After a hotly contested quarterback battle between junior Shane Morris and fifth-year senior Jake Rudock ended with Rudock as the victor, it was assumed those two would take all the snaps under center for Michigan unless the season took a severe turn for the worse.
So when sophomore Wilton Speight trotted out on the field instead of Morris to close out a game where everything had gone right for the Wolverines, confusion and speculation filled Michigan Stadium.
Following the 35-7 win, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh cited respect for the veteran Morris as the reason for using Speight in meaningless minutes. But when addressing the media Monday, the coach addressed the rumors that the decision was to keep Morris eligible for a redshirt.
“That’s a possibility. That’s a consideration,” Harbaugh said. “You don’t know how it’s going to play out. You don’t have a crystal ball. We’re all seeing this exactly the way it is taking place.”
Though Morris has recorded just two starts in his career, he has never earned a redshirt. He was still listed as the No. 2 quarterback in the Wolverines’ updated depth chart Monday, but has yet to see the field this season, keeping him in line, for now, for the added year of eligibility.
“We’re in control of it,” Harbaugh said. “He is the No. 2 quarterback, but not the No. 2 guy going in to take two kneel-downs at the end of the game.”
BUMPS AND BRUISES: With two games under Michigan’s belt, the team has avoided devastating injuries so far. More fortunately for the Wolverines, senior running back Drake Johnson and sophomore receiver Freddy Canteen — both of whom were expected to contribute to the offense this fall — appear to be rounding into form.
Both played sparingly Saturday, but got their feet wet in game action.
“I had a feeling that, when you haven’t played in a while because of an injury, your nervous system can put your body in a position that it can’t recover from if you’re not careful,” Harbaugh said. “It’s almost like an iron fist. Your nervous system does that to your body. You want to get acclimated to the feelings and emotions of playing a game. … I think we’ll be better for that this week and next.”
On the other side of the coin, junior cornerback Jourdan Lewis has yet to be cleared to play against UNLV. Though still listed as the starting cornerback on the latest depth chart, Harbaugh is letting his team’s medical staff make the call on a timetable for Lewis’ return.
“I’ve never really gotten into the business of predicting, when it comes to concussions,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not into predicting. It’s not my area.”
Senior fullback Joe Kerridge, junior running back Wyatt Shallman, junior linebacker Mike McCray, sophomore tight end Chase Winovich and freshman tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. are also questionable for the week ahead with unspecified injuries.
TECHNIQUE THE KEY FOR OFFENSIVE LINE: It’s been well documented that Michigan’s offensive line showed night-and-day improvement in Week Two compared to Week One. That was especially true in the run game, where yards per carry increased from 2.6 against Utah to 4.7.
Though it seemed to happen overnight, the Wolverines insist it wasn’t that easy.
“(Offensive line coach Tim Drevno) really stressed the practice and technique and fundamentals and practicing the way you’re going to play in the game on Saturday,” Harbaugh said. “So it wasn’t simple. It was a lot of hard work during the week. We’re striving for that again this week.”
Added junior guard Erik Magnuson: “(The key is) being more physical in the run game, playing with a lower pad level and playing faster. Everyone can do that on the offensive line, and we can all do that a lot more.”
Despite the growth, the improvement comes with the fact that Oregon State has a below-average defensive front, while Utah had one of the nation’s best last season. Regardless of the opponent, the unit is trying to implement a simpler approach.
“We have to do it every play,” Magnuson said. “It gets hard focusing on a big goal, which is to become an offensive line, so play in and play out was out focus in practice, and it paid off in the game.”