Position battles to watch this spring: No. 5

Spring football starts on Tuesday, and the competition for positions will begin under the watchful eyes of Brady Hoke and his staff. This week, we’re counting down five position battles that you should also keep an eye on during the next month.

No. 5: QB battle

Who’s in the mix: Shane Morris, Wilton Speight, Russell Bellomy

What to watch: Hoke said the starting QB job is open, but how much of that is truth or coachspeak remains to be seen. Chances are that Hoke is trying to light a fire under Devin Gardner to motivate him for this upcoming battle. Gardner hasn’t had to fight for the starting job -- he came in behind Denard Robinson, and the job became his pretty much by default last season as Bellomy was on crutches after an ACL injury, while Morris didn't enroll until the summer. Chances are that the job will also be Gardner's in the fall, but the staff wants to see him fight for it. Keep in mind that in the past two seasons, the starting quarterback for Michigan in the first game has not started the last game.

Why should you watch if this might not end up as a true battle for the starting job? Because it will involve a dogfight to be second on the depth chart and will give fans a better idea about their quarterback of the future. Morris has the advantage here because he performed well in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. However, he wasn’t asked to make too many difficult throws. He has showed poise under pressure, which Bellomy didn’t do his last time out for the Wolverines. But don’t discount Speight in this battle. He was confident enough to give up the last five months of his senior year in high school to enroll early and get on campus. I doubt most guys would really give up that time if they didn’t think they had a shot at cracking the two-deep. Speight does have a three-inch height advantage over Morris, which is always helpful when spying defenses and looking for receivers.

Overall, this should be an interesting position battle to watch. Gardner -- when he was playing his best -- was one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten. If that version of Gardner consistently shows up at summer workouts and this fall, it likely won’t be too much of a competition. The Ohio State game showed that Gardner can lead an offense and has enough mental toughness to overcome adversity, as he played more than half of the game on a throbbing, broken foot. This spring should give fans a peek into the future. If the good version of Gardner doesn’t show up in the fall, that future could arrive earlier than expected.