A Look at Michigan’s Open Scrimmage

Despite coach Dantonio’s consistent remarks on the importance of each and every game this season, Spartan fans are always interested in the status of their rivals from Ann Arbor.

On Saturday night, the Wolverines opened up the gates of the Big House for the fans to watch an 8 p.m. open scrimmage.

Is Gardner’s Starting Role in Jeopardy?

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner had a roller coaster of a season in 2013. Certain games he would look brilliant, others he would seem to second-guess himself throughout the whole game.

Despite coach Brady Hoke saying Gardner is the starter this offseason, many have called for sophomore Shane Morris to replace him.

Saturday’s scrimmage finally gave a chance for fans to gauge the competition, and it did not silence any supporters of Gardner’s benching.

Gardner made a lot of questionable throws and was woefully inconsistent. At times he missed wide open receivers by at least 10 yards.

One positive from Gardner’s performance was that his left foot appeared to have healed well and he is as fast as ever.

Morris, on the other hand, looked as good as advertised.

He looked confident with both passing downfield and moving outside of the pocket to scramble. About an hour into the practice, Morris found receiver Freddy Canteen in the back corner of the endzone for a 35-yard, almost-perfect touchdown pass.

“He was very efficient with what he was trying to get done, he played solid,” Hoke told the Detroit News. “Did he play great? Good enough? Probably not. I’d say the same thing for backup Shane (Morris).”

Obviously Hoke’s comments indicate that he thinks Gardner is still the starter, but it’s sure to be a tighter competition after the scrimmage.


Players to Look out For:

Devin Funchess

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound former tight-end has officially switched to wide receiver, becoming a physically dominant target for the Wolverines.

His route running seems to have improved and he made some spectacular catches, including a one-handed catch across the middle for a big gain.

Amarah Darboh

Darboh was turning heads as a freshman last season before suffering a season ending foot injury. This season, the 6-foot-2, 211-pound sophomore looks to be picking up where he left off. Darboh looked crisp on Saturday and appeared to be Gardner’s second favorite target behind Funchess.

Jabrill Peppers

The highly touted freshman arrived in Ann Arbor with a considerable amount of hype and gave Michigan fans more to be excited about.

Initially, Hoke told the media that Peppers was currently only in the defense when they line up in the nickel package, but on Saturday the freshman saw a lot of time playing cornerback.

A few times he looked like a freshman out there, but overall he had a very impressive outing.


Overall Impression

This 2014 Michigan squad has a lot of talent and potential, but the question will be how they put it together.

The defense looked good on Saturday. The defensive line got into the backfield well and the linebacker group looked pretty deep and consistent. The secondary was solid overall, but had a tendency to let up some big plays.

The offense, on the other hand, was more concerning for Michigan fans. The offensive line, which was a huge weakness in 2013, was suspect at best.

The running backs were unimpressive as well. Sophomore Derrick Green has been a disappointment thus far, and neither De’Veon Smith or Drake Johnson played well enough to distance themselves in this cluttered rotation.

This team has glaring weaknesses that can be exploited at the moment, but they certainly have talented players on the roster. If Hoke and company can fix some of those situations they could be a team that is at least competitive every week, if not, things may be similar to last season.

Michigan’s first true test of the season, after a Aug. 30 opener against Appalachian State,  is September 6 at Notre Dame, where the country will see what this team is really made of.

Dan Tyler is the host of Spartan Red Zone for Impact Sports.

Photo: University of Michigan Football