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December 16, 2013

News & Views: Hoke on Gardner's injury

Michigan coach Brady Hoke talked with the media Monday afternoon, discussing Devin Gardner's health status, Shane Morris' progression, the NFL Draft and more:

News: Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner was held out of practice Tuesday, still battling a turf toe injury that had him using crutches at the annual Michigan Football Bust last Monday.

Right now, Hoke is remaining rather tight-lipped about Gardner's availability for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, saying they could wait until the end of this week or the start of next (the Wolverines will be in Tempe by that point) to see whether he can play against Kansas State.

Hoke: "We held Devin out again today. We just wanted to make sure that he's rested enough and don't want him to get out there too soon. It's more of just wanting to make sure he's totally healthy. Obviously he's into the gameplans and things like that. He is throwing the ball a little, but we haven't done a whole lot."

When asked what he thought of possibility of freshman quarterback Shane Morris starting the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Hoke said, "I feel comfortable with that. I like his development. … I think he obviously has a better understanding of the offense. Fundamentally, his footwork, the coverage aspect of going from one read to another has all improved.

"Obviously, it has really helped Shane with the number of reps he's getting. It has helped him in the framework of the offense. We did team pass today, which is a little different than just straight skelly. You put a little more heat on him, and there's more timing of routes, timing of drops. Those things are a big part of it, and he has improved there."

Views: It would be a shame if Gardner was not able to go for the Wolverines' game against the Wildcats.

The offense hit such a wall in November, struggling to move the ball against everyone, until the Ohio State game.

What Gardner did that day was one of the best, gutsiest performances by a Michigan quarterback in a long time, bringing Michigan to the brink of one of the biggest upsets in program history.

But it was short. Just short.

After everything Gardner has been through this year, leading an offensive unit that was utterly lost at times, getting pummeled on a weekly basis and having his skill and confidence questioned on a constant stream of consciousness on the Internet, I don't want Gardner's last memory of the 2013 season being an interception to seal Michigan's fate against Ohio State.

It would be great if he could get back on his feet, and the offense picked up right where it left off against Ohio State, building a nice feeling of momentum into the offseason.

The outcome of the bowl game becomes a bit of a crapshoot if Morris is thrust into a starting role. Because the Wolverines never really created separation against anyone, Morris never got any experience.

Because he never go any experience, it's hard to predict how he would perform in Tempe.

News: Hoke said there were "some guys" who might look into declaring early for the NFL Draft this year. When asked who those guys would be or how many there were, he declined to elaborate.

Hoke: "I would plan on them all returning. There are always some guys that want to test the waters, so we'll let them do that."

When asked if Gardner was one of the guys who might test the waters, Hoke replied, "I'll let you ask him that."

Views: This is nothing to worry about. Players are every program in the country are doing the same thing.

If you, as a college football player who is at least three years removed from high school, have even an inkling that you might be interested in leaving early, it would be stupid not to submit to the Draft advisory board.

These aren't agents. These aren't guys looking to score off a kid's athleticism. Their job is to accurately assess your Draft potential and where you could potentially go.

That's it. If you're not ready, they'll tell you that. Honestly. And kids can come away with a much better understanding of what they need to work on in the future in order to be better prepared for the Draft.

Just because Michigan players are looking into this doesn't mean anything.

News: Young guys on both lines are using these bowl practices to get extra work and try to make a name for themselves, heading into the offseason.

On the defensive line, Hoke said: "Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst are going to be guys who are going to contribute in a big way. Mo, he has won the scout team defensive player three or four times, and Henry has won it a couple times. Through the week, those are both guys who are continuing to develop. Tom Strobel is another guy who is developing. That is exciting to see the progress.

"Yeah, I would think so[they can make an impact next year]. I they going to be a little young when they start out the year? Yeah, they will be a little young and inexperienced. Just like Willie and Chris Wormley, the gains they made were pretty significant."

On the offensive line, Hoke said: "Chris Fox is getting some extra work in. David Dawson. Darrell has done a good job of trying to piecemeal those guys in to some degree, so he can get all of them in with quality reps. Trying to put guys together: Kugler, Fox, Bosch, Dawson, all those guys are getting good reps. Blake Bars is playing a little center, and that has been a little bit of a good switch for him.

When asked about Bars at center, Hoke elaborated: "Yeah, the last three weeks. I think it was more out of necessity a little bit. During practice, to not give someone else so many reps, but I think it's pretty natural for him, too."

Views: The most interesting development here is clearly Bars playing center.

The Wolverines have mixed-and-matched along the offensive line all year, trying tackles at guards, guard and center and, well, pretty much every combination imaginable.

This would be something new.

It has been generally thought that redshirt freshman Erik Magnuson and Ben Braden would take over the tackle positions next season, with the gaggle of guards and centers who earned playing time this year duking it out for the starting nod inside.

Has Bars found a niche? If he can really push redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow and freshman Patrick Kugler at center next year, that would be great: the more the merrier, when it comes to competition.

Extra Tidbits: Hoke mentioned redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes while talking about the running back development. Hayes has been experimenting at slot receiver recently. When asked what he considered Hayes at the moment, Hoke said, "Running back, right now."

Fifth-year senior kicker Brendan Gibbons has been testing his leg, but he is "iffy" right now for the bowl game. Gibbons missed the Ohio State game with an undisclosed injury.


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