While many fans are worried about the Michigan Wolverines‘ potential woes on the offensive line and at running back, another facet of the offense could also use some attention this season. Quarterback Devin Gardner has had Heisman-caliber games, but he has also left us scratching on our heads more than once. As Michigan preps to contend in an incredibly tough Big 10 East Division, Gardner has no choice but to become a more consistent player in 2014.
Gardner has been all over the field in his time at Michigan. Originally recruited and brought on as a quarterback, Gardner appeared in 12 games as a backup in relief duty between the 2010 and 2011 seasons. The 2012 campaign was an interesting year for the widely-talented player as he started the season at wide receiver — because the coaching staff wanted him on the field, but certainly didn’t want to bench Denard Robinson in order to make it happen. After a nerve injury benched Robinson, though, Gardner moved back to quarterback and started the final five games of the season for Michigan.
The 2013 season began something of a new era at quarterback for the Wolverines. Robinson was officially gone, clearing the way for Gardner to become a full-time quarterback in Al Borges‘ offense. But incredibly inconsistent play, especially in the first half of the season, left us only glimpses of what Gardner is truly capable of as a quarterback.
Gardner does have something to build on this season. In the final four games of the regular season, Gardner tossed eight touchdowns and didn’t throw a single interception. Michigan only went 1-4 in that stretch, but we finally saw Gardner begin to peak, and it was pretty spectacular.
Especially against Ohio State, Gardner displayed a whole new level of confidence and perseverance that we hadn’t seen before. It was easily the best game of the season for Gardner, who completed 71 percent of his passes and accounted for five scores against the Buckeyes. And a good chunk of that was done on a broken foot.
As Michigan works to move its offense forward under new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, it is absolutely vital that the Wolverines start seeing more consistent play from such a talented quarterback.