A Closer Look at Devin Gardner's Passing Woes

By DJ Byrnes on September 26, 2013 at 10:51a
This. This is what he's doing wrong.

Michigan, while 4-0, isn't exactly setting the world on fire. After escaping mighty UCONN on the road and even mightier Akron at home, it's clear that at this point in the season, Michigan is a very flawed team. A lot of their struggles stem from their passing game, headed by (RS) Junior Devin Gardner.

After looking at some plays from the Connecticut game, the folks at Maize and Brew's diagnosis of Gardner is as follows:

Gardner's mechanics started improving again in the second half. They still weren't perfect, but once he started getting comfortable again he stopped over-thinking the situation. His mechanics got more natural rather than mechanical, his footwork was more relaxed, and he went through his step and release properly and naturally to put the ball directly on target. He had other issues in the game: coming off the pass play early to take off running because he perceived pressure; feeling tense in his throwing motion causing him to aim and over step; not stepping to his target or not stepping into his throws. These are the things that great QBs can occasionally get away with and make passes. Gardner can get away with this at times as well. But you can't compound matters and on top of that feel tense and tight and expect to look good in the pass game. It's a work in progress with Gardner now. It's a work getting back even to where he was at the start of the ND game. But he's making his way back and regaining confidence. It just takes time. It takes reps. It takes completing some passes against another defense. But if Gardner can get his head right, he can hit any pass and get through any progression correctly, to add to the threat of running with his feet, and to help remove defenders from the box to help the run game.

It's clear Gardner, when playing well, can take Michigan to new heights. The flip of that, obviously, is he can also drag them down to a team that is rather pedestrian. Is this something that can be fixed (as Maize and Brew seems to think) or is this just who Gardner is, for better or worse?


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IBleedSandG's picture

Isn't it entirely possible that DG is just a slightly above average QB with average weapons (I think Gallon is pretty damn good) around him? That's how I see it.


buck4's picture

There is no doubt the WR is a big weakness.  Funchess has been playing hurt, and you saw by a couple of plays that Chesson isn't quite there yet. Losing Darboh in the beginning of the season was a huge loss IMO.  This is leading him to single in on Gallon and when teams bracket him (AKA Uconn and Akron) he struggles.

Doc's picture

He'll get better.  It is just their luck that he will.  By the end of November his confidence will be back and their offense will be up and surfing.  It's the AACC way.  I still think we roll them, but the ESPN's of the world will be singing his praises and calling him the best QB in the league.

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Grayskullsession's picture

I just keep watching that gif over and over again and cannot comprehend what compelled him to throw that pass. He might have a bunch of talent, but as a QB you need to make good decisions when you let that ball go or you will lose games against most B1G competition.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

BTBuckeye's picture

He's not a quarterback, he's an athlete. This happens a lot in College Football so it's not a bad thing really. Problem is it bites you in the a$$ a lot, which is happening to UM right now. It happened with Denard as well. Lots of ups, lots of downs and in the end you end up in the middle. Average.
He'll get better, but I doubt leads them to anything close to a National Championship run.

buckeyefanatic's picture

I'll just leave this here.

How many batteries does it take to beat Michigan football?   1AA
Want to beat Michigan? There's an App for that.

rdubs's picture

One big issue is their running game/oline.  Gardner is their only threat to run the ball consistently so they end up in passing situations frequently and the dline can just pin their ears back which makes Gardner uncomfortable.  If his oline improves he will quickly appear to be a better QB than he has shown so far this season.

Space Coyote's picture

While I certainly agree with what you're saying, one of the big issues with the run game has also been Gardner's inconsistency. Teams have really stacked the box the last two weeks. It's kind of chasing your own tail, though. To put it nicely, Michigan has a lot of room for improvement.

breakdownsports.blogspot.com - A B1G Football X's and O's site. @SpaceCoyoteBDS

rdubs's picture

It is definitely a two way street.  Their OLine still ought to be able to blow Akron off the ball to open up gaps for Fitz or protect Gardner in early down passing situations.  

d1145fresh's picture

I was discussing the Michigan QB situation in comparision to our QB situation the other day and I think I came across an odd outcome:
Last year for Michigan Gardner was considered the better QB than Denard (which is true) but Denard was a great threat on offense whenever the ball was in his hands and in turn the offense looked a little more dangerous but maybe more of a hit or miss on a lot of drives.
In comparison, for OSU the offense this year sometimes looks more fluid with Kenny G because he has so many weapons around him that the QB isn't needed to be a huge threat. Last year, without the other offensive weapons we needed Braxton to be Braxton. This year he can take some of the work off his shoulders and spread it out more (although it kind of makes him look worse).
This year for Michigan, they don't have one single big time threat on offense. It allows for defenses to not have to key on anyone and they can play more schemes which point out the flaws in Gardner's game.
Not sure if any of that made any sense but still I think its more of a case that Gardner is a good, not great, QB with limited weapons around him.

BTBuckeye's picture

Jeremy Gallon (WR) is probably a top 10 WR in the country. But other than that, I mostly agree.

d1145fresh's picture

Agree but an outside receiver is not much help when you don't have a QB to get him the ball or any other options for the defense to focus on

FitzBuck's picture

That ended with a lot of "if's"

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Space Coyote's picture

I'll add to it, as I wrote the article. I don't think Gardner is the same as Denard, completely different players. I do think Gardner is capable of being a very good QB. He has shown proper mechanics and footwork and an ability to step into the pocket despite pressure and complete passes, on top of his ability to run. His problem still is, he isn't good enough (call it reps, call it natural ability, call it comfort) to not have confidence and still be good. He resorts back to things that made him a project at the QB position coming out of high school.
I guess the basic premise is that I think he will get better because I think eventually he'll bounce back. But, it's clear that he isn't to the point yet where he can do some things wrong and still make plays outside of with his feet (which he has reasons to be confident in). That's a big step for any player, let alone a QB. I think it's something you've seen in Miller before, where when he gets hit a few times sometimes he's started taking off too quickly, or staring down receivers too long as he really tries to force himself to make the correct read and pass. Big learning curve, big upside, but it could be a wild ride.
And yes, @Fitz above me, it is a lot of "ifs".

breakdownsports.blogspot.com - A B1G Football X's and O's site. @SpaceCoyoteBDS

geoffrsc's picture

I thought his footwork and mechanics were perfect on the play above. What's the problem?

extemporary08's picture

I agree, I mean he threw a touchdown pass...

Hovenaut's picture

Can i have my number back?

buckeyefanatic's picture

Which is more fun to watch ... this or the Monte Ball fumble at the goal line GIF?

How many batteries does it take to beat Michigan football?   1AA
Want to beat Michigan? There's an App for that.

BTBuckeye's picture

watched the 2012 game last night...I forgot how that TD would have been for the all-time NCAA TD record.

sloopy88's picture

When I watch the Monte Ball gif I get nervous and triumphant in 2 second cycles, forever.  I can still hardly believe that defensive stand.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Did Shane Morris redshirt?  If not, why the hell is Hoke wasting time with Gardner when Morris is clearly their future?  It is kinda the same about situation we had with Boeckman and Pryor.  And, sadly, with Bauserbomb and Miller.  Even though that shouldn't even have been an issue.  Only stupid thing I think Fickell did as interim head coach... 

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

BrewstersMillions's picture

Because Michigan isn't a farm system. Though Morris-as a true freshman-has some potential, Gardner is a pretty good player playing poorly right now and they are 4-0. You don't sacrifice what Michigan believes to be a shot at the Big Ten to get a true freshman experience. If Michigan was 1-3, I'd see it. At 4-0, however we feel about them, they are in the hunt for major post season play at the moment.

Deadly Nuts's picture

The only reason I don't want to play them twice is that they would be in the Rose Bowl.


Knarcisi's picture

I've already said this a number of times on here, going back to last year.  He floats the ball, from throwing off his back foot, if he sets his back foot at all. 

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

Gardner is as Gardner does.

I like cookies.

FitzBuck's picture

Hoke says life is like a box of donuts....

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Ultrabuckeyehomer's picture

The best part of the analysis is that he can "run with his feet." I'm sure fans are happy to know that he at least has that part of mechanics down. Last thing Hoke needs is to get him to stop running with his hands or elbows. 
Edit: I'm just teasing, of course. 

BuckeyeAtHeart22's picture

That safety-turned-TD against Notre Dame makes Tate Forcier look like John Elway. God damn.

FitzBuck's picture

Did someone say Tate 3 times?

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

BuckeyeAtHeart22's picture

Not to mention this is what, his 3rd year in Hoke's system?  Unbelieveable.  Was he in a coma for the past 2 years?  How does he not have any sort of "field general" presence?  I mean, I'm not complaining.  It's actually fun to watch.

4thandinches's picture

I just hopes he continues to play like this for us. 

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

gobucks96's picture

Poorly coached teams turn the ball over.... What has michigan done since Hoke's arrival? Turn the ball over. To run their style of offense and make that many mistakes (poor ones at that!), shows a poorly coached team. On offense...

yrro's picture

I think he'll improve. The O-line will eventually start to gel. I don't think he'll do it quickly enough to win the division, but enough to look good in the first half against OSU before our d-line hits him enough times to send him back into his shell like last year.