A Closer Look at Devin Gardner's Passing Woes
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?