Michigan offense coordinator Doug Nussmeier knows quarterbacks. He was a good one himself, he's coached enough great ones to have established himself as an expert and he has set records at his last two stops.
U-M fifth-year senior Devin Gardner is his latest challenge. Gardner's gaudy numbers last year only tell part of the story. He was still prone to the big mistake and, behind a sieve of a line, he and his teammates struggled to a 7-6 season.
Leadership has been the knock on him for the last several years, but head coach Brady Hoke insists Gardner has made huge strides.
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"Offensively, Devin is our only starter as a senior," Hoke said. "Devin's done a really phenomenal job evaluating himself every day, where he can help his teammates more. Some of the things we've done [with leadership], we're really excited about. We did some things differently as a team that were very beneficial.
"But Devin and Doug have had a great relationship. It always hasn't been a fun relationship, but I think with Doug's pedigree to some degree, what he's done, who he's coached and go back to how he played … he won the Walter Payton Award. There is a lot he has done that their relationship and building that relationship is really positive."
He's brought an unquestioned intensity to it that has pushed Gardner to new heights. The veteran is reading defenses at a much better clip and has matured. He'll bring teammates with him to work out, whereas (he admitted) once he did most of it on his own.
"He just had one hiccup [this spring], and I'm not going to tell you [what]," Hoke said. "And then [Nussmeier] did a good job of being a coach. I think he is a [better leader], no question. He's learned an awful lot. His mindset, how he's gone about his business has been really, really good.
"It's great to see because he's a great kid, and you want to see good kids and guys who do a bunch in the community because he wants to. He really represents Michigan in a positive way academically because he wants to have that success. He had to feel confident about everything in his abilities, and he has worked learning this offense and the time commitment he's putting in …"
Will make him more confident, in turn making him a better player and leader, Hoke said.
"He got beat up some games, but give him credit. He always came back and tried to have a great attitude all the way through it," Hoke said. "At least from my perspective, he did."
Add redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Chris Wormley to the list of those who have had great offseasons.
"He learned a lot last year, improved a lot," Hoke said. "Coming off those injuries, ACLs, some guys get a little bit apprehensive and think they are playing as fast as can, but don't. Coming through spring and summer, what they've done, we're really excited about him.
"He's had a great summer. Wormley, you know you're getting a guy who will come to work every day. That's one reason we recruited him. He's in a position now where he's going to play a lot of football for us."
Neither redshirt sophomore Amara Darboh nor true freshman Freddy Canteen have caught a pass, but much will be expected of each. Darboh has returned healthy from a season ending foot injury.
"We kept Amara out of some contact during spring, but what he's done this summer, he's done every run, all of those," Hoke said. "He's been exactly what we hope he's going to be."
Canteen will start out in the slot.
"Freddy is a terrific slot because of his quickness and explosiveness, and he's got some size to him," Hoke said. "The quarterback can find him. Sometimes little slots, you can't find the slot, but that gives you a little more length."
Michigan picked up another huge pledge when Saginaw, Mich. wide receiver Brian Cole chose U-M over Michigan State. Cole, a four-star prospect in 2015 ranked No. 106 nationally, is the latest coup after a disappointing 7-6 season.
"It's Michigan. It's Michigan," Hoke said of his staff's ability to recruit. "Academically what we stand for - we've graduated 69 of 69 seniors, and we'd put that up against anybody. The university support from everyone … we have coaches who are genuine and do things the right way. But it's Michigan and it all comes down to that."
The Barbecue at the Big House recruiting event continues to be a huge annual benefit.
"It's fun because families are there, the kids and parents get to see our wives, our kids are interacting with each other and everybody there," Hoke said. "It's really something that we'll keep building on, and there are some other things we can do to keep doing a better job."