ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Discussed at great length all off-season is the newfound freedom Michigan senior quarterback Devin Gardner has at the line of scrimmage under first year offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
Admitting to now being responsible for more at the line than he’d ever been asked to do including pointing out the middle linebacker, Gardner had his first real opportunity to do just that and more in Saturday’s 52-14 win over Appalachian State.
“It was pretty good,” Gardner said. “Like I’ve said before, I just try to go out there every play and focus on that play and focus on what exactly my job is and what I have to do and I think that’s what all my teammates are doing.
“I feel like that’s the kind of mentality that’s helped us be successful on each play. I just try to focus on what I have to do and what my job is.”
And Gardner executed this perfectly in a short third down situation in the second half that was one of the 17 explosive plays Michigan coach Brady Hoke says his Wolverines had Saturday.
"?I think the one, biggest offensive play of the game was when Devin (Gardner) checked us out of a play,” Hoke said. “On a third-and-1, in the third quarter and then he checked us into a great play that goes for 60, and it was communicated all the way down the front, out to the Mike point and to the wide receivers and how that was going to block out.
“The tackle Ben Braden and A.J. (Williams) did a great job of communicating, and it was really one of the best plays that we had all day. When you look at that communication, his awareness; that was big."
Monday, Gardner wasn’t looking to take too much of the credit for the big run adding his job became even easier once the check was made.
“On that play I came out, focused on what I had to do on third down and I helped us make a big play and all I had to do was hand the ball off so that’s pretty exciting for me,” he said.
How much freedom Gardner has now and will have moving forward the rest of the season is unclear.
Either way, Doug Nussmeier sees his senior quarterback making great strides in that category, eager to see how it continues to develop.
“That’s a week to week thing,” Nussmeier said. “And that’s a growth process, there’s a lot of room to grow.
“Even the best players in the world at this, you look at Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, guys that excel at that, doing things at the line of scrimmage, they’re always looking for ways to find a better way to do it or another piece of information they can gather from the film room to find an easier way to get to a check or those kind of things.
“But Devin did an outstanding job in this game and really had a great grasp of what we asked him to do and expect that from him week in and week out.”
Gardner’s season opener went as well as can be expected completing 13-of-14 pass attempts for 173-yards and three touchdowns. Also important to note, Gardner accounted for zero interceptions and zero fumbles.