Monday, December 24, 2012

Quarterbacks Preview: Michigan vs. South Carolina

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw (image via AJC)
MICHIGAN
Starters: Michigan basically has two starters at this point - senior Denard Robinson and junior Devin Gardner.  Robinson (6'0", 197 lbs.) has started 37 career games, but he was injured against Nebraska and has not started since.  Gardner (6'4", 203 lbs.) has started the last four games for Michigan and is the superior passer.  Against Iowa and Ohio State, Robinson played various positions, including wide receiver, running back, and quarterback, but he didn't throw a single pass in those games.  Robinson finished the season with 1,319 passing yards on 54% completions, 9 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions; he also ran for 1,166 yards and 7 touchdowns and had 2 receptions for 24 yards.  Meanwhile, Gardner completed 63% of his passes for 1,005 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions while rushing for 77 yards and 7 touchdowns; he also spent the early part of the season at wide receiver, where he caught 16 passes for 266 yards and 4 touchdowns.  It's unclear who will start the bowl game, but it's very likely that both will play in some capacity.  Robinson will have had over a month to rest his injured elbow, so I'm guessing he will be able to throw at least a little bit, but with the way Gardner has played at quarterback, I think Gardner has to take most of the snaps.
Backups: Redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy made several appearance this season, including replacing Denard Robinson for the last 2.5 quarters of the Nebraska game; he has not played since.  I think Bellomy has potential down the road, but there's no other way to describe his performance other than awful; he completed just 5/21 passes on the season for 46 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions.  No other scholarship quarterbacks are on the roster.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Starter: Junior Connor Shaw (6'1", 207 lbs.) has missed a chunk of playing time this season due mainly to a shoulder injury, but he should be ready to start the Outback Bowl.  He finished the regular season with 1,732 passing yards on 67% completions for 15 touchdowns and 7 interceptions; he's also an effective runner with 339 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Shaw is an athletic game manager and reminds me a little bit of what Tate Forcier could have been if he wasn't so stupid.  Shaw has an accurate arm and decent speed, and he's thick enough to run through some tackles once in a while.
Backups: Redshirt sophomore Dylan Thompson (6'3", 212 lbs.) played quite a bit this season with Shaw's injury.  He completed 59/117 passes for 910 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.  He's not quite the same threat to run, though, with just 35 yards on 32 carries for 1 touchdown.

THE TAKEAWAY
Robinson is one of the most dynamic runners in the country, and he's the best running quarterback in the country.  Gardner is a pretty good runner, and his passing is almost on par with Shaw's, although I would give Shaw the edge due to experience.  As a total package, Michigan has the advantage here.  Of course, this ignores the fact that Michigan will be missing its most experienced starting cornerback in J.T. Floyd while South Carolina has a couple playmakers on the back end of their defense in safeties DeVonte Holloman and D.J. Swearinger.  But more on that will be coming in a few days.

Advantage: Michigan

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