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Michigan freshman to make first start

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Shane Morris is about to realize a lifelong dream.

But it took a nightmare finish to the season for Devin Gardner to make it come true.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke confirmed Thursday that Gardner, the Wolverines' junior quarterback, has not sufficiently recovered from a turf toe injury to be able to play against Kansas State in Saturday night's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Sad as that was for Gardner -- he also shared the bad news on his Twitter account -- it created the opportunity of a lifetime for Morris, a true freshman who was literally raised in the maize and blue.

"It's been my dream since I was a little kid to start as quarterback for the University of Michigan," said Morris, who has thrown all of nine passes in three games as Gardner's backup. "I grew up in Michigan. My family surrounded me in Michigan.

"I have baby pictures of me in Michigan jerseys. It's really cool."

The good news for Morris, a 6-foot-3, 201-pound lefthander from De La Salle High School in Warren, Mich., is that he's had two full weeks to prepare for his starting debut. Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges told him early on that it was a possibility.

On the flip side, not only was he limited to mop-up duty in three games this season but also missed more than half his senior year with mononucleosis.

"It's pretty crazy," Morris said. "I didn't play most of my senior year, and just getting back to football for a full season, it's crazy but it's awesome.

"I've learned a lot this year, from the team especially, and I'm enjoying it and I'm taking it all in and I'm preparing myself."

Hoke expressed confidence in Morris.

"He's had a really good preparation," Hoke said. "We tried to see if Devin could go and it just wasn't possible."

Gardner, a converted receiver who started all 12 regular season games at quarterback for the Wolverines (7-5), completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 483 yards and 11 more scores. He also was a role model for Morris.

"The first day I came in, coach Borges told me that if I was to watch a quarterback and how they play ... and how they throw, Devin was a great guy to watch," Morris said. "I've watched him every day since then and I've learned a lot from Devin, because Devin is a great quarterback and Devin does everything right.

"He's a great leader and I've been learning from him the entire year."

K-State coach Bill Snyder said his team won't alter their preparation significantly for Morris.

"I'm sure there will be some things that will be perhaps a little bit different," he said. "Those are things that Brady knows and I don't know.

"We can only speculate."

Wildcat free safety Ty Zimmerman said there is one major difference between the two quarterbacks.

"First of all, he's a left-handed quarterback and we haven't seen a lefty this year," Zimmerman said. "Obviously, he's going to be rolling out to the opposite side of the field - the boot, play-action stuff is going to be different.

"But he's a very capable guy."

Snyder agreed that facing a lefty presented a new challenge with the scout team.

"We don't have a left-handed guy out there, other than me, and I can't throw the ball like he can," Snyder said with a smile. "So we don't get a chance to work against a left-handed thrower.

"Aside from that, I can't predict what they will do, but I'm quite confident that he's well versed in the system that they have in place and there's so much in their offense and they can do all kinds of different types of things."