The loss to Ohio State aside, over the final four games of the Michigan football team’s regular season, junior Devin Garnder showed there might not be much cause for concern when he takes over the reins at quarterback when senior Denard Robinson graduates in April.
Now, it appears that Gardner could be sticking around Ann Arbor a year longer than anticipated.
On Monday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said that he expects Gardner to be granted a retroactive medical redshirt for his freshman year in 2010, when he appeared in three early games but missed most of the season due to a back injury. That would allow Gardner to play in the 2014 season as a fifth-year senior.
“I would expect (the redshirt) would go through,” Hoke said. “I think all the documentation and everything is being sent to the Big Ten.”
The coach said he was basing his position on a “gut feeling” about the situation.
A fifth year for Gardner was widely discussed after the 2010 season, when the program said he could not apply for a redshirt until after his four years had expired.
But many players in the past have been granted medical redshirts immediately after the season in question. Sure enough, rumors that Hoke couldn’t apply on Gardner’s behalf sooner was the result of a miscommunication, the coach said several weeks ago.
It’d be good news for the Wolverines if Gardner does indeed receive a fifth year. Moved to wide receiver before the season and then back to quarterback after Robinson injured his elbow in the loss to Nebraska in late October, Gardner stepped in and played better than anyone could have reasonably expected. The junior completed 63.3 percent of his passes and tallied 15 touchdowns over his four games as the quarterback.
Though Hoke said that the quarterback situation for the bowl game could depend on the continued recovery of Robinson, it seems likely Gardner will get plenty of snaps at the position in the team’s final game of the season. And Gardner’s play has all but guaranteed him the quarterback job for next season, too.
“He’s going to have to compete and earn it, but he’s done a good job of what we’ve asked him to do to this point,” Hoke said.
LEWAN LEAVING?: It’d be difficult to point to any Michigan player that had a better season than Taylor Lewan.
The redshirt junior offensive tackle started every game this season and was the one consistent cog in an offensive line that often struggled to get sufficient push at the line of scrimmage. For his efforts in locking down the left side of the Wolverine line, Lewan was named the recipient of the Pace-Rimington Award, which is awarded to to the Big Ten’ top offensive lineman.
But Lewan may not be around next season to try and defend the award. Though he himself has not spoken about the possibility, Lewan is a prime candidate to forgo his fifth year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft in April.
At 6-foot-8, 309 pounds, Lewan has the prototypical frame for an NFL left tackle — he has the size to knock opponents off the ball in the run game and the athleticism to lock up pass rushers, too.
The Scottsdale, Ariz. native has been appearing in the first round of mock drafts all season long and some prognosticators have even pegged him to be taken among the top-10 picks.
Hoke said that the proper paperwork has been submitted to the NFL Draft Advisory Board in order to get a draft evaluation for Lewan, and the coach plans to talk to Lewan about a potential jump to the NFL this week. Hoke insisted that he doesn’t try to steer players to come back to school in these situations.
“I’m going to gear the young man towards what’s best for him,” Hoke said.
Lewan’s would be a big blow to next season’s offensive line. Michigan is already losing three starters to graduation and brings off the bench just one non-freshman, scholarship player in current redshirt freshman center Jack Miller.
NOTES:With no game to play this week and no opponent yet to prepare for, Hoke said the Wolverines will spend the week lifting and taking time off with the player’s final exams quickly approaching. Michigan won’t begin practicing until it learns what bowl game it will play in and what team it will play against. The bowl matchups are announced this Sunday. Hoke said his team will take the game “very seriously.”
Hoke said he believes injured redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint will make a “full recovery,” but that he isn’t yet sure if Toussaint will be back by the beginning of next season.