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October 3, 2013

Gardner getting back to the basics

In his popular book "Outliers: The Story Of Success," author Malcolm Gladwell introduces the "10,000-hour rule," which states that the ultimate key to success in any given field is near-constant repetition and practice.

Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner learned about Gladwell's theory in a psychology class at Michigan. He says he's not quite at 10,000 hours of work at the quarterback position - but he's getting close.

The fact is, Gardner took a long hiatus from the quarterback position, as he was working toward becoming a downfield pass-catching threat for former quarterback Denard Robinson last season. He has made just nine starts as a signal caller - and, sometimes, it's difficult to play every snap perfectly.

"In class, we were talking about the fact that you need 10,000 hours to get out of a habit or something," Gardner said. "When you get into the heat of the moment, you can revert back to the old way of doing things. It's so easy to do that. We have to stay focused and do that."

Since his dominant performance against Notre Dame in the second week of the season, Gardner has struggled in the Wolverines' last two games (a 28-24 win over Akron and a 24-21 win at Connecticut).

In those two games, Gardner to complete 27-of-53 passes (50.9 percent) for 345 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also lost a fumble in each game.

Gardner admitted that he let the pressure of one bad decision build on him - and the snowball effect took over.

"Maybe getting down on myself. That deters your focus a little bit, when you're beating yourself up over bad decisions and things like that," Gardner said.

But Gardner is still a supremely confident individual - one who knows his last two performances are not indicative of his abilities as a quarterback.

He has heard the criticism, through Twitter or articles written about his struggles. This week, Minnesota safety Cedric Thomas said Gardner "kind of just panics a lot. I think when he scrambles, he kind of just throws the ball, that's where a lot of his picks come."

"When you play as bad as I played, you kind of earn that," Gardner said, humbly. "I just can't wait to play on Saturday."

He's out to prove those critics wrong.

So - back to Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule - Gardner has spent the last two weeks (the Wolverines had a bye after Connecticut) "getting back to the basics."

He has focused on his footwork, mostly.

"Footwork and just getting it right under pressure, not using my feet the way I should. Just not getting in them in the correct position to make throws," he said.

"[Offensive coordinator Al Borges] and I have been talking a lot, especially this week. Over the bye, we got a chance to do it even more. It's a lot of different things. We have the HudlPro, so we can watch film at home. When I see an area where the opponent might be vulnerable, I text him something I see that we may be able to exploit in the weaknesses they have shown."

Another area he is working on is decision-making. There were too many times against the Zips and Huskies where Gardner, when the play broke down, tried to do too much, resulting in turnovers, big sacks and other mistakes.

"I feel like that is with anyone that considers himself a playmaker or the leader of a team - sometimes, you try to do a little too much," he said. But you have to stay grounded, focused and not allow yourself to do that.

"Sometimes you can make spectacular plays and sometimes you can hurt the team. You just have to take what the defense gives you. If they're going to give it to you, just take it. The big plays will come."

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