2015 Michigan Preview – Quarterbacks

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Updated: January 16, 2015

Main Page Photo Credit Chris Petersen/Getty Images

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Shane Morris, #7

  • Ht: 6’3
  • Wt: 204
  • Class: Junior in 2015
  • Hometown: Warren, MI
  • High School: De La Salle
Scouting Service
Position Rank
National Rank
Stars
Scout340*****
Rivals4 (Pro)81****
247 Composite3 (Pro)72****

High School Rankings and Comments

Enjoyed a very good junior season at De La Salle passing for 1,684 yards and 19 touchdowns displaying a strong arm and good mobility. As a senior, Morris passed for 738 yards and six touchdowns before coming down with mono that ended his season prematurely. Participated in Under Armour All-Star Classic. Rated number one quarterback in the Midwest by Scout.

At Michigan

Games Started

  • Kansas State 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Phoenix, AZ
  • Minnesota 2014, game five at home

Game Action

Date
Opponent
Comp
Att
Yards
TD
Int
Comp %
8/31/13Central Michigan46590166.7%
11/2/13at MSU1360033.3%
12/28/13vs Kansas State24381960163.2%
2013Season Totals29472610261.7%
Date
Opponent
Comp
Att
Yards
TD
Int
Comp %
8/30/14Appalachian St35370160.0%
9/13/14Miami (O)020000.0%
9/20/14Utah41300130.8%
9/27/14Minnesota719490136.8%
10/25/14at MSU010000.0%
2014Season Totals14401280335.0%

Outlook

Morris arrived at Michigan with tremendous hype and fanfare being referred to as the next “franchise” quarterback however he was unable to enroll early and thus was a little behind the learning curve when he came to Ann Arbor in August 2013.

Morris worked his way into the backup quarterback job to fourth-year junior Devin Gardner, who had already established himself as the signal caller the previous season after Denard Robinson’s injury. Morris saw action in his first collegiate game, albeit in a mop-up capacity versus Central Michigan. With Michigan clearly in control of the game the coaches put Morris in to get his feet wet and he appeared to handle the pressure of playing in the big house just fine completing four of six passes although he did throw one interception on a tipped pass.

For the remainder of the season Morris did not play, with the exception of a cup of coffee versus Michigan State, until the bowl game in Phoenix, AZ versus the Kansas State Wildcats. Gardner suffered a severe injury to his foot in the season finale against Ohio State, thrusting Morris into the starting job in the bowl game.

Then Michigan Offensive Coordinator Al Borges had approximately one month to prepare Morris and put together a game plan against the Wildcats. Michigan kept the offensive conservative and threw the ball downfield very little opting instead for delayed screens, bubble screens and slants, all of which are safe and easy to read throws. Morris executed the game plan well minimizing any possible mistakes and also displayed mobility that many did not realize he possessed. However, the offense became predictable as the game progressed and Michigan was not able to mount much of a challenge to Kansas State due to the offensive limitations. Morris did what he was asked but it wasn’t enough as the Wolverines fell. However, his performance, albeit lacking big plays, did enough to warrant a quarterback competition in the spring of 2014 and raise the hopes of many Michigan fans.

Entering into the spring of 2014 Morris was in a battle with Gardner for the starting quarterback job at Michigan. By the time summer rolled around it was apparent that Gardner would once again be in control of the offense with Morris back on the sidelines. Early in the season Gardner began to struggle in new Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s offense and fans began to call for Morris to get his opportunity.

In the first three games of the season Morris saw limited action primarily once the games were out of reach however he would finally get his shot versus Minnesota, at home in Ann Arbor, in the Big Ten season opener. Throughout the first half Morris appeared over over his head much of the time. The offensive line was not playing well and Michigan was struggling to run the ball. Morris was under a heavy rush and began to take a physical beating as the game progressed. On one play Morris appeared to injure his ankle and this continued to hamper him as the game continued. Later Morris took a hit to the head, which would later cause a great deal of controversy, which eventually ended his day as Gardner came in to replace him.

Other than one incomplete pass versus Michigan State, Morris did not play again after the Minnesota contest. The poor play, not only by Morris but the entire Michigan squad that day raised many questions and now there is a new coaching staff in place for the Wolverines. Where does this leave Michigan’s once promising young signal caller?

With the departure of Gardner the quarterback position is completely open and new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh must find a new leader for his offense. Known for developing young quarterbacks there are some that think Harbaugh is the guy that will be able to get Morris to realize his full potential. Physically, Morris has everything you look for in a top-flight collegiate quarterback. The coach is now in place and the opportunity is there, now it is up to Shane Morris.

As the only quarterback on the roster with game experience Morris may have a leg up in the race for the starting job but he will have to earn it on the football field starting in spring practice. Morris will be entering his junior season this fall and now is the time for him to develop into what he and everyone else thought he could be coming out of De La Salle High School two years ago. It’s entirely too early to give up on Morris as a prospect but if he does not win the starting job this off-season his opportunities may be limited going forward. It’s now or never for Shane Morris.

 

Wilton Speight, #19

  • Ht: 6’6
  • Wt: 234
  • Class: Redshirt Freshman
  • Hometown: Richmond, VA
  • High School: The Collegiate School

High School Rankings and Comments

Scouting Service
Position Rank
National Rank
Stars
Scout30Not Rated***
RivalsNR (Pro)Not Rated***
247 Composite22 (Pro)452***

Speight was one of the top players coming out of the state of Virginia after passing for 2,845 yards and 33 touchdowns and rushing for another 292 yards as a senior. He was even more impressive as a junior throwing for over 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns. Despite his success he was overlooked by a few of the national recruiting services, primarily Rivals, who did not rank him among the top 30 quarterbacks in the country despite playing in the Under-Armour All-American classic.

Outlook

Speight signed on at Michigan relatively early in the recruiting process and was able to enroll in January 2014 with the Wolverines. He participated in spring ball but redshirted behind Devin Gardner and Shane Morris, seeing no game action during the 2014 season.

Entering into the spring of 2015, Speight has a realistic shot at winning the starting quarterback job. He will compete with Shane Morris and incoming freshman Alex Malzone in spring ball and fall camp while being mentored by new head coach Jim Harbaugh.  Speight is tall, somewhat lanky but thick with an overhand delivery. There is a glitch in his delivery but he has good, not great, arm. Surprisingly, Speight is somewhat mobile for such a big quarterback. He will never be mistaken for Denard Robinson but he is no John Navarre either (as far as lacking mobility).

Speight impressed the coaching staff at times in practice the past year and could be a legitimate challenger to Morris for the starting job. With a new coaching staff in place everyone is on a level playing field and high school rankings are irrelevant at this point. Keep your eye on Speight this spring.

 

Alex Malzone

  • Ht: 6’1
  • Wt: 200
  • Class: Freshman
  • Hometown: Bloomfield Hills, MI
  • High School: Brother Rice

 

High School Rankings and Comments

Scouting Service
Position Rank
National Rank
Stars
Scout131848***
Rivals10 (Pro)Not Rated****
247 Composite12 (Pro)281***

Mr. Football in the state of Michigan as a senior and led his team to back-to-back state titles as a junior and sophomore. Malzone is one of the most decorated players on the gridiron in recent Michigan history. He is known for his poise and accuracy throwing the ball.

Outlook

Malzone is already enrolled at Michigan and taking classes making him available for spring practice. With the open competition at quarterback many feel he has a legitimate shot at starting as a freshman. While this is certainly possible I would caution Michigan fans if they are expecting too much too soon with Malzone. As talented as he is it is an enormous jump from Brother Rice to the Big House in Ann Arbor. Also, let’s remember, Jim Harbaugh is the coach that redshirted Andrew Luck at Stanford and played Tavita Pritchard in his place. Meaning, Harbaugh will think long and hard before taking that redshirt off of Malzone’s back. With Shane Morris and Wilton Speight in front of him, it is difficult to gauge at this time.

Whether Malzone ends up redshirting or not he appears to have a very bright future in front of him at Michigan.

Summary

While entirely too early to say which of these three quarterbacks will open up under center against Utah in September it should be very interesting to watch it unfold. I expect Harbaugh to possibly bring in another quarterback, in addition to Malzone, in the 2015 recruiting class. A fifth year transfer is highly unlikely. Rumors have been swirling regarding Stanford’s Kevin Hogan transferring to Michigan after he graduates in May but don’t expect this to happen. This is more gossip than reality.

Do you build and go forward with Morris, Speight or Malzone or look elsewhere? I would imagine we will know more after spring practice. Right now I would expect Morris to have an inside track on the starting job simply because he has game experience however that is not to imply Speight or Malzone are not viable starting options. Fans tend to forget or get down on players if they don’t set the world on fire immediately upon their arrival and the fact is, most don’t. Morris and Speight are both talented young signal callers that need to be developed. Malzone, is likely to be redshirted, in my opinion, based off of previous experience with Harbaugh. He didn’t redshirt Luck because he had John Elway starting at Stanford, he opted to keep Luck on the bench and went with Tavita Pritchard! What does that tell you about his thinking.

I believe it’s a two-man race with Morris having a slight edge entering spring ball. Morris’ arm and mobility are both a level above Speight on top of his game experience, albeit limited to two starts. But we will know more in 90 days.

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