessing to the tune of a Sugar Bowl victory and a streak-snapping win over the hated Buckeyes.

Denard was a once-in-a-lifetime player. His ability to turn any play into a big gain made the last two seasons exciting for the Michigan faithful who had little hope following three difficult seasons under former Head Coach Rich Rodriguez. Now the best rushing quarterback in college football history has moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars, so it’s time to see what the future will hold for the Wolverines.

The Savior: Devin Gardner

Robinson’s elbow injury on October 27 against Nebraska left a terrifying question mark for the rest of the 2012 season: Who will lead the offense? Gardner’s transition to wide receiver left redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy as the only backup option, and his struggles in the second half of the Nebraska game left the Michigan faithful panicking.

Gardner started the final five games last season

Brady Hoke had no choice but to move Gardner back to his original position against Minnesota the following week, and the former Elite 11 quarterback did not disappoint. Gardner, who was recruited as a top-5 quarterback, led the Michigan offense with explosive running and accurate passing, finishing the game with three touchdowns and a 12-of-18 completion rate.

Gardner continued to look comfortable at home, completing a miracle pass to Roy Roundtree with seconds left en route to forcing overtime against Northwestern, and then scoring six touchdowns on Senior Day against Iowa. Robinson’s injury that had initially created questions about Michigan’s short-term plans quickly turned into an outline for the future.

Thanks to Gardner’s late-season play, Michigan enters the 2013 season without even a hint of the dreaded “quarterback controversy.” The redshirt junior will lead an offense that promises to look more like that of the old Michigan teams before the Rich Rod era. Gardner has the ability to stand in the pocket and hit receivers downfield, an option that has been noticeably absent from the offense in recent years. He developed a strong connection with speedy receiver Jeremy Gallon in 2012, and the duo promises to frustrate defenses in the coming months. Expect Gardner to throw for a higher completion rate than Denard, even with his willingness to throw the ball away when there are no better options.

While Devin should improve the Michigan pocket-passing attack, when plays break down he can also improvise with his feet. Unlike other recent Michigan quarterbacks, Chad Henne and John Navarre, Gardner is more than capable of breaking a big run with his legs. Even more importantly, he extends plays by keeping his eyes downfield rather than breaking for the line of scrimmage as soon as pressure comes. This keeps options open and gives the offense flexibility.

Devin’s dual-threat ability gives him multiple weapons on a play-by-play basis. He is a complete quarterback that brings intangibles to an offense transitioning back to a more physical style of play. He showed the ability to create free plays for the offense by using the hard count and pulling the defense offside in 2012, a move that demonstrates how comfortable his is in his natural position. The temporary move to wide receiver will likely help Devin in the big picture. It taught him another side of the offensive game and gave him a more complete understanding of his receivers. In the end, he belongs in the backfield behind the center, as he will be in 2013.

Projected Stats
Passing Yds Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yds Rush TD
3,100 25 9 62% 550 8
Career Stats
2012 1,219 11 5 59.5% 101 7
2011 176 1 1 47.8% 53 1
2010 85 1 0 70.0% 21 1
Totals 1,480 13 6 58.5% 175 9

The New Kid: Shane Morris

Morris may not be afforded a redshirt this season

If it is possible to be a fan favorite before stepping foot on campus, Shane Morris has accomplished just that. The local quarterback made his loyalty to the University of Michigan clear when he signed before his senior year of high school. In the months that followed, Morris was very public about his attempts to recruit fellow highly-ranked recruits to join him at Michigan. The result was a top ten class and a fresh wave of excitement around Brady Hoke and the new staff.

Shane’s role in the 2013 season is still unclear. After missing much of his senior season with mononucleosis and coming in behind Gardner, many believe the lefty will redshirt. The move, however, is far from certain. Morris has shown through his recruiting and public support of Michigan that he is destined to be a leader in the future. Hoke may decide he would rather use the energetic freshman on the field at times to groom him for a leadership role in the near future.

On the field, expect Morris to be solid. He is athletic and, like Gardner, has the ability to extend plays and keep his eyes downfield. Listed at 6’3″, Morris is not afraid to be physical while running the ball, and his toughness should keep him on the field. Barring a redshirt, Shane will likely win the backup spot and potentially see time early in the year against teams like Akron and Central Michigan.

Projected Stats
Passing Yds Pass TD INT Comp %
300 2 2 55%

The Injury Bug: Russell Bellomy

Russell Bellomy tore his ACL in spring ball

The second half of the Nebraska game was a nightmare for Bellomy, as he completed the same number of passes to Cornhuskers defenders (three) as he did to his own team, finishing the game 3-of-16 for 38 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. While this game definitely left fans frustrated, understand that Bellomy was thrust into a difficult situation and this game was far from career-defining.

There was a chance, if Shane Morris had received a redshirt, that Bellomy could have played a major role in the upcoming season. The backup quarterback spot is always important on a team that has a dual-threat starter with rushing ability. That was before Bellomy suffered a torn ACL in April during a practice, however, and now it is likely that the former three-star recruit will miss the entire 2013 season.

Projected Stats
Passing Yds Pass TD INT Comp % INT Comp %
None in 2013
Career Stats
2012 46 0 4 19% 16 0
Totals 46 0 4 19% 16 0

This Year’s Bellomy: Brian Cleary

Redshirt freshman Brian Cleary has a chance to see some game action during the 2013 season. The Michigan native out of Detroit Jesuit would seemingly serve as the backup to Devin Gardner if Shane Morris receives a redshirt. Hoke may decide to keep Morris off the field as long as possible this season to keep the option of a redshirt open, and the result might be some clean-up time for Cleary in games like Akron that are destined to be blowouts by halftime. At this point, he does not seem to be in line for meaningful minutes during the 2013 season.

Projected Stats
Passing Yds Pass TD INT Comp %
150 1 1 50%

The Odd Man Out: Alex Swieca

Many fans may have never heard of Alex Swieca. The walk-on has yet to take a snap at Michigan, and it is highly unlikely that will change during the upcoming season. Swieca didn’t play any football in high school, but did play overseas in the Israel Football League for a year before enrolling at Michigan. Swieca’s love of the game makes for a cool story, as he continues to attend practices and workouts despite not seeing even a second of playing time, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a chance that he sees the field this year.

Projected Stats
Passing Yds Pass TD INT Comp %
None in 2013

Wrapping Up

Al Borges has to like what he’s working with at quarterback this season. The Michigan offense is in good hands when Gardner is on the field, which should be every meaningful snap. His athletic body and intelligence will help him avoid injury, something that the Maize and Blue faithful have had to worry about too often the last few years.

If something unexpected does keep Gardner off the field for an extended period of time, expect Hoke to call on Morris without hesitation. While the coaching staff would love to save Morris a year of eligibility to develop and learn the offense, the injury to Bellomy gives them no other option. Morris is highly regarded coming into his freshman year and would at least help Michigan remain competitive in most games. Obviously a drop-off from Gardner would be inevitable.

After Morris, there are nothing but question marks. Even the deepest teams in the country would be hard-pressed to win games with their fourth or fifth options at quarterback. In a conference like the Big Ten, Michigan will need a big year from Gardner to compete for their first championship since 2004. Thankfully for Michigan fans, as showcased last season, the dual-threat junior definitely has it in him.