ANN ARBOR—Five starts at quarterback, combined with a handful of snaps in 2011, that’s all of the in game film Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has on junior Devin Gardner at the quarterback position heading into the 2013 season.
Enjoying extra practices leading up to the Outback Bowl last December, as well as the 15 practices allowed in the spring, Gardner’s comfort level continues to grow within the Wolverines system.
“(He’s) pretty comfortable,” Borges said Friday. “Like I said last time, he’s pretty confident by nature but I think now he’s been in the system now for a while and understands what we want.
“I think for the quarterback, if he thinks like the coaches, which I think he’s doing more and more of, it really gives him a chance.”
The move to wide receiver for half of 2012 could’ve been a hindrance to a young quarterback’s development, but not for Gardner. Allowed the opportunity to learn the inter workings of the offense from a different position gives Gardner an added advantage on the field, showing improved awareness in several different areas in fall camp.
“Understanding route structure, decision making, all of that comes when you play more, obviously,” Borges said. “But yeah, there’s a big difference in terms of just knowing where to go with the ball, the timing of the cuts, how we work.
“We work a lot on improvisation stuff because he’s athletic, but we would do this with any quarterback, but we work a lot on when you break contain or push the pocket, something doesn’t happen by structure, and he’s got to make something happen. So we work him more and more on that kind of stuff, what do we do, where are we looking, working with the receivers on where they’re supposed to be -- all that stuff.”
Though boasting an impressive 1219 passing yards and 11 touchdowns through the air, not to mention seven rushing scores from the quarterback spot in five starts to end last season, Gardner did account for five interceptions. At times throwing a pick in crucial situations, Borges has kept a close eye on Gardner’s decision making within the offense and when plays ultimately, and inevitably, break down.
“You can assess that in camp and I think it’s gotten better, significantly better,” Borges said. “The thing that, I said this with Denard, although they’re really two different kind of quarterbacks, but when you’re athletic and you can create, the decision becomes a little dicey at times.
“When do I make a play and when do I cut my losses? And that’s really the only time Devin runs into problems. When the structure is clean he’s usually pretty good but when you’re trying to make a play and there’s not a play there, that’s sometimes, for an aggressive kid, that’s tough. But we’re learning that as we go.”
To watch video of Borges from Friday, press play below.