Thursday, March 22, 2012

Devin Gardner...The Wide Receiver?

Right now, speculation is running wild that Al Borges and Brady Hoke are moving long-time Michigan backup quarterback Devin Gardner to wide receiver.  I admit, when I first heard the news I was a bit surprised.  However, upon further analysis, this may actually be a great fit for Gardner and Michigan.  With current projections, depth, and recruits, there are going to be a few spots where Michigan's roster is relatively weak.  The coaching staff seems aware of this problem and Gardner may be the solution.  Much of this shortage is likely due to Darryl Stonum's departure from the team, but either way the coaching staff has to address it for this team to be relevant.

First things first, fans need to realize that this isn't a permanent move.  Nobody on the coaching staff has even hinted that Gardner will not be playing quarterback in the future.  Having said that, it doesn't mean that their minds won't change and that Gardner won't "settle" as a wide receiver on the team.  For all we know, Gardner may turn out to be one of the elite wide receivers on the team or in the conference. I'm not saying he's going to be that guy, or at least not yet, but there is a chance that this move could eventually become permanent.  My gut feeling is that he will "split" time at quarterback and wide receiver.

He's already familiar with the system and has been given several years to "mature" as a college quarterback.  There have been a lot of concerns that he hasn't progressed enough, but there's no doubt that a player should have progressed through two full seasons and three years of spring camp.  At this point, he may not quite be ready to take over for All-Big Ten quarterback Denard Robinson, but I see no reason to believe that he wouldn't at least be manageable in a game scenario.

Working off that assumption, this move not only becomes obvious, but will probably become one of the best coaching decisions Borges and Hoke made over the off-season.  Let's be frank.  Michigan is returning some wide receivers that have had success in the past, but they certainly aren't as proven as guys like Hemingway or Stonum.  Along with that, there aren't very many of them.  The only wide receivers Michigan will be returning next season that fans probably feel comfortable with are Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon.  Both receivers have proven themselves, but they are the only ones on the team with at least 10 receptions last season.

So, where does that leave us?  We have a great athlete that should be pretty experienced at quarterback and a severe lack of depth at wide receiver.  There's a simple solution to this problem and Borges hit it right on the head.  Take Devin Gardner and put him on the field as a wide receiver.  Sure, sitting behind Denard might make him slightly better as a quarterback, but there's no guarantee on that.  Why risk the potential for massive gains for the chance at slightly better play a few years from now?  Gardner would certainly never see the field as a quarterback this season (barring injury), so it makes no sense not to use him in this way.

Now, there is one down-side to this move that should be noted.  If Gardner becomes injured, he will obviously not be able to rotate in as quarterback for Denard.  He didn't have to do it a ton last year, but he did have to do it at times.  This would mean that redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy would have to come in to take Denard's place if he goes out with an injury.  This is obviously a concern.  Bellomy has been credited with developing pretty well, but he's never seen the field during real game-time and is an unknown.

Yes, there is a potential for a down-side, but I think the chance that both Gardner and Denard suffer injuries at the same time is pretty unlikely.  Along with this, Gardner is going to be giving Michigan a great advantage offensively that could take this team to the next level.  He's familiar with the system and losing practice time at quarterback is probably not going to hurt him very much.  Plus, like I said, Gardner may even end up being so good at wide receiver that he decides to stay at that position.  And with Shane Morris arriving next fall, the thought of Gardner moving to wide receiver isn't that frightening.

Obviously, this is a win-win situation for fans because it gives this year's team more potential and may work out best for Michigan in the long-run as well.  Only time will tell how this move works out, but I have high hopes for Gardner and Michigan at wide receiver next season.


  1. I think you may have changed my mind about moving him to WR.

  2. A great read I think he would be a great receiver at his size and speed. And if it pans out great for him he could be a first round draft pick at WR like they predict Robinson to be. I have heard great things about Bellomy and is a very good passer. So don't count him out. I wouldn't mind see packages with all 3 of them to tell you the truth to open up the D

  3. Just look at former QB Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M, he was recruited as a QB but moved to WR when he didn't win the starting job or back up job as a sophomore. Tannehill had a lot of success as a WR and A&M still didn't give up on Ryan as a QB. When his junior year came around Tannehill did not win the starting QB again, but wanted to play so he seen a lot of action at WR once again. When Ryan finally did get his shot to be the QB he did a heck of a job for the A&M.

    Point being when you have a gifted athlete you have to find ways to get him on the field if they can perform at another position. Devin has huge hands, good speed, good leaping ability, knows the offense why waste his freakish athletic ability sitting on the bench. Borges gets this and will find ways to play Gardner this season.

    This does not mean Devin still will not be the #2 QB or will not get a chance at being the #1 QB next year. It just means Borges is serious about having his best eleven players on the field when he can. I like this experiment, a lot.