Spring practices are underway in Ann Arbor, and the Michigan Wolverines are gearing up for their first season under head coach Brady Hoke without perennial Heisman Trophy candidate Denard Robinson running his offense. Redshirt junior Devin Gardner stepped in under center late last season after Robinson suffered an injury and performed better than anyone could have expected.
Heading into 2013, he’s not only the favorite to run the Wolverines’ offense this fall; he might be preparing to make his own run at the Heisman Trophy.
When you think of all the talented offensive skill players who will be chasing college football’s most prestigious award, including Johnny Manziel (last year’s winner), the idea sounds next to impossible. But a deeper look tells us maybe it isn’t so far-fetched—at all.
Kyle Meinke of Mlive.com extrapolated Gardner’s 2012 numbers over a full season, which looked like this: 171-of-270 passing for 3,015 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Meinke noted that those numbers would have made him the nation’s most efficient passer in 2012.
Factor in that Gardner spent the first half of the year playing wide receiver and the games he did start under center were against stiff competition, including the Ohio State Buckeyes and South Carolina Gamecocks, and it’s even more impressive.
Gardner has all Spring and Summer to familiarize himself with Al Borges‘ offensive plans and continue to grow as a team leader. His mobility and strong, accurate throws give him the ability to shred a defense on any given day as well. Plus, All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan is back for his senior year, so Gardner will be comfortable knowing his blindside is in good hands.
Add it all up, and dreaming of Gardner becoming a Heisman finalist at season’s end suddenly doesn’t seem too silly at all. Which is crazy considering we’re talking about a player that technically hasn’t even been given the starting job yet, though Hoke would have to be crazy to decide otherwise.
But hey, that’s college football. Crazy happens.