ANN ARBOR (AP) — Michigan coach Brady Hoke is hoping new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier can get the most out of quarterback Devin Gardner in his final season with the Wolverines.
Hoke and the Wolverines finished outside The Associated Press Top 25 last season after a bowl loss to Kansas State, while rival Michigan State won the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl.
A big season for Gardner could return Michigan to the national spotlight.
He threw for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, but was intercepted 11 times. He had 451 passing yards and four touchdowns in the finale against Ohio State but was unable to play in the bowl game due to a broken left foot.
Gardner got the lion’s share of snaps with the first team during the opening week of practice, and Hoke said he’s been pleased with the way Nussmeier has been working with him.
“I would think he’s had a really good fall camp so far,” Hoke said, “but if he doesn’t play well in portions, Doug won’t hesitate to take him out.”
Hoke did not make players available to reporters. But after five practices, the coach said he likes what he has seen from the team.
“The energy we’ve had all week has been really positive,” he said Friday afternoon. “We’ve had good practices, but we’ve got a long way to go to get where we need to be.”
The early days of practice, Hoke added, have been spirited and competitive – with a few scuffles, to boot.
“I thought they’ve come out like that every day,” he said. “They’re excited about football.”
The Wolverines hired Nussmeier, who also is the quarterbacks coach, away from the same position at Alabama. Before joining the Crimson Tide, the former NFL quarterback helped groom Jake Locker for the NFL at the University of Washington.
Devin Funchess likely will be one of Gardner’s top targets again after catching 49 balls for 748 yards and six touchdowns last season. Hoke said there’s plenty of talent in the remainder of the receiving corps, even if it’s relatively untested.
Michigan will scrimmage for the first time next week and Hoke said he expects to have defensive back Blake Countess (groin) and defensive end Mario Ojemudia (ankle) back on the field by then. Receiver Drake Harris is out with a second hamstring injury and was limited to rehab drills during Friday’s practice.
The Wolverines open the season Aug. 30 against visiting Appalachian State, which makes its FBS debut. The Mountaineers posted one of college football’s most memorable upsets in the 2007 season opener when they stunned the No. 5-ranked Wolverines 34-32.
Michigan visits Minnesota on Sept. 27 to begin Big Ten play.
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