ANN ARBOR — Brady Hoke declared last month that there would be a competition between Devin Gardner and Shane Morris for the spot as Michigan’s starting quarterback.
This week, the fourth-year UM coach provided some clarification on where Morris stands.
“He’s not ready to be the starter at Michigan,” Hoke said of the highly-touted freshman out of De La Salle Collegiate in Warren, Mich. “Devin’s got the most experience at the job.”
And while Hoke wouldn’t temper the competition between Gardner and Morris, he did concede one point on Morris.
“If we were starting today, he wouldn’t be the guy out there,” Hoke said. “Two weeks from now? We’ll see.”
UM’s spring game is April 5 at Michigan Stadium.
Morris started in a 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in December, and in five games in 2013 finished 29 of 47 passing with two interceptions for 261 yards, with six carries for 40 yards.
However, Gardner is clearly the incumbent despite returning from a left-foot injury that sidelined him for the bowl game. In 12 games last season, Gardner was 208 of 345 passing with 11 interceptions, and threw for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns and had 165 carries for 483 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 37 career games, Gardner is 301-504-17 with 34 touchdowns and 4,440 yards.
Becoming the starting quarterback, Hoke explained, is a by-product of experience and tools.
“Physically, he’s as good as he is,” Hoke said of Morris. “Mechanically, is he as good as he is, as good as he should be? Probably not. There’s things in drops, there’s things in ball exchange, and there’s things that you’ve got to pay a little more attention to.”
Michigan has four quarterbacks this spring. Freshman Wilton Speight enrolled in January and redshirt junior Russell Bellomy returns after missing last season following an ACL tear during spring practices.
“The way we’re doing everything, [the quarterbacks] are all getting four snaps, four snaps, four snaps,” Hoke said. “Between Wilton and Bellomy, those guys may not get a full number. It might be two and two. But from that standpoint, we’ve got really good competition.”
BUTT’S RETURN: Freshman tight end Jake Butt underwent surgery Feb. 28 to repair a torn ACL sustained in winter conditioning drills and Hoke projected that Butt could return to the lineup against Utah on Sept. 20, the fourth game of the season.
“I haven’t really sat down and talked to the doctors because he just had it done,” Hoke said. “He’ll work hard. I’d think to really have him back where you’d want him, it would probably be game three or four. We’ll just have to see.”
UM has lost eight players to ACL tears since August of 2012, including linebacker Jake Ryan, who sustained the injury in March of 2013 and returned to play Oct. 12 in a loss at Penn State.
Hoke said he and his staff, including strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman, haven’t found a common denominator.
“A lot of it is bad luck,” Hoke said. “You can do studies all over the country and everybody will tell you that.”