Notebook: Three-man battle for QB role

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By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 18, 2014

Devin Gardner may be competing in nearly all of the Michigan football team’s drills, but that doesn’t mean he will be handed the starting job come August.

The fifth-year senior is back on the field after reportedly breaking his left foot in November, and he said Tuesday that he hasn’t suffered any setbacks in the recovery process. He could be participating in all of the Wolverines’ activities, but explained that he has sat out some to avoid re-aggravating the injury.

“I feel like I’m getting better and better each day,” he said. “By the season, I feel like I should be 100 percent.”

Sophomore Shane Morris and freshman Wilton Speight aren’t limited in any way, though, and they have been nipping at Gardner’s heels to bump him from the incumbent spot. Redshirt junior Russell Bellomy, the only other quarterback on Michigan’s roster with meaningful playing experience, is still in the process of rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered last March.

“It’s a competition between me, Shane and Wilton,” Gardner said. “It’s going great. Everybody’s fiercely competing.

“Wilton’s got game. He can play.”

Speight chose to forgo the second semester of his senior year in high school to enroll early in Ann Arbor. Though the freshman explained that he struggled to adjust to the intensity of college ball, if Gardner is to be believed, the transition hasn’t been too difficult.

“He makes good decisions,” Gardner said. “He’s a good quarterback. He’s a definite threat for Shane and I.”

But even if the competition is wide open, there’s no reason to expect anyone but Gardner under center when the Wolverines open their season against Appalachian State on Aug. 30. Gardner said he can pick up blitzes faster than the two underclassmen, and his extensive in-game experience has helped him adjust to the offensive schemes implemented by new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

SPRING STATEMENT: Michigan has several high-profile recruits enrolling this summer, but one freshman standout may already be on campus.

Wide receiver Freddy Canteen, a product of Eastern Christian Academy (Md.), has impressed his peers, including several of the Wolverines’ quarterbacks.

“(The receivers) are coming along great and doing well,” Gardner said. “I like Freddy Canteen. … He’s a really good player.”

Though Nussmeier plans to implement a run-first offense, he will still need to account for the absence of former receiver Jeremy Gallon, who set the program’s single-season record for yards at his position last year (1,373). By the fall, perhaps Canteen could be groomed into an acceptable replacement.

MARCH IS FOR FOOTBALL: Michigan’s recent struggles form a stark contrast with the men’s basketball team’s unprecedented success.

The NCAA Tournament is underway, and the Wolverines have a good chance to make their second straight Final Four appearance as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest region. Meanwhile, Gardner will likely lead a team that limped to a 7-6 record last year.

The triumphs on the court can help on the gridiron, as football recruits often attend basketball games during their on-campus visits. But in Gardner’s eyes, only one sport represents the University.

“This is a football school,” he said. “This is Michigan — you know that.”