Controversy perpetually follows reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and can originate in the least expected places.
Radio host Dan Patrick posed a hypothetical question to Hoke in an interview on Friday, asking the coach to finish a sentence starting with, "If Johnny Manziel was your quarterback..."
Hoke's response was a bold endorsement of Michigan's signal-caller, per MLive.com's Josh Slagter:
If Johnny Manziel's our quarterback, he'd probably be playing behind Devin Gardner. Devin Gardner, I've got a lot of faith in. ...
We try and educate the kids here. This has always been about the team, the team, the team. If they're going to celebrate, and they're going to express themselves, do it with your teammates. Do it with the other 10 guys on that field that helped you make whatever great play happen.
Below is the full interview; Hoke begins discussing Manziel and Gardner at around the seven-minute mark:
It's quite a proclamation from Hoke, and it will be a bit easier to gauge just how good Gardner is when the No. 17 Wolverines take on the No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Although the collegiate production between Manziel and Gardner can't be compared overall, there is at least some merit to what Hoke is saying, despite the fact that his QB is an unproven commodity.
On 635 total attempts (434 passing, 201 rushing) in 2012, Manziel accounted for 47 touchdowns overall—about one touchdown per 13.5 attempts.
Meanwhile, Gardner—who played much of last season as a receiver—took over the starting reins from Denard Robinson late in the season and had to adjust on the fly.
In spite of that, his numbers were rather prolific. With 126 passes and 47 rushes totaling 173 attempts, Gardner amassed 18 touchdowns, which amounts to a TD per 9.6 attempts. He also caught four touchdown passes on only 16 receptions last year.
On the surface, it seems Hoke is borderline crazy to consider Gardner a superior option to Manziel to run with the Wolverines' first team, but the numbers suggest that there is plenty of logic to support him.
The argument could easily be made that Manziel maintained his greatness for an entire season and that it came against superior competition in the SEC.
It remains to be seen who will emerge with better numbers, but both Gardner and Manziel are likely to be prominent fixtures in the Heisman race.
Manziel threw for three touchdowns in just over a quarter of action in a 52-31 victory over Rice in the season opener, and Gardner accounted for three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) in a 59-9 romp over Central Michigan.
This sound bite from Hoke will make comparisons between the players all the more interesting to monitor as 2013 progresses.
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