Michigan’s season opener against Florida isn’t until Saturday. Yet Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain have already employed gamesmanship in the days leading up to the competition — especially when it comes to the quarterback position.
Harbaugh and the Wolverines have yet to release their depth chart (though a full roster update is coming Wednesday). McElwain, in response, has not announced a starting quarterback, and has previously said all three quarterbacks currently fighting for the job — Feleipe Franks, Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire — could see playing time.
“I have not heard Florida announce who their starting quarterback will be. We'd love to have that information,” Harbaugh said Monday. “So, no, we're not announcing our starting quarterback.
“People have made a big deal about our roster or not announcing a starting quarterback. I have not seen a starting quarterback (announced at) Florida. Never any mention of that. Very interesting.”
That uncertainty has made game-week preparation more difficult for Michigan’s defense — especially considering all three potential quarterbacks have contrasting play styles.
“Yeah, all three of them have different elements to their games,” said sophomore linebacker Devin Bush Jr. “Feleipe Franks, he’s going to stay in the pocket and rip it. Del Rio, he’s a guy who can also move and Zaire, he can run.”
Sophomore end Rashan Gary was asked who he thought was the most difficult to prepare for, and while he doesn’t know Zaire’s name, he has seen what Zaire can do on the field as a dual-threat option.
“Most challenging? Probably the transfer from Notre Dame,” Gary said. “He’s more of a mobile quarterback type of guy. So when it comes to that we got to watch out for like pass lanes or things like that, ’cause if he sees an opening, he’s gonna go.”
According to Bush, Michigan’s defense has been preparing for Zaire by practicing against Joe Hewlett, normally a running back who is currently simulating Zaire as the quarterback of the scout team.
Bush, though, thinks part of the difficulty of trying to prepare for the unknown is inherent when it comes to the season opener. There’s no game tape of the opposing team, so he won’t know the full extent of who he’s playing until the opening kickoff.
Bush and his defensive teammates have, however, formed some expectation of the offense they’ll face Saturday afternoon, especially as Michigan has transitioned into preparing for Florida as fall camp comes to a close.
“They’re going to run their plays,” Bush said. “They’re not going to change a thing. They’re going to run them because they know they can run them. They’re going to try to test us in the run game, they’re going to try to test us in the pass game.
“I expect 50-50, a good amount of run plays and a good amount of pass plays.”