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Monday, January 7, 2013
Depth chart analysis: Quarterback

By Michael Rothstein

Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each heading into the offseason.

A quarterback era ended in Tampa, Fla., last week when Denard Robinson played his final game at the position for Michigan. He briefly redefined what it meant to be a quarterback at the school, a runner as much if not more so than a passer instead of the traditional dropback passers the school had harvested for decades.

Now, though, Michigan is headed right back into the pro style world and with it, options at the position for the present and the future.

Devin Gardner, Denard Robinson
Devin Gardner was better than could have been expected when he moved back to QB in place of Denard Robinson.
The starter: Senior Devin Gardner. There is little reason to question whether Gardner will be Michigan’s starter next season. He displayed his potential over the final five games of this season and with a full offseason plus a transition to a pro-style offense which should suit him well, he has a chance to make a jump from a good quarterback to an elite one in his first full year as the starting quarterback.

The depth: Redshirt sophomore Russell Bellomy and freshman Shane Morris. This could get interesting for Michigan. Bellomy has some experience, but when he did play, it was nothing short of abysmal in relief of Robinson against Nebraska. He struggled to complete passes, made poor reads and in the only true game action he has seen didn’t seem ready. Meanwhile, Morris is a freshman who won’t enroll early and will have to pick up the offense fast if he ended up being Gardner’s main backup. Morris has a lot of potential, but right now that’s all it is.

The question mark: What happens if Gardner were to leave the game for any period of time. Michigan, much like it thought it was this season with Robinson, is incredibly thin at quarterback. With an offensive line that will replace at least three starters and could have bumps early in the year, this could be an important question if Gardner gets roughed up. Would Michigan burn Morris’ redshirt -- and a chance of having him as a starter for four full seasons -- if he were the true number two or would it stick with Bellomy?

The bottom line: As long as Gardner stays healthy and progresses at a typical rate from his first half-season of starting to his first full year as the entrenched starter, this should be a big area of strength for Michigan next season. It has a quarterback who has shown he has enough arm strength to make all the throws, good rapport with his returning receivers and some experience due to Robinson’s midseason elbow injury. He could be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten next season.