Devin Gardner has no illusions about Michigan QB battle

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THIBODAUX, La. -- Devin Gardner's status as Michigan's starting quarterback might be uncertain, but if he is to be overtaken by Shane Morris in fall camp, it won't be because Gardner is taking the competition for granted.

"I've proven I can throw for 500 yards. I've also proven I can throw for 97 yards," Gardner said Friday at the Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State.

That, as much as anything, is an acknowledgement from Gardner that his experience doesn't buy him a starting role in 2014. His reference: a 503-yard passing performance in a home win over Indiana last year, and a 97-yard dud of a passing day at UConn, resulting in a narrow 24-21 escape. According to Michigan coach Brady Hoke, a recent visit from former Michigan quarterback and New England Patriots star Tom Brady made a significant impact on the rising senior.

The Wolverines started last season 5-0 under Gardner, but lost five of their last seven regular-season games as the schedule toughened later in the year. Oddly enough, Gardner threw eight of his 11 interceptions during that 5-0 start, and threw only three over the final seven games, despite the team's struggles.

One of Gardner's challenges now is to win the eventual endorsement of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who spent two seasons at Alabama before arriving at Michigan. Gardner said the Wolverines will be more productive with their rushing attack under Nussmeier, while he'll be more consistent with footwork and accuracy.

"He doesn't settle for anything but the best. He simplifies things so the offensive line and running backs know their assignments a little better," Gardner said. "It's going to look similar. Inside (the team) it's a lot different, a lot of different terminology, but to you guys on the outside, it won't look much different. We're going to run the ball better, though."

Gardner and Morris battled for the job in spring practice, though Hoke wasn't ready to name a starter at the end of spring. If he's merely looking to keep Gardner on his toes mentally, it's apparently working.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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