Devin Gardner hopes his future is at quarterback, but eager to help Michigan at receiver
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
The Michigan football team lost starting receivers Junior Hemingway and Darryl Stonum this offseason, and now Roy Roundtree, the unquestioned leader of this year's corps, is out two weeks after having knee surgery.
It has some hoping junior quarterback Devin Gardner can make the move to receiver full time, following his well-publicized audition at wideout in the spring.
He's big, he's athletic and there's a need.
Only thing: Gardner still wants to play quarterback, and still aspires to be Denard Robinson's successor.
"If you don’t think that way, there’s no way you can be the starting quarterback for any team, not just Michigan," Gardner said Sunday at the team's media day. "You have to think that way, even if in the back of your mind, 'Well, maybe I won't have a shot.' You have to be ready."
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com
He sees himself as a full-time quarterback. Does he see himself as a full-time receiver?
"I’m a quarterback, so it’s probably not going to happen," he said.
Gardner also is competitive, though, and yearns to see the field no matter which position provides that opportunity. And right now, with the electric Robinson back for a third year as starter, that position isn't quarterback.
So after the conclusion of last season, Gardner sat down with coaches and surveyed the depth chart. They realized what they were losing -- a No. 1 receiver in Hemingway, and a sure-fire starter in Stonum -- and sniffed opportunity there.
He began practicing part time at receiver in spring camp, and now is splitting his snaps 50-50 between the two positions. He gets his regular diet of reps at quarterback, then runs routes when it's Robinson or third-stringer Russell Bellomy's turn.
"It was a mutual agreement," Gardner said. "There wasn’t a lot of depth (at receiver), so guys would be dog-tired in practice if we didn’t get a chance to get them a break. So I'm basically giving guys breaks."
Gardner, as well as coaches, say his primary role remains backing up Robinson at quarterback. But his size -- 6-foot-4, 203 pounds -- could make him valuable for a team that lacks length at receiver.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
"It'd be bad coaching, probably, if he was standing next to me the whole game," coordinator Al Borges said.
Roundtree, who has a team-high 123 career catches for 1,724 yards, stands just 6-foot. Junior Jeremy Gallon, the Wolverines' leading returning receiver from last year with 31 catches, is 5-8.
Gardner might not match those guys in experience, but he towers over them in stature. He could be a big target for Robinson, providing greater margin of error for a quarterback who has struggled with his accuracy.
He also could provide some much-needed depth, with Stonum and Hemingway gone and Roundtree out two weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery. That means Michigan is practicing without three of its best receivers from last year.
It won't get Roundtree back until at least the week of the opener against Alabama, and although coaches expect him to play in that game, there's no assurance he'll be at full health or conditioning.
"I'm just doing whatever it takes to help the team win," Gardner said. "If that's where the coaches feel I can help at here and there, I'll do it."
Even if it means giving up valuable reps at quarterback, his preferred position?
"I like playing football," he said. "Any position I play, I’ll be fine. If I want to play linebacker, I’ll be fine."