UM switching back to traditional offense with Gardner

Michigan is tailoring its offense this season to help quarterback Devin Gardner more. The Wolverines are leaning toward a more pro-style offense rather than a spread.
Michigan is tailoring its offense this season to help quarterback Devin Gardner more. The Wolverines are leaning toward a more pro-style offense rather than a spread.

ANN ARBOR — With a month of spring practices nearly in the books, Taylor Lewan sees a stark change in the Michigan football team.

It starts with his team’s offense. Lewan, Michigan’s All-American left tackle, explained this week that his team is moving back to a pro-style offense, which means Michigan will leave behind a scheme that it used for the past two seasons — one that accentuated former quarterback Denard Robinson’s role as one of college football’s most prolific players.

With quarterback Devin Gardner now at the helm of Michigan’s offense, the Wolverines can go back to a more traditional style of play.

“We’ve run a lot more under-center stuff,” Lewan said. “We’re going to have some sort of a spread scheme, and Devin has wheels, too. The coaches want to run a pro-style offense, and [offensive coordinator Al] Borges is more comfortable running this offense. There’s a lot more under center, and more power-scheme kind of things.

“I’m excited about it. The tradition of mauling people up and down the field is really cool, and it’s great to see other people give up on the other side of the ball ... and not us.”

Michigan will work in its scheme this afternoon when it wraps up spring drills with its spring game at 12:30 at Michigan Stadium.

However, Michigan coach Brady Hoke this week said that the Wolverines will use a situational scrimmage format instead of a simulated game.

Last year, Michigan ran 60 plays in its spring game. Michigan also announced this week on its Facebook football page that Gardner will wear an orange no-contact jersey instead of the traditional maize-and-blue jerseys worn in the spring game.

That could be a byproduct not only of adjusting to a new offensive scheme, but also injuries that the Wolverines have suffered in the spring.

The Wolverines lost linebacker Jake Ryan, a redshirt junior, indefinitely after he tore his ACL at the start of spring drills, and Michigan announced April 1 that quarterback Russell Bellomy will also be out indefinitely after tearing his ACL on March 29 — a day after Ryan had surgery to repair the ACL tear.

Hoke said Bellomy, a redshirt sophomore, will undergo surgery May 1.

With a lack of depth after Bellomy’s injury — right now, redshirt freshman Brian Cleary is currently Michigan’s No. 2 quarterback — Hoke said this week that he and his staff will continue to look into the possibility adding junior-college transfers or graduate transfers at that position.

“At the same time, you’ve got to feel good about the guys in the program and who know the program,” Hoke said. “But that’s something we’ll continue to look at.”

While the apparent question mark appears to be at quarterback, both Hoke and Lewan had high praise for the offensive and defensive lines during the course of the spring.

The offensive line will lose three starters to graduation, but Hoke said he’s seen growth in players who are competing for spots, including St. John’s Jesuit graduate Jack Miller, who is competing for the starting job at center vacated by Wauseon graduate Elliott Mealer.

Likewise, Hoke has seen growth in younger players who could contend for a spot on Michigan’s defensive line.

The Wolverines will return Lewan, who just a few months ago appeared to be headed for the NFL as a first-round pick.

“You’ve got a guy who can be a tremendous leader and a mentor for a lot of young guys,” Hoke said of Lewan. “And I think that’s one of the reasons Taylor’s come back. He’s become a better technician, and he wants to get flawless at his technique.

"I don’t know if that will ever happen, but in his leadership and his maturity, he’s grown leaps and bounds.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at:, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.