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August 27, 2013Michigan hasn't scrapped all of the spread principles that made quarterback Denard Robinson so successful, offensive coordinator Al Borges realizing he has a quarterback in Devin Gardner who can also be a weapon in that offense. He lets Gardner know every day, however, just how critical it is that he not throw his body around like - well, like Robinson used to.
Robinson never saw a potential extra yard he didn't pursue, no matter who or what was standing in his way.
"Denard had an issue - an aggression problem," Gardner joked. "He was very aggressive. I thought he was a linebacker. I'd make jokes that, 'you've got to stop running into people. That's not a good deal.' I'm more of a not run into people kind of guy.
"They coaches more so talk about ball security out loud, but when Coach Borges and I are alone, privately he says, 'I know you like to get yards, but you've got to get down.' I understand that. I'm pretty good at that. I feel like I'm a pretty smate player. If I see green I'm going to go get it, but when the time comes get out of bounds or get down, I'm not stupid."
He is willing to run when his number is called, however, which it will be at times in the running game. He's too good an athlete to not take advantage of his feet.
But several programs recruited him for his arm out of high school for his arm first, he noted - pro style programs who saw the potential he's demonstrating now. Borges, too, realizes Gardner has a chance to be one of the nation's better passers. Though he won't admit it, he also knows the depth at quarterback isn't what it needs to be just yet.
"You don't want to ever tae any unnecessary hit, even if you have a really good seasoned backup quarterback," he said. "You have to understand, it's a delicate balance from a playcaller's standpoint. You want to make sure you explore the skillset of the man under center. If you don't, you're probably not doing a great deal of coaching. That heightens the probability of him getting hit more, which in turn heightens the probability of an injury.
"But where does one stop and the other start? I told you before we're not going to run him 25 times a game. Those days are over. But to say all we'll do is throw and hand off, we're not doing that, either. You can't play scared - you can't coach or play football that way. At times he'll have to use good judgment, understand you can avoid taking the big hits by getting down or out of bounds. As a play caller, it may be time to call off quarterback runs."
Not that it's been an issue in practice, Gardner added with a laugh.
"I haven't been touched yet. I feel great about it," he said. "I've been tackled before, so I don't need to be reminded how it feels to be tackled."
That feeling will come again soon enough.