We haven’t seen the direct result of what some of the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s would've actually meant for this season, but with this one, we might see it quite soon ... in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday against Kansas State. With Devin Gardner possibly out for the bowl game with a turf toe injury, we might see exactly what a true freshman quarterback who has thrown nine career passes looks like.
Shoulda … given Shane Morris more snaps against Central Michigan. Michigan coaches likely were thinking that they would be able to play him against Akron and Connecticut, so it wasn’t completely necessary to give Morris many snaps earlier. But perhaps they should have seized that moment because nothing is guaranteed (which the Wolverines proved with narrow victories over both the Zips and Huskies). Morris didn’t enter the game until Michigan had a 36-point lead against the Chippewas. Call me conservative, but I think even a three-touchdown lead against Central Michigan (with how well the defense was playing that game) and how the Chippewas weren't defending well against Michigan’s run game, it seemed safe to put in a freshman quarterback.
In his limited minutes against CMU, he was 5-of-6 for 59 yards with one interception, and he was sacked once. And that’s about it for his experience this season. Now he might have to go against one of the Big 12's best pass rushers in Ryan Mueller.
Coulda … felt a bit safer to get him in against Minnesota. Why wouldn’t the staff have given him reps against the Gophers? The Wolverines won by 29. At some point, they should’ve felt comfortable giving their backup QB a few reps. Passes in those kind of games make passes in more important games -- such as a bowl game -- a bit less difficult. Even if it’s a marginal difference, it’s a difference. And that could mean the difference between him seeing a guy downfield and making a play, or double-clutching and throwing an interception. One top of that, Minnesota was a trophy game and there was something on the line. It could have been a trust-builder for the freshman.
Woulda … been much more prepared for the possibility of an injury to Gardner. He typically doesn’t sit in the pocket. He tries to make plays with his feet, which means he gets hit. That means he could get hurt, and that means there might be a game in which he can’t play. Why wouldn’t Michigan coaces have taken a realistic look at that and thought, “We need to get Shane in as much as we can, whenever we can.”
Central Michigan was one opportunity. Minnesota was another. They could’ve put him in a bit earlier in the lopsided loss at Michigan State. There was no need to put Gardner through that last drive. A snap here and there could make a difference. And unfortunately for Morris (and Michigan), he didn’t get those reps. So now, rather than being able to say that everything has been done to prepare Morris for this game -- if Gardner can’t play -- the coaches are going to look back at those games and wonder what three or four extra passes really meant for Gardner and what those three or four extra passes would have meant for Morris.