Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013 Season Countdown: #1 Devin Gardner

Devin Gardner
Name: Devin Gardner
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 210 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Inkster
Position: Quarterback
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #12
Last year: I ranked Gardner #25 and said he would be a backup quarterback and wide receiver with 25 catches for 425 yards and 3 touchdowns. He started games at wide receiver and quarterback, finishing with 16 catches for 266 yards and 4 touchdowns; 75/126 passing for 1,219 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions; and 47 carries for 101 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Last year was a very odd year for quarterbacks at the University of Michigan. The starter, of course, was Denard Robinson, a better runner than passer. Robinson hit Gardner on a 44-yard touchdown pass in the season opener against Alabama. A week later Gardner caught 5 passes for 63 yards and 1 touchdown against Air Force. Then 2 catches for 48 yards and 1 touchdown against UMass. So on and so forth. He was putting up decent numbers as a receiver, despite looking like a quarterback playing receiver - sloppy routes, some awkward catch attempts, poor body positioning. He was perhaps the best Michigan had at the position, yet he was out of his element. Then Robinson hurt his elbow in the first half of the Nebraska game, and Russell Bellomy entered with a thud. The following week, Gardner - who had apparently stopped taking snaps at quarterback during his WR tenure - started against Minnesota, where he went 12/18 for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus a rushing score. That was followed by the Northwestern game, in which he went went 16/29 for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 47 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground; that earned him Co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. He earned that honor again the following week with an 18/23 performance for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 37 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. The Ohio State and South Carolina games weren't quite as productive, but he still performed adequately for being inexperienced when thrust into the position. Expectations skyrocketed, and this spring and summer, observers started to talk about how good he looked and how much he had grown at the position. People even started to suggest that he could leave early for the NFL after the 2013 season.

Here comes that 2013 season, and people around the country are looking at Gardner as a potential breakout star. His favorite target last year was Jeremy Gallon, who returns primed for a big year and wearing the #21 Legends jersey. Unfortunately, the guy expected to start across from Gallon (Amara Darboh) is out for the season after foot surgery. There aren't many other proven targets on the roster, aside from senior slot receiver Drew Dileo and sophomore tight end Devin Funchess. One potential breakout receiver is redshirt freshman wideout Jehu Chesson, who should soak up some of Darboh's vacated targets. Good quarterbacks can sometimes make mediocre receivers look good, too, and hopefully that's the case this season. Gardner was on pace last season for well over 3,000 yards passing and to be an elite passer nationally. If he can find another consistent target, Gardner could race Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Northwestern's Kain Colter for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year; he could also make a case to be the top quarterback in the nation if things fall just right. I don't think Michigan has the talent at wideout to earn him national accolades, but I'm guessing NFL scouts will like what they see.

Prediction: Starting quarterback; 63% completions, 3200 yards passing, 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions; Second Team All-Big Ten


  1. Like this kid, his attitude, his having fun with his time, and most of all, his abilities.

    What a drag about Mr. Darboh, to work for two years for his time and then have it taken away. Tough for him. Hope he's okay.

    Agree that Mr. Gardner may not have the receiving core to shine nationally.

    If the O-line is good, this offense could be supremely balanced between the run, pass, and QB runs when necessary.

    Hate the whole injury aspect of football, call me a wimp, and there's some truth there, couldn't work in a emergency room either, but it's just such a drag for these kids, risking neck and knee. Hope the team is done with injuries, but statistically unlikely. Think Lem Barney's recent comments had a lot of truth and respect him for saying it.

  2. 3200 yards passing? Damn, you would get no complaints from me if that were the case.

    I'm feeling really good about Gardner. Even in the OSU game, his numbers were okay despite being the victim of a crappy gameplan and having no run support.

  3. 63% completions, 3200 yards passing, 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions feels a kittle optimistic to me, but I like your attitude.

    It would please me to no end were you to get an opportunity to get all uppity like you do sometimes on those occasions when you get it right.

    1. Yeah, those seem a little bit rosy to me as well. I think UM is only going to play 13 games this year (Nebraska wins the Legends) and Devin's numbers will look something like:

      61% completion, 2800 yards passing, 24 TD, 12 INT, 250 yards rushing and 6 rushing TD.

  4. With Gardner as a legit passing threat, I think we see the RB-based running game finally open up. Manball talk aside, Borges has admitted that he is most comfortable using the pass to open up the run. He can finally do that. I look forward to watching the offense in general because Borges is at least a notch above all of the pro-style OC's UM had under Carr.

    Gardner played terrific under the circumstances last year, but you can see he has a tendency to force things or try to do to much. He'll still be working on cleaning that up this year and I cannot imagine he's ready to be a polished, 1st round NFL prospect. But he can make all of the throws and is plenty talented to make cheating safeties pay. Even though they don't plan to run him much, it's also valuable that he can scramble for first downs.

  5. Here I am (uncharacteristically) agreeing with just about everything lately, nodding along to the rankings, digging the write-ups, etc. Then you drop this doozy about Gardner as "perhaps the best Michigan had at the (WR) position".

    NO. Gardner was flat out bad. His contributions dropped off steadily after the early season because he could do nothing that a good WR does. He makes a big target but that's it. He's not especially fast (for a WR), he can't block, his instincts were horrendous. He never made an impressive play and he missed balls he should have cost. As a result - he became marginalized: catches per game after ND: 2, 1, 1, 1.

    You correctly called out his weaknesses and pointed out that he looked out of place. The juxtaposition of those criticisms beside the line that he might have been the best seems pretty wacky - especially on a team with a stud like Jeremy Gallon. Most impressive physically - OK, but he was not good at playing the wide receiver position.

    Roundtree, Dileo, Gallon and probably Darboh were all better WR than Gardner. Heck, even Funchess is probably a better WR. Putting him there was a big mistake, no matter how athletic and tall he is. It was somewhat understandable to get creative to bring a player like him on the field, but the experiment didn't work to Michigan's advantage. We paid the price against Nebraska, and perhaps beyond.

    This post seems to imply that it all worked out fairly well, but I couldn't disagree more.

    As for Gardner as a QB - I'm excited like everyone else. I do think those projections are a bit high. As much as I love Gallon and some of the playmakers we have (Fitz, Gallon, Funchess, Norfleet) I think the OL is going to struggle to establish the run game the offense is dependent upon. Gardner will make plays, just as he did last year, but I expect the inconsistency we've seen over the last few years to continue. Too much to reach 63% and 3200 yards, especially with the slower-paced more conservative offense our coaches want to run.

    1. Gallon didn't do anything special until Gardner started throwing the ball to him. I agree Gallon is a better receiver, but at the beginning of the season, Gardner was the most productive target.

      Gardner through 5 games: 13 catches, 226 yards, 4 touchdowns
      Gallon through 5 games: 14 catches, 216 yards, 0 touchdowns

  6. No mention of rushing yards? I'm thinking that's still going to be a major part of Gardner's game. I'd guess 300-350 on the year and maybe 8 TDs.

  7. I think he throws for around 2500, 25 TDs with only 5-8 INT. Rushes for less than 400 yards but have over ten rushing Tds. Hoke seems to enjoy having DG run play action then rolling out for the TD. I also think that Gallon goes for over 1000 and Funchess has atleast 500 yards. The Funchess prediction is more of what I think he should have. I also will go out on a limp and say that Taco has 5 sacks and Clark has 10 plus.