Notebook: QB situations for Gophers, Wolverines up in the air
MINNEAPOLIS — Two years ago when the Wolverines paid a visit to TCF Bank Stadium, the Gophers football team was unsure about which Michigan quarterback would be under center.
Denard Robinson was the starter that year but was banged up prior to that game, so Devin Gardner stepped in — and thrived. Gardner threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another as Michigan beat Minnesota 35-13.
Now as the Gophers prepare to face the Wolverines this Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich., head coach Jerry Kill and his staff are again left to ponder which quarterback they’ll be opposing. Gardner struggled last Saturday and threw a pair of interceptions in Michigan’s home loss to Utah, so the Wolverines put in sophomore Shane Morris, a left-hander, in his place. Morris didn’t fare any better, going 4-for-13 for 42 yards and a pick.
While Michigan head coach Brady Hoke hasn’t yet committed to a quarterback for Saturday, the Gophers believe they’ll be seeing a familiar face under center for the Wolverines.
"We have to prepare for Devin Gardner, because that’s what they’ve been doing," Kill said at his press conference Tuesday. "I think we went through this two years ago. We didn’t know who was going to play when we played them at home, and he played. I think it’s one of those things, we have to prepare for what we see on film. It’s hard to prepare for a ghost. The offensive scheme’s not going to change any."
Michigan has been one of the worst passing offenses in the Big Ten this year, averaging just 193.2 yards per game through the air. Only Wisconsin (150.3 ypg) and the Gophers (99.8) have had less success through the air through the first four weeks.
If Gardner does indeed start Saturday for Michigan, he poses the threat to run the ball, too, something Minnesota has to be prepared for. Regardless of whether it’s Gardner or Morris, though, the Gophers’ secondary feels prepared for whichever quarterback it lines up against.
"I’m ready for whoever," said Minnesota cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun. "We’re scouting both of them. . . . Both of them do some really good things. For the beginning of the week, we need to work on our preparation first, and then we can start to worry about them."
Leidner’s status uncertain: Speaking of uncertainty at quarterback, Minnesota’s starter for Saturday is also undetermined at this point. Redshirt freshman Chris Streveler got the start this past Saturday against San Jose State and completed just one of his seven attempts. But Streveler was able to gain 161 yards on the ground, the third-most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback in Gophers history.
Streveler started in place of the injured Mitch Leidner, who continues to deal with a toe injury. Kill wasn’t able to give a definitive answer Tuesday as to who his starter will be but did note that Leidner hasn’t been able to practice since Saturday’s game.
"I wish I had the answer," Kill said. "We’ll have to practice the ones that are healthy and go to work."
Meanwhile, Streveler met with the media Tuesday after Kill’s press conference for the second straight week. Coming off his first career start, Streveler was asked what it felt like to be the starting quarterback.
"I don’t know. What’s a starting quarterback supposed to feel like?" he said. "I feel like myself. I don’t feel any different after last week or anything like that. I don’t know if I’m starting this week. If Mitch is healthy, he’s going to play, as usual. I go in every week preparing like I’m the starter. If I have to play, I’ll be ready."
It’s clear that regardless of who is in at quarterback, Minnesota will need to have some success throwing the football. The Gophers were able to get away with seven passing yards against San Jose State thanks to 380 rushing yards. Against Michigan, that won’t fly.
Streveler has been able to poke fun at the fact that he completed just one pass Saturday — and not until late in the fourth quarter. He tweeted a picture of himself with his hands in the air and a caption that read, "This is me wondering why I haven’t completed a pass yet #gophers."
"Some of my buddies in class have been like, ‘Nice completion,’" Streveler said. "It’s just funny. I like to joke around about it, because we got the win so it doesn’t really matter, to be honest."
Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover was asked Tuesday if his team can win in the Big Ten by running and throwing with the same ratio it did against San Jose State. His answer was clear: "Probably not."
Injury updates: Kill said Tuesday that cornerback Marcus Jones, who is also the team’s top punt and kick returner, broke his hand Saturday against San Jose State and won’t play at Michigan.
Tight end Maxx Williams, who missed Saturday’s game with an injury, is questionable to return against Michigan and won’t practice Tuesday, Kill said. Minnesota could certainly use Williams, the team’s top receiver in 2013, to help bolster a slumping passing game.
Additionally, running back Berkley Edwards, who could be an option to replace Jones on kick returns, has continued to deal with a shoulder injury, which is a big reason why he had just three carries against SJSU. Kill added that Edwards feels better heading into Saturday’s game in Ann Arbor — just 30 miles from his hometown of Novi, Mich.
"We can’t afford any more injuries at all," Kill said. "We’ve got some guys that we’re careful with and we’ve been careful with him."
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