Devin Gardner, Conelius Jones give Michigan depth, competition at quarterback
Devin Gardner may very well lead Michigan “back to the promised land,” as CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming suggested he might two months ago.
Just don’t assume it’s going to happen this year.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
Gardner, one of seven Michigan recruits to enroll early, will take part in spring practice when drills begin next month. He'll have his work cut out to pass Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson on the depth chart.
“I think it helps that he got in early,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I don’t know if 15 spring practices can give you the whole thing. It helped Tate last year, the difference is Devin’s going to have pieces around him that know, at least the veterans, that know what we’re trying to do offensively and all that.”
Forcier started 12 games last year as a true freshman and led Michigan to a 4-0 start before injuries to him and his supporting cast helped derail the Wolverines’ season.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Gardner is bigger and more physical than Forcier. Athletically he’s a match for Rodriguez’s spread offense.
“He’s a big, strong guy, a guy we think can have a lot of success in our type of system,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a guy that’s extremely competitive and obviously has a lot of skills.”
Forcier has plenty of talent, too. He's the most accurate passer on the team, Michigan's third-leading returning rusher, and he’s already added 10 pounds to his 195-pound frame this offseason to better withstand the rigors of the Big Ten.
“I think Tate can keep getting better, too,” Rodriguez said.
There’s also Robinson, who backed up Forcier last year as a true freshman and provided Michigan some of its most exciting moments.
Rodriguez said there are no plans to move Robinson from quarterback, but conceded “he’s too good of an athlete just to stand if he’s not playing all the time at quarterback.”
“I think the 15 practices in the spring will help immensely because it’s slowed down,” Rodriguez said.
Enough that he could help in the return game or on defense?
“Well, not on defense, but certainly - I haven’t talked to him about it, we haven’t talked really much about anything until we get in spring practice, but whether he does some returns and all that, he’ll probably be open to it,” Rodriguez said. “Denard’s a very competitive guy. You all know him, he just wants to play. But again, he’s a quarterback and we’re going to keep him at quarterback.”
Conelius "Trail" Jones, the other quarterback in Michigan's 2010 class, likely will redshirt next fall, but Rodriguez said he's the type of athlete who can help at a number of positions.
"As we know what happened a couple of years ago, you can't have too many quarterbacks," Rodriguez said. "He'll compete there first. If it looks like he can help us at another position, he's willing to do that. We may move him, whether it's receiver or somewhere else."
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.