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Posted on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football over-under: How much time will Devin Gardner see at wide receiver?

By Nick Baumgardner


How much time will Michigan's Devin Gardner spend at wide receiver in 2012?

Melanie Maxwell |

It was the worst kept secret in Ann Arbor this spring.

After tinkering with different formation packages at quarterback last season, Michigan football junior Devin Gardner spent a portion of spring drills working out at wide receiver.

Brady Hoke and the coaching staff refused to comment on the matter, saying Gardner was Michigan's backup quarterback first and foremost.

But the receiver rumors never went away. Sources confirmed the situation, and the national media ran with the story as well.

Gardner didn't line up at wide receiver during the spring game, but that doesn't mean the seed hasn't been planted.

He's worked on pass catching and route running, but will it actually be put to use?

Will the 6-foot-4 Gardner begin a transition to receiver this season, or will he only be used in special circumstances.

Or, will he simply stay at quarterback?

We discuss.

Michigan Football Over-Under

This is part of a 14-day series featuring 2012 Michigan football-related debate from sports writers Kyle Meinke and Nick Baumgardner.

Wednesday: Can the Michigan offense maintain its production?

Thursday: Can the Michigan defense be as stout in 2012?

Friday: How many wins will Michigan collect away from home?

Saturday: Can Denard Robinson reduce his interceptions into single digits?

Sunday: Can Michigan's revamped defensive line keep up its sack production?

Today: How many catches will quarterback Devin Gardner record?

Tuesday: How many true freshmen will play in 2012?

Over-under: Devin Gardner will catch 15 passes next season.

Kyle Meinke: This is an interesting debate, notably because we're not talking about whether Gardner will play receiver, but how much. And that's where the discussion should be, after Gardner's spring audition at receiver, which included reps with the first-unit wideouts.

But 15 catches? For him to get to that threshold, he likely would have to be a regular component of the Wolverines' passing game. For example, starter Roy Roundtree was Michigan's third-leading receiver last year at 19 catches.

Gardner, I think, will be used in the passing game, but more so as a varied look for defenses. Something extra for them to think about. And it will keep Gardner involved in the game, while employing his athleticism instead of letting it waste on the bench.

But is he really going to be used in the passing game as much as Roundtree was last year? It could happen -- it really could, considering his powerful 6-foot-4, 205-pound build -- but it is more likely he remains a secondary option of the passing game while maintaining his role as Denard Robinson's backup.

Robinson has made every start of the past two seasons, but has frequently left games with injury because of his pronounced role in the running game. Unless third-stringer Russell Bellomy develops into a viable backup option, Gardner will have to remain ready to take the reins at quarterback, as he so often did last year.

Prediction: Here's guessing Gardner plays some receiver against Alabama, and in a majority of the games after that. He'll catch passes, I'm convinced. But Michigan's run-heavy offense, and Robinson's injury history, suggest Gardner's foray at receiver will be just a small part of his overall game. Take the under.


Nick Baumgardner: This was the most interesting rumor/fact of spring camp, and really, the entire offseason.

On paper, this all makes sense. Gardner is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and can move. He's arguably the best athlete on the team not named Denard Robinson, and he spends 95 percent of most games holding a clipboard.

In other words: his talents are generally wasted.

Michigan's top two wide receivers (Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon) are 6-foot and 5-foot-8. Jerald Robinson is 6-foot-1, but he has as many career catches (zero) as Gardner. Drew Dileo has amazing hands, but he's physically limited as well. Amara Darboh has size, but he's a true freshman. You see where this is going.

Switching from quarterback to wide receiver isn't as easy as it sounds, it takes time -- a lot of time. Some of the more successful transitioned players need at least one year of game time to fully adapt. However, Michigan loses nothing for at least trying this.

Gardner could be a serious threat in the red zone, and everywhere else on the field, for that matter. His size and speed would be a nightmare matchup for smallish corners, and he could be a difference maker at a rather thin position.

And, let's not forget that Gardner has his own issues at quarterback as well. He shares most of Robinson's passing flaws, and Bellomy seems to be a player who could adequately hold down a No. 2 spot in Al Borges' offense.

Prediction: It makes sense for Michigan to let Gardner give this a shot until it works, or doesn't work. If he can't make the switch smoothly, it's nothing ventured, nothing lost and they go back to the drawing board with alternate formations.

If it does work, though, it gives him an opportunity to get on the field early and often while making a serious difference. If he's playing wide receiver, he won't be a decoy. There's no sense in hiding this, because the secret's out.

I think Michigan gets serious about this transition early in the season. And I think it'll work. In 2012, I'll take the over.



Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 8:44 a.m.

Give us Barrabus! It seems very likely Al Borges will manage to make all the wrong decisions this year, since his destiny as coordinator for the 2012 season is to have mediocre results based on what the so called experts are predicting. Put Devin at wide receiver and see how he responds. If he can't hang on to the ball - make him a 3rd string back-up QB. Devin has been a disappointment thus far mainly because he doesn't receive enough playing time.


Tue, Jul 17, 2012 : 1:13 a.m.

He could call Keith Nicol from MSU and ask how it's done.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

They still need to have Gardner as a backup QB first and foremost. 15 catches or more as a WR would almost qualify him as a full time WR. I just don't see it happening as I'm sure they will do this sparingly with some trick plays. It's definitely a nice addition to add to the mix to keep defenses in check, but I'm sure it will done once in a while in close games to win a ball game. Take for example, Alabama.

Robert Granville

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

It seems people are failing to realize that as a QB Devin knows all the routes. There isn't a whole lot of learning that will have to take place for him to jump in at WR. QB to offensive skill position transitions are probably the easiest of any position switch. QB is the most cerebral position.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

This is actually backwards from what they should be doing, in that Denard ought to break down field and fly on some of these 2 QB formations and let 7 throw to him. This would also help Denard prep for his possible NFL niche.

Robert Granville

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

I think we will see more of the '2' formation next year but I think Russell will be the QB. I've heard some rumors and they're not far fetched... Gardner spread out, Denard in the backfield, Bellomy at the helm.... How do you defend against a receiving corps of Devin, Roundtree and Gallon with Denard a constant threat to take a HB draw to the house? The answer: you don't and they score.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 6:06 p.m.

really dumb idea.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

Unfortunately I think that Gardner has a chance to be our best receiver. Sure, there are skills you need to DEVELOP to be a wide receiver and he would have to have been practicing all summer, but I'm really not confident at all in Roy Roundtree. I really hope I'm wrong, but I'm nervous. Roundtree has a lot of drops and he's pretty small. Anyway, football can't get here soon enough - I'm tired of speculating!


Tue, Jul 17, 2012 : 5:49 a.m.

ROB: Interesting points - I'd actually like to see it, but won't believe it until it happens. As a fan, I hope you're right. It'd be more than interesting to see.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

Commoncents, You know what Gardner can do better than play qb ? dominate at wr. So yes, he will start there. Bellamy will be #2.

Robert Granville

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

Commoncents: There is a distinct possibility that Devin starts or sees most of the game at WR against Alabama. There is something to be said about starting your best 11. There is no question that Devin is a bigger threat at WR than Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson. Every last one of Alabama's corners runs a sub 4.5 40 yd dash. Arguably, none of Michigan's current receivers are that fast. Also each one is as tall or taller than Roy Roundtree. If Borges wants to trust in Denard's decision making to beat Bama in the passing game despite each receiver being outmatched, he'll let Gardner hold a clipboard for the Bama game.

Robert Granville

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

You've got good reason to be nervous. We need length. Roundtree is fast, not SEC fast, but he lacks height to create mismatches. As it stands, any team with long, quick corners will have the upper hand against our slot bugs. Denard will have to create the mismatches to get them open by threatening to run. That isn't a good situation to be in.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

Wait, you think Gardner is going to START at wide receiver ? Are you insane ? Also, until I heard from a legitimate source, Gardner CAN throw the ball accurately and he's our #2 quarterback in a spread offense. That means the probability of NEEDING our #2 QB is extremely high. Do you know something I don't know ?


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

I don't thin k its unfortunate. He would be the best receiver on any team in the country. Until he can prove that he can throw the ball consistently accurate he will start at wr.

Robert Granville

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Don't be surprised to see Bellomy at QB with Devin and Denard elsewhere on the field. Al Borges magic...


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

And that brings up next year. If Russel Bellomy is progressing as quickly as rumors- he might beat out Gardner for the starting job. Then where does that leave Devin? Of course Morris could beat out both Gardner and Bellomy- but I'm hoping that doesn't happen. Nothing could be better for Morris and the program than to have him chill out for a year.


Tue, Jul 17, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

Barring injury to both Devin and Bellomy, Morris will red shirt in 2013. Borges has been very clear that the learning curve for "any" QB, regardless of their talent, is a full year. We can debate Bellomy beating out Devin next year, but if either of them are healthy Morris will get a red shirt.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

This is a great discussion. Bellomy vs. Morris. Freshman vs. 3 year man. Read option shotgun QB vs. taking the snap under center. Quarterback who can run (Bellomy) vs. pocket passer (Morris). Personally I don't like freshman starting, prefer the shotgun and a guy who is mobile; doesn't have to be a spread offense- hell Roger Staubach took all his snaps from the shotgun. Oh I hear Bellomy is very accurate. Great defense. Powerful running backs. tall smart QB who is accurate and can run. Tall receivers coming up. My kinda football

Robert Granville

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

Agreed. Of course Morris needs the redshirt. You never want a freshman coming in to fall camp to be your starter on Sept. 1st. A little more than one month is simply not enough to learn the position and scheme. Although Morris has a much stronger arm than Bellomy, Bellomy will have spent more time learning Borges' system and will probably be more comfortable than Morris sticking in the pocket and making reads. Then again I think Gardner will get his medical redshirt so this could be moot. One thing is certain....1201SouthMain knows nothing about college football.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Nice theory Ted but wishful hoping on your part. Likely based on your infatuation with the former coach ad his spread option offense.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

Morris will never beat out Bellamy as long as Bellamy is at Michigan. As long as Michigan runs a read option Bellamy will start. When a qb is the shotgun he is then placed in a formation in which he can run. Placing the qb under center takes away that threat. Borges will come to realize that running the read option is the most logical choice as an offense.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

I want the best QB on the field. If that's Morris then he should be on the field. How does it help the program for your Freshmen QB to not be as good as the upperclassmen on the roster? We won't need Morris in 2017! There is a kid between 7th and 10th grade out there somewhere that will be ready to start at Michigan by then. Henne had one of if not his best season as a true frosh. If Morris is that good when he gets here then I say start him. Prospective recruits love to see true freshmen on the field. Just my 2 cents.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Under! I wish my sports book would add that line to their futures list! Here's why ...... He IS the backup QB which means he spends the majority of his practice time at QB. When and if Gorgeous Borges uses him at WR is will be the unusual formation to confuse the defense. He's not going to line up at WR for 20 plays a game. Devon is a great athlete but he's a QB. Because he is a great athlete doesn't mean he can just run out on the field and play WR. Running routes, getting separation, and catching a ball with another great athlete in your back pocket is not something you just do occassionally. If he were to give up QB duties and concentrate on WR then I'm sure he would be successful. But that's not the situation now. Denard will always be Denard and run the ball more than he should. Which means he will get injured and we will need Devon at QB. Hoke and Borges know this and will not have their backup QB taking 20 snaps at WR a game. We have capable WR's. Unless there are injuries we don't need Devon at WR. Nick, I have to disagree on the red zone threat. That's the most difficult area of the field for a WR to be effective due to the limited space available. An inexperience WR will be more effective in the open field where the LB's and Safeties are more spread. He's 6-4 which is great size for a WR but it's not like he's Calvin Johnson. Devon is 205 lbs. You can move 205 lbs off his route in the Red Zone If you're Saban are you more concerned about a 5th year WR like Roundtree in the Red Zone or a Junior back up QB "playing" WR in the Red Zone? I'll take the under.


Tue, Jul 17, 2012 : 6:14 p.m.

Devin will see some special packages in a receiver roll probably more in the dual QB setup than lined up as a WR. He will not see significant snaps as a WR. He will see significant snaps at QB once Michigan has taken control of the game. Last year, Denard needed every possible snap to learn and become comfortable in the offense, and Borges had to choose between giving Devin snaps at Denard's expense and bring Devin along more quickly. This year Denard doesn't need every snap, and Borges needs to get his backup QB ready as quickly as possible in case Denard gets taken out of the game.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

Robert Granville: Michigan's receiving corps consists of guys under 6' who would typically have no place in Al Borges' offense and some taller guys who couldn't beat a speedy corner deep if their hair was on fire. ============================ Well, that depends on how quickly the true freshmen learn the offense. The two incoming WRs are 6' 2" and 6' 3", and one of them spent this past spring winning state championships in sprint events for his school's track team.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

Robert, you say there is no question that you are right but then you hedge your bet by using two of the reasons I listed that he will not catch 15 passes .... Denard's health and fact that Bellomy is the #3 and which means Devin is the backup! The line was 15 over/under. Not over/under with qualifying factors. We haven't even mentioned the idea that maybe Devin does not want to give up QB and play WR. Yes, it would get him on the field more this year but what about next. Devin was a 5 star recruit and I doubt he believes that Morris or Bellomy can beat him out. I'd say odds are slightly better than 50/50 that he gets the medical redshirt. That means he would have two years to be the starting QB at Michigan. Why would he give that up. Not to mention as easy as you say it is to switch to WR he can just switch next year if he does get beat out at QB :-)

Robert Granville

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

There is no question that I am right. The question is whether or not Michigan can afford Devin at WR. The benefits are obvious. It all depends on Denard's health and Bellomy's continued development. I don't expect to see Devin at WR much outside of the biggest games. Our current receivers can easily hold their own against AF, Mass, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa. It's the games against Alabama, Notre Dame, Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State that are a bit disconcerting. I know I left Nebraska out.... Borges ran them to death and I expect he'll do it again.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

RG, if you're right then we'll see Devin starting at WR ..... it's a no brainer if what you say is true. You make the jump ball to the corner of the end zone sound like the easiest play in football. I'm surprised we don't see it every game every time a team is in the Red Zone?!?!

Robert Granville

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

What are you talking about? First of all, his name is Devin. Second, Michigan's receiving corps consists of guys under 6' who would typically have no place in Al Borges' offense and some taller guys who couldn't beat a speedy corner deep if their hair was on fire. The cupboard is empty. We have one receiver that is a sure fire fit for this offense in Roy Roundtree, but even he has to play out of position this year. Roundtree is at his best in the slot WR position as evidenced by his 72 catch, 935 yard, 7 touchdown season in 2010. Finally, you are completely off-base about red-zone threat WRs. The ideal red zone threat is 6'2 or taller with elite jumping ability, body control and timing. You don't need years of experience to run a fade to the back corner and time your jump to beat the 5'11"-6'1" cornerback next to you. The red zone is absolutely not the most difficult area of the field to be effective as a receiver. The job is simple. You're not trying to create separation with speed or solid route running. Just get to the predetermined spot and prepare to out-jump the defender. Nobody on our team is physically suited to do that better than Devin Gardner. I haven't seen a post as off-base as the one above in quite some time.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

The 6' 4" athletic guy becomes a significant threat in close, like when the line of scrimmage is inside the 5. At that point they don't have to run any real route; just take the two or three steps across the goal line and go for a jump ball against a CB that is often 6 or 8 inches shorter. If the LBs and safeties are wide enough to take that away, then it's pretty easy to run to that side.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

I vote over (out of pure wishful thinking). Devin Gardner: Coach Hoke I want to start and I'm better than the receivers you got. Coach Hoke: uh. err. OK Fans: Yahoo NFL teams: We'll take him in the first round. Calvin Johnson: Come her kid, I'll show you how to make $100,000,000


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

whats the story with his redshirt situation?


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

He wouldn't want a red shirt if he focused on WR. He'd be going in the first round and counting his money.

Nick Baumgardner

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

Unclemercy, Technically, Gardner meets all the criteria for a medical hardship waiver for the 2010 season. He played in less than 30 percent of the team's season, and (as Michigan put it at the time), his time was lost due to a back injury. And, none of his appearances were in the second half of the season. SouthMain's right. The status of that extra year won't be determined until his four-year career is up. I can't (and won't) speculate on how, exactly, the NCAA will handle this -- because, as you know, there's little to no consistency with this type of thing ever. So in other words: stay tuned. Nick


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

Won't know until his 4 years of eligibility are gone.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Why not make him DT, Michigan needs more D lineman. I don't know that much about football but I do have a BS degree in Womans Studies, work as an Assitant Shift Supervisor at Starbucks making close to $30,00 a year with my second job, and I only owe about $75,000 left on my student loans. I think I deserved a scholarship like these athletes got because I had good grades in high school and went to college to get a degree to make a difference and now I make coffee.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

Except the student-athletes athletic ability bring the school money while all yours would do would embarrass them


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

You lost me at "make him a DT".


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

What, exactly, is your post getting at?


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 12:21 p.m.

That's the challenge at a place where talented players come--the backups are often *(on paper) as talented as the starters. How do you fit them in? Clearly, Gardner has not beaten DR out for the starters role or for heavy minutes as QB. If he is willing to play WR or the "slash" position, he is smart because it gets him on the field, and Michigan will benefit by getting the playmakers on the field. He may just have a role as WR but I think we will see multiple lineups on the field and DG will get some time at QB also.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

I hope they stop that Gardner at QB stuff that they randomly implement in the middle of the game and/or drive. If Gardner wants to be on the field you tell him that there's a place at WR or that he can play backup QB. There's obviously a balance that you want to meet where talented players are, to some extent, "kept happy" but you don't want to sacrifice your gameplay because of it. Last year those plays that Gardner got in on were almost always bad plays or really predictable. They rarely worked and IMO mostly stopped the rhythm of the drive. Gardner on the field only makes sense if he's helping, not hurting, the offensive flow. I'd like to see Gardner as a WR and if he wants then next year he can compete for a QB spot once Robinson is gone. But any time you take Robinson out of the QB position I think you're hurting our overall offensive production.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 11:39 a.m.

I like the idea of getting Gardner more into the offense. His physical talent is being wasted sitting on the bench. WR would be an excellent fit with his height, speed, intelligence, and hands. Still, Michigan needs him as QB backup, and he'll probably still be the starter next year.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

Not to mention his ability to run after the catch.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

I gaurantee Michigan will use him at wr starting at Alabama. As they said before he instantly becomes the best wr at Michigan. Wr position is the weakest position on the offense, but when he is out there it will arguably be the best. How is anyone going to cover a very athletic 6' 4" superior athletic guy with great hands and jumping ability. He will be the most dominant player Michigan has.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

Most of what you said is spot on, however, there have been rumors that Gardner isn't far ahead of Bellomy as far as development at QB. I wouldn't be shocked if Gardner lost to Morris or Bellomy next year and stayed at WR/QB backup. Given our depth at WR I think Gardner does us a lot more good at WR than QB and if Robinson ever does go down Gardner can always be thrust back into that roll.