Devin Gardner's Time Has Come

By Kyle Rowland on July 11, 2013 at 9:30a
Devin Gardner is very happy that Zach Boren graduated.

After the first 30-year career in NCAA history (at least it seemed like it), Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is now an offensive weapon for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Seriously, that is his position on the Jaguars' website. So now, the Wolverine offense is in the hands — and legs — of Devin Gardner

The oft-injured Robinson allowed Gardner to get his feet wet at the position a year ago. Michigan was 3-2 in games Gardner was the primary quarterback, including a loss to Ohio State. Gardner's first introduction to the rivalry was not a welcome one.

Still, 1,219 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions is not horrible. And Michigan appears to have decent pieces surrounding him, not to mention a favorable schedule. 

Conventional thinking says Gardner will be better this year than he was in 2012, after having a full offseason to work with the first-unit offense. He also has more time to immerse himself in film study and get a better feel for his checkdowns, as well as better reads for how defenses are countering.

But five games is a small sample size as well.

He was good enough in those games to attract national buzz as a Maxwell Award candidate, and even an early Heisman Trophy candidate. The hype is building for a guy who essentially is a first-year starter running a first-year system.

Can he live up to it?

That is the biggest mystery. Gardner is a dual-threat QB who relies more on passing than running, the mold most teams prefer. He fits nicely into Al Borges' pro-style offense, giving Michigan its ideal offense for the first time in Brady Hoke's tenure. November is a long way away, but Buckeye fans will certainly keep an eye on Gardner and Michigan's progress (or regression) over the next few months. 


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OSU_ALUM_05's picture

Yeti's have feelings too.

steensn's picture

1) Little known fact, Devin was an Elite 11 QB
2) Well known fact, Devin Gardner has been the best QB on the UM roster for the past 3 years.
3) I thought Devin should have started over Denard two years ago
4) UM is going to have a much less dynamic offense without Denard. Though Devin is a significantly better QB, Denard is the best WR/RB to come out of UM in the past decade. Had he played his more natural position of "hybrid" he would have been even more dangerous. In fact, Denard would have been on of the perfect guys to play Urban's hybrid roll.
5) I'm not scared of UM without Denard, even with Devin, a better QB, behind center.

Oyster's picture

There would have been riots in AA if hoke had pulled DR and put DG in.  In my opinion, hoke was in a no win situation and had to play DR.  He did produce on the field and he provided tons of excitement whenever he touched the ball.  How does a first year coach replace him?  He would have been run out of town.
I will add that after his laughing during the ND game after his numerous turnovers, hoke had his opportunity to bench him, based simply on that.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Hello_Heisman's picture

Oyster - you're right.  There was no way Hoke could have benched D-Rob in favor of DG over the last 2 years.  D-Rob, for all his faults, had strong support from the fans, especially after not transferring when RichRod got fired.  And despite his inconsistencies, he made some pretty big plays in 2011 against ND and OSU to help pull those games out.  For a fanbase with a very fragile psyche, those wins were crucial coming out of the RichRod era.  After that, it almost didn't matter what D-Rob did last year.  Short of his injury, there was no way they could bench him.

60% of the time it works.....every time

steensn's picture

That didn't even cross Hoke's mind. He tried to make Devin a WR and played Bellomy over Devin. Hoke made a clear poor choice there, he never even thought of starting Devin over Denard, so he was not is a tough position at all...

GoBlueBlood's picture

He made Gardner a WR because he was the second best WR on the team. We had nobody behind Gallon. Bellomy was good in practice and proved he was reliable enough if Denard got injured. When the lights shined, he didn't show up. It happens but you can't predict that until the moment. 
We weren't going to leave our second best WR on the bench in case our starting QB got hurt, that would be hedging against your own chance to win. Denard going down and Bellomy not stepping up allow your hindsight to kick in, but entering the situation Hoke and his staff did what any staff would do. 
FWIW, Gardner was always the backup QB as a WR. If Denard went down just for a game, Bellomy was coming in. If Denard went down for the season, Bellomy would finish the game and Devin would take over for the remainder of the season. That was the plan all along and it (unfortunately for us) came to fruition.

TheShookster's picture

I'm glad I ended up not posting my comment because it basically was the same as what you have written. The Michigan offense is going to be far less dynamic. Everytime Denard took a snap or a handoff, my heart would skip a beat or two. I think Gardner is going to have a Deshaun Thomas type year; Deshaun came on at the end of a season and when he was the go-to guy the following year, without the previous supporting cast he struggled at times and forced a lot of things. I see Gardner having similar issues with Denard gone. The fear of Denard breaking 12 tackles and running 75 yards to the house is gone.
Oh, Deshaun is awesome though. Gardner is not.

He ain't even stretch doe!!

buck4's picture

I like the example of Thomas and Gardner as you put it.  There will be a lot on his shoulders and he will shine at times and struggle in others.  I disagree about the dynamic ability you mention though.  I think M's offense has far more potential and defenses cannot key on one man and must respect the passing game.  Devin can still scramble and is a pretty damn good athlete.  M's offense will be significantly more balanced and less predictable then what they had with Denard.

NuttyBuck's picture

I would say Gardner and Guiton are very comparable. That is good news for us.
semper woody

Chief B1G Dump's picture

Key statement: first year starter in a first year system. 

Maffro's picture

I have said for the last two years that Michigan will be far better when Denard Robinson is off the team (or at least not playing QB). I still don't think they'll beat us though.

Hovenaut's picture

Sounds like a September Heisman candidate.

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

They have a trophy case full of those up north...

buckeyedude's picture

I posted this on another forum post. For that I apologize, but I thought it would work here as well. 
I guess it's Devin Gardner's turn to carry the burden of "September Heisman" guy/QB @ Michelin.
That's a lot of pressure for one player. Look at this impressive list:
--->Devin Garner
--->Denard Robinson
--->Tate Forcier
--->Steven Threet/Nick Sheridan
--->Ryan Mallett
--->Chad Henne
--->John Navarre
--->Drew Henson
--->Tom Brady
None of these QBs had a winning record vs. OSU with the exception of Drew Henson, who was 1-0 vs. OSU. Back in the 70s when I was a punk, UM seemed to have quality QBs. Not so much lately.  Mostly they recruit September Heisman candidates, IMO.



GoBucksToledo's picture

Of course he will need an offensive line to provide him the time to throw and, with the exception of Lewan, he has slim pickings at this point.

buckeye1129's picture

It's not like this kid has a damn thing on Braxton.  I think that Denard v Braxton was a better and more fair QB matchup than Gardner v Miller.  To be honest I see it playing out like 2009 with Tate Forcier.  Maybe their defense has improved, and maybe they hold us to a season low 20-some points.  I still think that our D will be so improved and gelled by that point that Gardner will be shell-shocked.  This will not be the same D he saw in Columbus in 2012; I could easily see him throwing 3 picks and one TD.

Geraffi's picture

Called your shot. Hope it's accurate. 

Michibuck's picture

Time for the offer sheet burner to put up or shut up.

hail2victors9's picture

Thanks staff for remembering us regular Wolverines in today's Buckshots ;)
I've shared my thoughts on Devin several times.  I'm excited.  If Drake Harris was in the 2013 class and I'd be even more excited.
Denard was perfect for RichRod's offense.  He would've put up stupid number in RR's spread, but it didn't work out for Michigan fans to see Denard at his best for his entire career.  Hoke's hands were tied after Denard's 2010 season, but if Devin would've started at QB and Denard at slot/rb, Michigan fans probably would've gotten over Denard moving from QB very quickly.
P.S. I've seen it on 11W a few times, now, about how it seemed like Denard was around forever.  He only started for 3 years and took a few snaps as a freshman.

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

M Man's picture

The undercurrent in these comments is that Denard is sort of a phony as a QB.  That's wrong.  For sure, he was born to be leading a Rodriguez spread.  We saw glimpses of that for one year and it was pure awesome.  And, we saw what an awkward fit it was with Denard in a Borges offense.
Last year, Robinson's elbow (and I contend that it was very bad for a very long time, even predating the Nebraska meltdown) made him a running back.  I don't know enough to complain about or praise Hoke for sticking with Denard as QB for so long, but with a healthy throwing arm, Denard Robinson would have been terrific at QB.
A healthy QB.  I'm not at all worried about Devin Gardner's skills and/or potential.  He'll be terrific, as long as he is healthy.
What worries me is what we'd be forced to do if Gardner is injured.

Oyster's picture

You will remember the Nebraska game, tell Bellamy to stay put and call for Morris to grab his helmet.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

BlueBayou's picture

That won't be too hard.  Bellamy is out for the season due to injury.  Gardner's backups are Shane Morris and a bunch of walkons. 

yrro's picture

That was a lot of the problem with Denard the whole time he was there, and a good part of the "September Heisman" problem. He was taking a ton of hits while playing at a WR's weight, and he always managed to ding something that mattered for throwing accurate balls. He was never going to be an NFL quarterback, but when he was healthy he was accurate enough given the holes in coverage caused by his running ability.

Oyster's picture

True, but at least he was tough enough to play through the pain to get off a precise arm punt when it mattered.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

OSUs12-OH's picture

I knew this would bring them out;-) Just kidding btw!
In all seriousness, TTUN will be better if (and this is a big if) Al Borges and Hoke can build the team around him.  That's the part I think will be an epic fail for them and Gardner this year. This year won't be their year since he'll be following in DR's foot steps and will have another year of eligibility next season.  I tend to think TTUN will end up 9-3 if lucky or 8-4 like last year (or worse).  My main reason for this assumption is because DR is gone and who's the X-factor bc it's not Gardner...he's too slow for OSU to give up 60 yard td runs IMHO (before I get asked by tTUN fans that love it here why I feel this way;-)  
Next year will be their year IMO.  It could be a thriller again at the Shoe in 2014 if all goes the way I'm thinking it will (it could be a lot like 2006 IF Miller's coming back for his SR year like Troy Smith and so on).  Hell it could be a thriller this year but I just don't see them having a killer offense...that's for sure.  Their defense that has some key injuries will be expected to keep them in games.  This could take a toll on them by the end of the year...

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can't wait to get out there. I want an angry team! You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team. You're a hungry football team and I'm proud to be your coach." UFM

Idaho Helga's picture

Me too.  And Mike Hart.
I think they're better off without Denard.  He was a Rich Rod type of player.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Thanks - forgot how good that was (and still is) from the Dead Schembechlers

buckguyfan1's picture

Now it's Friday!  Well done.

tennbuckeye19's picture

I for one am really interested in seeing UM's offense this season. I'm intrigued by Borges having in Gardner a guy with a skill-set that his offense is made for. I think Gardner is a talented player and is capable of doing big things. Essentially though, the situation is much like last year with OSU and Braxton being in a new system and learning on the go. 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Gardner will probably be just fine if Michigan's OL plays well, but that's a big if. 
If they're switching to a more pro-style attack, their RBs will need to be at least reasonably effective between the tackles. Last year, in their final three losses, their RBs ran 19 times for 32 yds against Nebraska, 10 for 14 yds against Ohio State, and 8 for 6 yds against South Carolina. 
This year, they replace all three interior OL with two redshirt frosh and one redshirt soph. Michigan fans tell us that these three kids are part of Hoke's great OL recruiting haul and thus will represent upgrades. However, you can't really tell how they'll hold up under fire.
I know, the veterans playing on the inside last year were so poorly suited to Borges' pro-style offense . . . okay, but then why couldn't all-everything, 5-star, "there will be blood" Kyle Kalis beat one of those bums out last year? Yeah, I know, they prudently redshirted him to help the team down the road and because they were unselfishly looking after his interests, and so forth . . . even though, if Kalis is as great as advertised, he won't be in AA for his redshirt senior season.
I guess we'll find out about their OL in about 2-3 months. Until then, I have visions of a shell-shocked Gardner getting harassed by inside pass rushers on 3rd and 12.   

AeroBuckeye2001's picture

Gardner still hasn't crossed our 50 this half.

The Ohio State University Class of 2001

BS Aero & Astronautical Engineering

USMC11917's picture

If Gardner gets hurt who do the Skunkweasels rely on to carry their dreams?

tennbuckeye19's picture

Sugar Shane Morris?

MN Buckeye's picture

Shane Morris certainly talks a good game.

razrback16's picture

Yep. Has already said he's going 4-0 against Ohio State.

buckeyedude's picture

Add in a sprinkle of Kyle Kalis' mouth, and you have Mike Hart's mouth on steroids and coke.



Knarcisi's picture

He brings a pro style O that our D normally has no problem dealing with. 

acBuckeye's picture

This is what i've been saying. A pro-style offense is the type of system that our D was lights out against last year, even when they were struggling.
I realize that they've had a ton of new recruits at OL recently, but I have to believe that our front 7 will routinely handle their running game.... a running game which the pro-style heavily depends on to setup the play-action pass that allows that style to be so effective.
The one thing that slightly concerns me is that most kids coming out of HS now don't face pro-style offenses, b/c everyone is running their version of the spread. May take a little getting used to playing in such tighter spaces and still making tackles.

chubler's picture

Those with more knowledge on the subject- does Gardner have anyone to throw to? He could be excellent next year and it wont matter if the lack of decent WR's/TE's continues around Ann Arbor and the OL/Running game struggle.
That was the magic of Denard. He could take a completely broken play and spring a big gain all by himself even as the rest of the O was getting destroyed by a superior defense.

GoBlueBlood's picture

Yes he has some weapons to work with. 
Gallon (Sr) is going to be a stellar WR this year. He showed glimpses in the past whenever his QB got the ball in the air around him. 
Amara Darboh (So) is a tall, physical receiver with extremely reliable hands. He has been making highlight reel catches in practice ever since arriving on campus. He is expected by many to make a big splash this year. I can confidently say you will hear Darboh's name a lot these next few years. 
Devin Funchess (So) is one of the biggest mismatch targets in the country. Like Gallon, he showed what he can do in moderation last season, but his role is expected to expand with a year of experience and a better QB. If he continues on the path he's on, he will be a nightmare for defensive coordinators. 
We have Dennis Norfleet (So) who has transitioned back to offense. He will be a pain in the ass to keep in check. Jake Butt (Fr) looked really good all spring and is in great shape, he will most likely see the field. Jehu Chesson (RS Fr) is a tall 4.40 speed guy who will come in and stretch the field. 
There are others such as Dileo (Sr), more TEs and our freshmen (Fr). Similar to our interior OL, we have a lot of unproven talent at the position. The potential is all there and from all reports these kids have looked great when given the opportunity. If just a few of them live up to their hype (and one of our RB's which is an entirely different conversation) our offense will be much more difficult to stop than it has been in years past. 

M Man's picture

Good summary.
Shorter version; we have some very good talent and experience as slot receivers (Gallon, Dileo) thanks to clever recruting for that spot by Rich Rodriguez.  And we have some very good, young rangy-TE types (Funchess).
And a lot of question marks.
Dileo could be another Blair White, or another Jared Abbredaris.  I thought he should be our starting punt returner.  But we are in desperate need of a prototype deep-threat WR.  It is a hole for us.  Michigan's problem is not finding guys to catch midrange passes.  Michigan's big problem is stretching a defense vertically and deep.

WhySoSerious's picture

A loss to OSU!


Like the ball in the stands, we balls out

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Remember this quote? From this article...

“Off the field, everybody is hanging out with each other, playing video games, going to the movies, whatever it is. I feel like that's building a trust factor we can take over to the football field, where guys are willing to give up everything for each other. That makes a great team."

Those video games and movies should work out well for these guys...

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I can't wait to watch Devin Gardner play the Buckeyes this year!!!

blueinsconsin's picture

There's no doubt in my mind that Michigan's offense in 2013 under Garnder iwill be better than 2012 under Denard.  The O Line will be better, the run game will be better, the schedule is better and throwing will obviously improve b/c of Devon and relying more on short, timing-based passes to TEs.  If Devon stays healthy, Michigan will have a heck of a year and set themselves up nicely for 2014 with many returning starters, most importantly a returning starting QB with a whole year of experience under his belt...

Not here to troll...Go Blue

OSUs12-OH's picture

No offense before I say this but many if not all my TUN friends are all saying this same thing.  I tend to agree with Fido above.  It's the style of offense and players in the scheme that will be their demise.  It's not that Gardner isn't good or whatever.  It's more inexperienced players and DG playing behind a run first QB in DR which supported a majority of TTUN's offense.  I just can't see how SO many TTUN fans loved DR, but now, somehow DG is going to be better...???  No offense again, but your teams best player's gone. I don't see it happening this year due to lack of offensive threats (matter of fact NONE besides a freshman RB IMO).  Next year, sure once DG has more time to grow comfortable in Borges offense and more explosive offensive players join (like WRs that can stretch the field...Gallon and the other WRs, really???)  I just don't see what all you guys are with these present WR threats.  Prepare the worst TTUN folks...prepare now!  

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can't wait to get out there. I want an angry team! You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team. You're a hungry football team and I'm proud to be your coach." UFM

blueinsconsin's picture

I think you'll be surprised by the weapons that appear on offense.  They may not have the star power as Braxton, but the athletes are there.  You also have to remember that DG himself is a big weapon.  He has a strong arm, is VERY mobile and elusive with underrated speed.  
DG's style of play and strengths fit better than what Denard's did for this type of offense.  You're also forgetting how important our TE's will be.  Funchess and Butt will be a good combo, especially as the season goes on.  Look out for Darboh to emerge as a very good target.  I also think the OL will be improved over last year.  Interior line is young, but like the TEs will improve in strides through the season.

Not here to troll...Go Blue