Every good coach at every sport at every level will tell his players that playing time is earned, not given. That’s why as far as a coach is concerned, every position on the football field is unclaimed for the following season. For Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke to publicly announce that the quarterback position is up for grabs is a brilliant mind game to play with Devin Gardner.
Presumably, the competition involves two players: Gardner going into his fifth year of eligibility and sophomore Shane Morris, who started the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl when Gardner was sidelined with a broken foot. Russell Bellomy, who will be in his fourth year at Michigan, tore his ACL and did not play last season. I don’t want to count him out, but it’s not very likely he will become a third man in the competition.
What I love about an open competition is the competitiveness it entails. Surely, Gardner understood before this announcement that his starting job was not guaranteed for next season. He will be limited this spring with that foot injury, but he’s certainly expected to make a full recovery in plenty of time for the start of the season. With that setback in mind, it’s unlikely that this “competition” will be in full swing at the start of spring practice.
Once Gardner is ready to go, though, it will work wonders with him. Michigan fans witnessed his competitive nature last season, including in the Ohio State game where he played a better part of the second half on a broken foot. He understands the 2013 season wasn’t anything close to what’s expected in Ann Arbor. It would also do him good to realize how little blame he carries for the 7-6 season too.
Morris displayed some serious talent and potential in his bowl game start, which leads me to believe he will be an excellent competitor through the spring and summer training. All three men involved — Hoke, Gardner and Morris — know their only job is to give their team the best chance to win.
Unless Gardner is, for some reason, seriously set back with his foot injury, this “open competition” is a brilliant move and Hoke’s part as a coach. Gardner will greatly benefit from it, and, ultimately, it will help this team take some steps towards where they want to be.