Friday, August 29, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #1 Devin Gardner

Devin Gardner
Name: Devin Gardner
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 216 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Inkster
Position: Quarterback
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #98
Last year: I ranked Gardner #1 and said he would be the starting quarterback with 63% completions, 3,200 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He was 208/345 (60.3%) for 2,960 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions; he also ran 165 times for 483 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Congratulations to Gardner, who has earned the #1 spot two years in a row! Gardner had a topsy-turvy season in 2013. It started with a mediocre game against Central Michigan (2 interceptions), which was followed by a great game against Notre Dame (5 total touchdowns), then a mediocre stretch, and ending with some great performances against Indiana (a school-record 503 passing yards) and Ohio State (451 yards, 4 touchdowns). With the exception of that game against the Fighting Irish - in which he still threw an ugly interception in his own endzone - Gardner had an uninspiring first half of the year. He was careless with the football and made lots of poor decisions, throwing 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in those first six weeks. Then, despite a blip against Northwestern, Gardner looked pretty darn good in the last six games; he threw 10 touchdowns and 1 interception over that stretch. In his outstanding game against the Buckeyes to end the regular season, he broke his foot and tore ligaments but still led the team to a near victory. Only after the game did we find out that he would be unavailable for the bowl game against Kansas State.

This off-season has included an annoying "quarterback controversy" story line that had no business getting started in the first place. I have no idea why a senior with 4,440 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions - despite a subpar/terrible running game the entire time - would be on the hot seat when the only challenger is a sophomore with 0 touchdowns and 2 picks to his name. Those people who stuck to that story were people looking to create drama. The bottom line is that Gardner is one of the most physically talented quarterbacks in the country, essentially a Vince Young clone stuck behind a porous offensive line. Gardner can make all the throws, can create on his own within the pocket, or take off and run like the wide receiver that he was for the first half of the 2012 season. People might think I'm crazy, but physically, I fully believe that Gardner could be a top ten NFL draft pick. The issue with Gardner has been his decision-making. He is loose with the football at times, holds onto the ball too long, pretends he's on the playground . . . . And yet. The pocket will break down a lot this year, and Michigan needs his creativity in and out of the pocket to make things happen offensively. I believe Michigan will be in good hands in the future once Morris takes over the starting job, but he's still raw and would get snowed under with the shaky offensive line in front of him. Gardner gives Michigan a chance in every single game, and he has developed a good relationship with tight end Jake Butt and wide receivers Devin Funchess, Amara Darboh, and Freddy Canteen.

Prediction: Starting quarterback; 3,000 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 8 interceptions; First Team All-Big Ten

19 comments:

  1. Again, I have thoroughly enjoyed a Season Countess. Excellent work! Go Blue!!

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  2. Let's go Devin, Let's go Michigan. Go Blue!

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  3. Oh yeah. If he has a good season (9~10 wins with a victory or two against rivals), I think Gardner can go 2nd~3rd rounds in the draft. Hope he can have a great career in the league.

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    1. He has all the tools to go 1st round. If he puts up the numbers that Thunder is predicting, I don't see him falling past the 1st half of the 2nd round.

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    2. I agree, but the supporting cast will make it a bit harder for him to really showcase his talents. And we'd also need to see improvements in decision making to go 1st round.

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  4. Agree 100% with the writeup, even the NFL top 10 thing. If he plays every week like he did when he was on last year, there's no reason he can't be there. Don't think I would trade Gardner for ANY other QB in the country (OK, Winston perhaps, most of the other top guys are system-created).

    What about the rushing yards prediction? Passing yardage is only part of the story.

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  5. Unlike the last couple years, the #1 is wide open for next year. If Morris plays up to his hype, it'll probably be the QB again. But it could also be Funchess (if he returns), Butt, Henry, Bolden, Countess, Wilson, Peppers, or a surprise break-out player.

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    1. If there are injuries to multiple running backs, the #1 spot will be a back.

      If Speight or Bellomy is injured, the #1 spot will be Morris.

      If receiver play is uninspiring and Canteen is injured, #1 spot will be Funchess.

      I have a hard time seeing any linemen go #1 next year.

      If interior DL play is atrocious and we have a lot of injuries to it next year, #1 will be Henry or Pipkins.

      If our team is injury free, and there are no early departures, I think the top 5 should be.

      Morris
      Magnuson/Cole - whoever ends as our LT on the year
      Funchess
      Pipkins
      Wilson

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    2. Just for the sake of debate...

      With Issac coming off his red-shirt and every other significant back returning, there's almost zero chance #1 will be a RB. The multiple injuries thing pretty much applies to any position, RB least of all though.

      It's not clear if Speight or Bellomy are adequate backups, or that Morris is good enough. This one's a wait-and-see, but Morris would probably be the Las Vegas favorite today.

      Funchess, many think, will be in the NFL, otherwise yeah.

      I could see Magnuson kicking out to LT if/when Braden/Cole falter or are hurt, locking down the spot, and being deemed invaluable to future success. There is no heir or depth if one of these guys actually plays pretty well at OT.

      It's hard to make a DT #1 because they rotate so much but I agree Henry/Pipkins are candidates.

      I'd be pretty surprised if no DBs made the top 5. One of those guys is probably going to break-out to be a star player.

      One outside-the-box pick: Norfleet. We don't have anybody else like him, and if he has a great year in the slot/kick-return role, he may be very valuable indeed.

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    3. The disclaimer said with injuries to multiple running backs.

      Wilson (DB) made the top 5.

      Peppers could make the top 10 next year. Might have him sitting at 6th.

      If Norfleet returns 3 kickoffs for TDs this year, and averages 15 ypc from the slot, maybe he could make the top 5. I don't see that happening though. In terms of other slot receivers and/or return men we have: D.Jones(slot/return), Canteen(slot), Peppers(return), J.Lewis(return), so I think there are quite a few people like him.

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  6. "I have no idea why a senior ... would be on the hot seat ..."

    I do (crazy as it may sound). There are a few people in the fan base who have an inflexible "LLOYD CARR GOOD RICH ROD BAD" mindset. (Hey -- it's not a wholly unreasonable way to think.)

    These people see Gardner (a RichRod recruit with great athleticism and at least the possibility of wearing dreds) and think spread, which reminds them of ... RICH ROD. See? Gardner's shot-put throwing motion (which I'll never like) doesn't help matters.

    Shane Morris, on the other hand, at least superficially resembles Michigan quarterbacks of the days when UMich routinely went undefeated and won BCS championships. Or, at least when eight-win seasons were a disappointment. :)

    For similar reasons, these people would never feel comfortable ranking Jeremy Gallon among UMich's best all-time receivers. He just *looked* too much like the RichRod years. RICH ROD BAD!

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    1. There's also some racial undertones to the QB debate. This idea Morris has much better decision making and more QB skills when he hasn't demonstrated anything like that.

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    2. Michigan has never won a BCS championship and I agree your argument does have some racial undertones to it.

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  7. If Devin wants to be an NFL QB, he has a ton of work to do IMO. He needs to get way better at reading coverage and blitzes, and learn to adjust accordingly. He also needs to be able to throw guys open on timing patterns (it's a confidence thing, not an accuracy thing at this point). If you look closely at his huge game against Indiana, he had the luxury of waiting until Gallon or whoever was wide open, and then just throwing it at him. That performance was great, but not filled with "NFL" throws.

    And there are two aspects in which his stats lie a little. He had a ton of interceptions get dropped - 5 or 6 in the NW game alone. And he shares blame with the OL for defenses teeing off on the blitz. The blocking was bad, but a high percentage of blitzes were overload or delayed blitzes which the QB has to adjust to. DC's gambled that he could not string together 3 or 4 good plays to burn blitzes, and they were right. If he improves in that area, that opens up both the pass and run games.

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  8. racial undertones eh? more like.... youre probably a racist if....

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    1. I wouldn't say that, there's a lot of underlying bias in many people's descriptions of athletes that they don't even realize but that doesn't make them a racist. How many times are white players described as hard working or cerebral while black players are called natural athletes or freaks of nature?

      In many people's minds a QB is a tall unathletic white guy with a big arm so Morris fits that picture more than Gardner. The constant criticism that Gardner can't read defenses or learn to read defenses while Morris can (even though he hasn't shown that yet) gets uncomfortably close to implying that Morris is smarter because he's white.

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  9. I didn't see anything racial.

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  10. Truly enjoy your blog!
    DC has carried the weight of this entire offense last year... He had a line that couldn't block, RB's that couldn't run, and recievers that couldn't get separation from MAC corners.. Yet he excelled and set passing records and almost carried this team to a victory over OSU.. Looking forward to seeing DC have a great year!
    Also, richrod and UofA on epsn tonight at 10:30 vs unlv..
    Go blue and thanks again for the blog!

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    1. Ahhh, the ole Devin Cardner

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