DiNardo: UM's Shane Morris has slight edge at QB
Right now, based on one practice, Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo said the Michigan quarterback battle is neck and neck, but when pressed, he did give the edge to one.
DiNardo, who along with BTN colleagues Dave Revsine and Howard Griffith, stopped at Michigan's practice as part of their bus tour of all the Big Ten preseason camps on Wednesday and took in the Wolverines' morning session.
It was a rare insight into coach Jim Harbaugh's program that has been off-limits to media since media day two weeks ago. DiNardo said Harbaugh's "submarine" practices are a throwback to how practices were run years ago. Harbaugh, he said, runs an organized practice, is hands-on with players throughout the team and believes he has the ability to "close the gap" with the rest of the Big Ten this year.
BTN's coverage of today's Michigan practice will be televised tonight at 6. Harbaugh, however, did not sit down for an interview with the BTN crew, the first time in 112 bus-tour stops over the years a coach hasn't been available. Linebacker Joe Bolden and quarterbacks Shane Morris and Jake Rudock were interviewed.
Morris, the returning junior, and Rudock, the two-year starter at Iowa who transferred to Michigan for his final year of eligibility, are battling for the starting job.
"There are only two involved, that's it," DiNardo told The Detroit News, referring to Michigan's quarterback competition. "Nobody else is competing for that job. I thought Shane Morris, and I told Revsine on the air I'm not dodging the question, did the better first half of practice and Rudock had the better second half. Shane has a stronger arm and Jake has a better touch on deep ball and Jake looks like he struggled with the intermediary throws.
"Based on one practice, if you forced me based on today, I would say Shane (is the starter)."
DiNardo said freshman Alex Malzone was at third-string quarterback, and he said he was impressed with what he saw from freshman Zach Gentry.
There were no surprises in terms of personnel on the offensive line with Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson running with the first team.
"It's the same offensive line (as last year)," DiNardo said. "They're being coached better, they a year older, so it's going to be better."
He said the coaches told him they like lineman Blake Bars a lot and DiNardo said Juwann Bushell-Beatty and Logan Tuley-Tillman also stood out.
As far as the running backs, juniors De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green were getting the bulk of snaps. Ty Isaac was not much of a factor. And DiNardo said while there is "no great speed" among the receivers, "It's all relative. They have better speed than most have."
Freshman receiver Grant Perry likely will play this fall, DiNardo said, and Drake Harris was definitely making an impact.
On the defensive side, Jabrill Peppers, who moved from cornerback to safety, stood out.
"He's legit," DiNardo said. "He's all over the place, and that's why he's not playing corner so he can do different things. They have flexibility to do more with him."
Harbaugh said at media day that the team was going "submarine" and go into a bunker. There has been little to no communication from players on social media and no interaction with media. Michigan's practice on Saturday night at Michigan Stadium will be open only to students.
DiNardo said he appreciates what Harbaugh has done during this camp.
"It's kind of a throwback to the old days," DiNardo said. "This is very much like when I was at Colorado and Bill (McCartney) who worked for Bo (Schembechler) did the same thing. This is the way it used to be before social media and television partners. This was not all that unusual 10 or 15 years ago."
While DiNardo, Revsine and Griffith could get much closer to the players and coaches during drills at Michigan State during their stop on Tuesday, Michigan kept them at a distance.
"Jim is coaching people," DiNardo said. "He's very hands on."
DiNardo thought highly of Michigan after observing camp last year at this time under then-coach Brady Hoke. He feels the same way about this group.
"These guys are as good as anybody they're going to play" DiNardo said. "Michigan State is better, Ohio State is better. I think Michigan is better than Nebraska top to bottom. This could very well be the third-best team in a seven-team division."