Gardner out, Morris to start for Michigan in bowl

Shane Morris sat out most of his senior season in high school

and spent a good portion of his first in college watching games

from the sideline.

After two years of mostly idling, the big-armed quarterback will

be thrust into a spotlight unlike any he’s seen before: as

Michigan’s starter against Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings

Bowl on Saturday.

”Just getting back to football after sitting out has been crazy

and now to start in a bowl game is pretty amazing,” Morris said

Thursday.

Morris spent his first season in Ann Arbor as Devin Gardner’s

backup, getting mop-up duty in three games.

Gardner sustained a turf toe injury in Michigan’s regular-season

finale against Ohio State and suffered a setback last week, showing

up in the desert wearing a protective boot.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Gardner would have to practice by

Wednesday to play in the bowl game and wasn’t able to go, opening

the door for Morris.

”Obviously, we recruited him at Michigan to be the quarterback

at Michigan,” Hoke said. ”This is a great opportunity. We have a

lot of faith in how he goes about his business getting ready to

play.”

As a senior at De La Salle High School in Warren, Mich., Morris

was limited to four games after a bout of mononucleosis sent him to

the hospital for a week.

Despite his limited action as a senior, Morris was considered

one of the nation’s best pro-style quarterbacks and drew interest

from some of the top programs around the country.

There was little doubt where he’d go.

Morris grew up in Michigan, came from a family of Wolverines

fans and has baby pictures of himself in Michigan’s maize and

blue.

”It’s been my dream since I was a little kid to start as

quarterback for the University of Michigan,” Morris said. ”It’s a

huge bowl game. I’m excited.”

Morris won’t go into the game completely cold.

He attempted nine passes during the regular season but was able

to learn by watching Gardner, a versatile quarterback who’s thrown

for over 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns in 21 games as a starter the

past two seasons.

With Gardner ailing, Hoke had Morris work with the first-team

offense during the bowl practices, giving him extra preparation

time for his first college start.

”Everything has been great with him,” Michigan receiver Jeremy

Gallon said. ”He’s been connecting with the receivers, the running

backs, building a stronger chemistry with the O-line. There’s

nothing new about him. I feel like he’s been here forever.”

With Morris under center, Michigan will have a different look on

offense. Gardner was a mobile quarterback who could make things

happen with his legs as much as his arm.

Though also agile, Morris is known more as a passer, a big-armed

left-hander who’s had to work at times on putting more touch on

short passes so his receivers can catch the ball.

Hoke said he has scaled back Michigan’s offense some, but also

has changed things a bit to emphasize what Morris can do.

The change under center has made no difference to Kansas State

in its preparation for the bowl game.

”If you prepare for their offense, you’re virtually preparing

for everything,” Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said. ”They can do an

awful lot of things. Regardless who their quarterback is, our

preparation has been along the lines of their offense in its

entirety.”