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Devin Gardner or Shane Morris? No word on Michigan starter

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Tony Ding/Associated Press
Shane Morris replaced starting QB Devin Gardner during Michigan's loss to Utah last Saturday.

Beleaguered Michigan coach Brady Hoke had said he would name his starting quarterback Tuesday. Well, he reversed field Tuesday morning and said the decision won't come until later in the week.

The Wolverines have started 2-2, and the offense hasn't scored a touchdown in either loss. Further, starting quarterback Devin Gardner has thrown five interceptions and zero touchdowns in the losses, to Notre Dame and Utah.

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks wrote Monday that "the hype surrounding the senior quarterback has subsided after watching him become a turnover machine in critical moments for the Wolverines."

Truthfully, the hype was overblown. Gardner (6-foot-4, 216 pounds) is an excellent athlete with a strong arm and good mobility. But he never has shown he can play in a pro-style attack. He was recruited by Rich Rodriguez at Michigan to run the spread, but Gardner's only playing time has come during the Hoke era, and he has proved to be a bad fit for Michigan's pro-style attack. Since Gardner became the fulltime starter last season, the Wolverines are 9-7. Granted, he has been hampered by a poor line, a mediocre rushing attack and a paucity of high-level receivers (he had Jeremy Gallon last season and has Devin Funchess this season, but Michigan is embarrassingly short of big-time playmakers for a program of its stature). Still, his decision-making is consistent only in its inconsistency and his accuracy waxes and wanes possession by possession.

Gardner was benched in the second half of this past Saturday's loss to Utah in favor of sophomore Shane Morris (6-3, 204), who is a dropback passer. That also led to a public announcement from Hoke that he would name the starter Tuesday. In turn, that led to speculation that Morris would be the new starter. After all, why declare the job open if you're not going to make a change? If Gardner is your guy, say so. Don't leave him twisting in the wind. His confidence already is shaky, so why make it worse?

But on Tuesday's Big Ten coaches' teleconference, Hoke said both quarterbacks would get practice reps with the first-team offense and that the staff would make a decision later in the week. Hoke also said the staff had a lot of faith in both quarterbacks.

Michigan plays host to Minnesota on Saturday. The Golden Gophers are as one-dimensional a team as any in the nation; they won while completing just one pass this past Saturday against San Jose State. If Michigan were to lose to Minnesota at home in what is expected to be a less-than-full Michigan Stadium, the hot seat under Hoke will be blazing.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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