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March 20, 2013

Devin Gardner taking the next step

U-M quarterback Devin Gardner from The Wolverine on Vimeo.


The Michigan football coaches will always take the diplomatic approach when taking about spring football.

Every position is up for grabs; every player has a chance to crack into the starting lineup.

But, barring injuries, some players can already be written atop the two-deep depth chart in permanent marker. A guy like fifth-year senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, for example.

And, of course, redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner.

In five starts at the end of last season, Gardner proved himself as not only a viable option at quarterback, but also a player more in line with Michigan coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges' vision for the future of the offense.

With Gardner at the helm, the Wolverine offense began to look like the pro-style unit that Hoke and Borges promised in the winter of 2011. In just five games, Gardner helped opened up the pass game, finishing the year with 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns.

That transformation will continue this spring.

"Under-center, play-action passes. A lot of things you saw at the end of last year," Gardner said, explaining the structure of the new offense. "Waggle passes - that's my favorite pass. You're pretty protected there. You have two guys on the outside.

"We have a few additions - it's only the third day. But he has talked to me about a few additions, pro-style things."

Gardner is pouring over film - everything from practice footage to game film to old cutups of Jason Campbell running the Borges system at Auburn to Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers games - getting ready to take full control of the offense.

"That started before the spring," Gardner said. "Watching my game and our own defense, because this is probably the best defense we're going to see. Most NFL-similar defense. From here, I feel like it will be easy to decipher other defenses.

"I watch every practice twice, for sure. Sometimes, I watch a little more, when we get a chance to watch it with Coach Borges. By myself, I watch the practice twice. It depends, because some practices are longer than others and sometimes you play better than other times.

"I watch it twice just to make sure you don't miss anything. If you watch a movie, you might not see everything - you might be laughing and miss a line or something. I try to watch it as many times as possible before I get with Coach Borges."

Everything he gleans from his video-watching, Gardner shares with Borges.

The two have developed a very close bond.

Gardner will text him every time he sees an interesting play or formation during a game.

"I text him when I see a nice play in a game, like, 'That's a waggle pass. We need to put that in,'" Gardner said.

"He usually texts me when he needs help choosing teams on Madden or how to use his phone. He has a son, so he wants to know how to do video game things and stuff like that."

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