UM's Brady Hoke won't name starting QB until game time

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Shane Morris came on in relief of Devin Gardner against Utah.

Ann Arbor – Michigan coach Brady Hoke apparently knows, but he's not telling.

After a 2-2 start to the season, including last Saturday's 26-10 loss to Utah that included four Michigan turnovers and a second loss without a trip to the red zone, Hoke made clear the situation at quarterback might be a bit fuzzy.

Hoke said Monday there could be a change at quarterback, from fifth-year senior Devin Gardner to sophomore Shane Morris. But while he more than likely knows what the Wolverines will do for Saturday's Big Ten opener against Minnesota, he's not tipping his hand.

"We'll wait until game time with it," Hoke said Wednesday at his weekly news conference. "We've got an idea what we want to do, but for what's best for us and the program and what we're trying to get done (we're not saying), and that would be the same at any other position."

Gardner, who started every regular-season game last season before a foot injury knocked him out of the bowl game, has struggled this fall.

It is often said that how the quarterback goes, so goes the offense.

And while not everything can be put on Gardner's shoulders, there have been plenty of issues for this offense in the first season under coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Michigan failed to reach the red zone in a 31-0 loss at Notre Dame, and again against Utah. The Wolverines did not score an offensive touchdown against the Utes. They are last nationally in passes intercepted and among the nation's worst in turnover margin at minus-10.

Gardner has six interceptions this season and Morris has two in limited playing time. Morris, a strong-armed left-hander, has made one career start, in last season's bowl game when Gardner was injured.

"We've got two very good quarterbacks," Hoke said. "The improvement they both have made in the course of a year in a new system -- obviously it hasn't been perfect the way we all want it to be -- but both of those guys, we have a lot of confidence in them.

"We've practiced the way we need to practice so we're in a place where what we want to do what we can do. We're fortunate here, we've got two very good quarterbacks. We'll just see on Saturday."

If Hoke is to make a move to Morris, certainly it will help him being at home at Michigan Stadium. Michigan is playing at Rutgers in a night game on Oct. 4. Hoke reiterated he does not like the idea of playing two quarterbacks.

"You could go in some environments on the road that could be pretty intense," Hoke said. "There's no question playing at home for everybody is more comfortable."

Earlier this week, Hoke alluded to other potential personnel changes but said he would not discuss them. He did say that the tackles, Mason Cole on the left side and Ben Braden on the right, have not switched this week.

Gardner was pulled from the Utah game with about 11 minutes left after he threw his second interception. Nussmeier said earlier this week that sometimes it's best for a player to watch from the sideline and see how the game evolves, and pick up on things he was not seeing while on the field.

Hoke was asked Wednesday if sitting a starter, like Gardner, for a game to give him a chance to gain a new perspective is part of the thought process when considering a change.

"We do that at a lot of positions," Hoke said. "We've done that before in the secondary. When you have a player that is maybe not reaching their potential … sometimes I think for all of them it's a chance to bring them out a little bit so they can get a feel."