Spring football is in full swing across the country and because there aren’t any actual games being played this time of year, football storylines can come from a wide array of angles. That’s especially true because more times than not, practices are closed to both the public and the media except for the spring game, but even then, it’s hard to gauge exactly where a team stands based on one generic scrimmage.
One topic that is always at the top of people’s mind, however, is the starting quarterback position. That is unless your starting quarterback happens to be Denard Robinson, in which case it the conversation turns to who is going to be backing him up.
In Michigan’s case, that conversation takes on an added dimension when the expected backup is reportedly taking snaps with the first and second team offense as a wide receiver.
For the Wolverines, that guy is junior Devan Gardner. The 6’4″ quarterback from Detroit came to Ann Arbor as a four-star recruit as a part of the 2010 recruiting class, the last recruiting class for former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez.
During his freshman season in 2010, he played in just four games and only accumulated stats in two of those. His only pass attempts that season came against Bowling Green when he completed 7 of 10 passes for 85 yards while backing up both Robinson and Tate Forcier.
Last season, his first under new coach Brady Hoke, he saw the field a bit more playing in nine games, but still only attempted 23 passes, completing 11 of those while also rushing 25 times for 101 yards.
With Robinson finally entering his senior season this fall, Gardner appears destined to be the backup once again, with a possible shot to win the starting job having to wait until his senior season in 2013. That is if he doesn’t end up at wide receiver first.
Rumors have been coming out Michigan’s spring camp that Gardner has not only been working at receiver, but has looked good while doing it. This from AnnArbor.com:
Someone who has observed several spring practices told AnnArbor.com that Gardner has practiced regularly at receiver, running with both the first and second units. The person went as far to say Gardner has been “definitely one of their best options at receiver.”
It’s far too soon to say any move to receiver is permanent, however. With as much as Robinson likes to run the football, the backup is only one big hit away from being thrown into the mix.
“He’s going to be (the) No. 2 quarterback, and then see how things go,” offensive coordinator Borges said, when asked about Gardner’s role. “Our approach with Devin hasn’t changed too much. We got to find a way to get him on the field, because he’s got skills that go over and above your average quarterback.”
Playing a backup quarterback at receiver may be risky, but it’s not completely unheard of, either. Texas A&M quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, spent his first two-and-a-half seasons in College Station as the backup quarterback to Jerrod Johnson, but was also one of the team’s best wide receivers during that time.
When Johnson started to falter at the position because of a bum shoulder, Tannehill took over as the starting QB midway through his junior season. He then was the starter during his entire senior season in 2011 and is now expected to be a top ten pick at the position in the upcoming NFL draft.
Sometimes getting your best 11 players on the field at the same time is worth the risk.
What the means for Michigan isn’t clear at the moment, but it wouldn’t be shocking if Robinson had a new target to throw to this fall, and a good one at that.