Christmas came early in 2013 for my family, well at least for me that is. You see, on March 5th when I heard the news that a fifth year of eligibility had been granted to Devin Gardner, I thanked good Ole’ Saint Nick for the number 12 jersey he brought to me wrapped in Maize and Blue paper (granted now I need a number 98 one too but I digress).
For three years I had grown frustrated with our offensive mindset that Denard Robinson was the best player we could line up behind center. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the play making ability he brought to our offense and all the records that go along with it. However, I was adamant that we were only putting one bullet in the chamber when Gardner was sipping ice cold Gatorade on the sideline.
I thought for sure we would see Gardner play the entire season at QB last year and was completely confused when he lined up at wide-out to start the year. Honestly I was downright ticked and thought it was a colossal mistake by our offensive coaching staff (refer to previous article and my feelings towards Big Al).
Now that it’s 2013 and Shoelace has moved on to the professional ranks, the offensive future is looking bright at Michigan for many reasons. First and foremost, now Al Borges only has to worry about designing plays utilizing Gardner’s pro-style offense.
In my humble opinion, focusing “Big Al” on coaching what he knows only leverages his expertise and knowledge base. This is a good thing, if you need evidence that stretching a coach beyond his knowledge base is bad, please Google Rich Rodriguez/ defense/ Michigan and remind yourself of what a bad stretch can lead to.
While keeping Borges focused is a primary reason the future looks bright, it’s not the most important thing to focus on. The kid now wearing the #98 jersey is the primary reason our future looks bright.
Remember, Devin Gardner is the modern day quarterback that Michigan needs to get to the next level. When needed, he can drop back and throw to any route at any time. Also when needed, Gardner will tuck and run and gallop past most linebackers that have dropped back in cover mode. Keeping defenses unbalanced is paramount to opening up scoring opportunities.
Because Gardner offers weapons with his arm and feet he keeps defenses on their toes.
I saw a patient decision maker in the CMU scrimmage opening day. I also saw a play-maker open up the field by utilizing his god-given talents above and below the waist. While Gardner will make mistakes playing quarterback, we all have to remember this is technically his first year leading the offense. While he is a junior from an eligibility standpoint, he is a second year quarterback. I believe that Gardner will pave the way in the pro-style offense for quarterbacks to come and want to play for Michigan in the future.
In the game against Notre Dame in Ann Arbor Under the Lights II, Gardner improved on his first game performance as he accounted for five touchdowns (4 passing, 1 rushing) with 376 total yards. Unfortunately, even though he cut his interceptions thrown in a game in half as well from his Central performance, the one interception he did toss was picked-off in the Wolverine end-zone for a Irish touchdown. Fortunately, that gift did not shift the outcome of the game to Notre Dame’s favor.
Against Akron Gardner didn’t have his best game throwing the ball going 16-for-30 with 248 yards and three interceptions sure, but he did have two touchdown passes in the game. And Gardner was the leading rusher for the Wolverines with his 10 carries, 103 yards and one score. That performance was more like we have witnessed the prior three years when the offense was led by #16…effective yet somewhat unsettling.
Then there was UConn. The Huskies presented an opportunity for Gardner to rebound and restore some confidence, but by the time that game ended, probably, there were more questions circulating than answers. He once again turned the ball over by tossing two more interceptions and unfortunately fumbled the ball which was returned for a score. Yet, Devin scored on the ground.
So after four games played, what may not be clear to some is clear to me right now…Devin Gardner has all the assets necessary to lead our Wolverines to greatness over the next few seasons. He also shows the inexperience that any young quarterback would have being put into a similar situation. Does anyone honestly believe that making a quarterback switch right now would be the answer? I sure hope not. If any other quarterback is inserted into the starting lineup under center for any other reason than injury, it’s gonna’ get ugly around here.
Devin Gardner will rebound and play well. He has to!
Honestly, I firmly believe when this year is said and done, we will see a very accurate passer compared to what has been the case so far in 2013. We will all be watching our Wolverines play in the Big Ten championship game and we will all forget about the performances of these past two games.
And that my fellow Hokeamaniacs is a Christmas present that I will re-gift as often as I can!