Devin Gardner will wear an orange jersey Saturday and will be hands off during Michigan's spring game. That makes sense in light of U-M's injury situation at quarterback, but the Wolverines can still put an entertaining product on the field.
First things first, treat it like a game. Divide the teams into two, flip a coin at the beginning, keep a real score, kick off, employ four downs and make decisions according to field position.
In the past few years, Michigan has enacted some sort of modified practice where the offense comes on the field at the 40-yard line, gets a certain number of plays, and then the second-string offense comes on the field under the same principles. What you end up getting is a watered-down scrimmage that really offers very little excitement to the players, the recruits and the fans that fill the stadium.
Outside of quarterback, the Wolverines have more than enough running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, linemen, linebackers and defensive backs to field two teams of 40 players. In fact, the spring roster contains 91 players, with only seven limited due to injury, suspension or named Devin Gardner.
Gardner should play the entire game or most of it. A year ago, Denard Robinson saw the field for one series and was done. There was no great explanation for that. Sure, he was a proven commodity but fans came to see Robinson, not the third- and fourth-string QBs get time.
I understand the value of reps, especially in The Big House, but after Gardner, redshirt freshman Brian Cleary is the only other quarterback with real potential to see the field in the fall, and he will drop to third on the depth chart the moment true freshman Shane Morris arrives.
The fact is, the fans are coming to see Gardner, and what the offense can look like with him running the show. Michigan need not worry about giving away secrets - the coaches can run a dumbed-down version of the offense if they want or they can realize most folks saw it a year ago when Gardner started five times.
Every other QB (and every other player) is fair game. That means Cleary and redshirt sophomore Alex Swieca (who should be on the same team) can get hit. Yes, quarterback depth is already low, but as stated, the moment Morris steps foot on campus, he will be the backup, and it's better for the defenders (and the fans) to get after it and attack the offensive backfield with everything they have.
Players like junior defensive end Frank Clark and sophomore rush end Mario Ojemudia should be able to showcase themselves with a speed move and a hit on the QB. Sophomore linebacker James Ross should be able to lay out a tailback without the play being blown dead. Junior cornerback Raymon Taylor should be able to pick off a pass and weave through the offense, trying to return it for a score with real would-be tacklers on his trail.
Essentially, Michigan needs to give the fans a game instead of the practice it has been putting on the past few years. The biggest argument against doing so would seemingly be the injury factor, but outside of Gardner, this isn't a pressing concern. And the simple fact is that inside Glick Field House the players hit during scrimmages all spring, and there is no reason now in front of the fans that they should remove that element.