Michigan had a nice day on Tuesday, announcing that Devin Gardner had officially been granted a fifth year of eligibility after a back injury sidelined him for most of the 2010 season, his true freshman season (via MGoBlue.com).
This is not entirely a surprise; remember that back in November, Michigan announced that it was seeking that extra year, and Brady Hoke said at the time that he expected the paperwork to go through.
It took a while, but yes, Hoke ended up right.
The timing may seem unusual, considering Gardner's back injury happened in 2010 and he's not projected to exhaust his eligibility for another year. As Michael Rothstein at ESPN.com explains, that's because Michigan wasn't exactly sure when it could petition for that extra year.
The reason for the delay of Gardner's redshirt came from what appeared to be a miscommunication at Michigan. The school initially thought it could not apply for a redshirt for Gardner, who was injured during his freshman season after playing in three of the first four games, until after his college career had ended.
WolverineNation reported this was not the case, and the Big Ten decides these cases on a rolling basis. The school then submitted paperwork to officially apply for an extra year for its quarterback, moving up the timeline Michigan thought it had on whether or not Gardner would receive the redshirt.
OK, then. Would you like to see Gardner's reaction to the news? Sure you would.
When it comes to what this all means, obviously it's great news. As MGoBlog points out, as long as Gardner actually uses that fifth year of eligibility in 2014 (and the alternative scenario, in which he doesn't need it after a brilliant 2013, is also just peachy), that pushes the Shane Morris succession to 2015, when he'll (presumably) be a redshirt sophomore.
But it's about more than just giving Morris two full years in the program before asking him to start. It's about what a loaded team that Michigan squad is shaping up to be in 2014. Yes, this is presuming perfect health and retention, but losing a couple guys won't ruin everything.
QB: Devin Gardner—dynamic playmaker, fifth-year senior, serious Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year candidate.
RB: Derrick Green—top 2013 tailback prospect in the nation with a year of experience.
FB: Joey Kerridge—beast of a blocker entering his third season at the position.
TE: Devin Funchess—should have developed into a top pass-catching TE in the Big Ten by 2014.
WR: Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, Jaron Dukes, DeMario Jones, Csonte York—pick two.
OL: Erik Magnuson (LT), Kyle Kalis (LG), Joey Burzynski (C), Chris Bryant (RG), Kyle Bosch (RT)—obviously not set in stone, but there's loads of experience and talent in this starting five and plenty of opportunity for competition in the coming years. If this isn't the starting line, it should be something even better.
That's an absolutely loaded offense, and one that has no real weak links. And while Morris would probably do well in it without Gardner, we'll take a fifth-year senior over a redshirt freshman every single time.
And that's why Michigan made sure Gardner would be able to come back in 2014. There just might be a Big Ten championship waiting for him and his teammates.