With Gardner Likely Out, the Focus Shifts to Freshman Shane Morris

The Wolverines arrived in Scottsdale, AZ on Monday of this week to continue their Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl preparations, and with them a hobbled Devin Gardner still reeling from a turf toe injury suffered in the Ohio State game. At least we've been told it's a turf toe injury...which may have been the straw that broke the camel's back as Gardner has taken a career's worth of beatings in one season.

Gardner has been on crutches and in a walking boot since the Ohio State game. I don't foresee a miraculous comeback suddenly taking place before Saturday. That said, I've been wrong on these kinds of things before, so what do I know?

But if DG is indeed out of commission, the starting nod will fall to true-freshman Shane Morris who is just 5 of 9 passing for 65 yards and a pick this year. He's seen action in two games, the opener against CMU and at the end of the Michigan State game. But in bowl practices, he's been taking the bulk of the snaps with the starting O.

On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Al Borges addressed the media and had this to say about his junior QB...
Devin is still day-to-day, but if we played yesterday, it would definitely be Shane.
On Shane's comfort level with the offense...
We’ve had a lot of time to get him ready and take the No. 1 reps, which he’s never done before. He’s come along nicely. He’s studied hard. He’s really worked at it. It’s showed up because he’s improved a lot from the first day we started bowl practices to today, which is natural because he has had the reps.
On scaling back the playbook for Morris...
Yes. As it becomes more apparent that he could be starting, we have to be very judicious about how we go about repping him in terms of what plays to run, the ones he knows the best and understands the best. So we’re at that point now.
On the offense/playcalling becoming more conservative with a freshman...
The biggest thing - I don’t care if a freshman’s playing or a senior’s playing, our goal is to be balanced. That’s always been our goal, and we’ve lost that a little bit occasionally when we’ve turned the ball over more than we wanted. We went back and became more conservative, but lately we haven’t been that way. So as long as we can keep the ball out of their hands, we’re going to play the game the way we want to play the game, and that’s with balance.
On approaching Devin’s situation...
He just assumes he’s going to play, and that’s the way we go about it. If for someone reason he doesn’t, he doesn’t. But we don’t think any other way.
At this point in his college playing career, Shane is more of a sophomore than a freshman, so at least he has the benefit of knowing the offense and the system pretty well. But he does lack any meaningful game experience. If he does start, and regardless of how well or poorly plays, I don't think Gardner's job is in jeopardy for 2014. I suspect the coaches would prefer to redshirt Morris next year if they could. A much improved OL will go a long way in making that happen.

But in this bowl game, Shane could very well have his coming out party. What does anyone, especially K-State know about Shane Morris? I think Borges is underselling his freshman QB's knowledge of the playbook in order to keep the Wildcats guessing. I mean, sure, why not? Take any advantage an unknown freshman QB will give you, I guess.

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