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Michigan Football: It's Time to Make Devin Gardner a Full-Time Wide Receiver

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Michigan Football: It's Time to Make Devin Gardner a Full-Time Wide Receiver
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Michigan opened its preseason camp on Monday, which is beyond delightful. It's been a long, long offseason, and football is wonderful. At any rate, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Wolverine program is what the eventual fate of Devin Gardner is going to be.

That's not "fate" in a bad way, like he's two steps away from being kicked off the team; but the question of whether he's a quarterback or wide receiver is one that Michigan just simply hasn't answered.

Here's more from AnnArbor.com's report on Gardner from Michigan's first practice:

How much time the 6-foot-4, 203-pound Gardner will spend at wide receiver this season remains a mystery.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke confirmed to reporters Monday that Gardner did in fact take snaps at wideout during the team's first workout, but said he's still not sure how much the team will use him in that capacity moving forward.

He also said he's not sure what type of quarterback-wide receiver snap ratio Gardner will go through during fall camp.

"Not yet," Hoke said. "(It's been) one day."

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True, it has been one day, and that's not nearly enough time to conduct proper evaluations. Shame on anyone for wanting a faster decision from Hoke.

The thing is, though: it's not like Gardner just started taking snaps at WR on Monday for the very first time. He spent time there over the spring too, and just because he's still listed as a quarterback—quite coincidentally wearing Roy Roundtree's old No. 12 now, per AnnArbor.com—doesn't mean the evaluation process at WR isn't ongoing.

So just move Gardner to wideout full time already. He needs to learn the WR's part of the playbook and work on getting off jams at the line, per teammates in the AnnArbor.com report. But that's the sort of thing that only takes time and repetitions. And for someone transitioning to a new position, every rep is crucial.

"A-ha," some may claim, "but Gardner is valuable as a backup quarterback because Denard Robinson rushes the ball very often and he is not a large man." That is true. Michigan, more than any other team in the Big Ten, needs a good contingency plan at backup QB. And that need is probably why Gardner's still listed at quarterback.

But we've seen Gardner in live action at QB. He played meaningful minutes in several games last year, and he spent the entire spring game at quarterback too. The resume's there.

And it's not very good.

Gardner went 11-of-23 for 170 yards, one TD and one INT last season. He also rushed 25 times for 53 yards and another score. That's 48 plays for a total of 229 yards.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Denard Robinson: very productive.

We've got some context on that. Denard Robinson accounted for almost exactly 10 times as many plays last year: 479 in total. His pass-rush ratio was about the same (roughly 55-45 pass/rush), and his total yardage? Count 3,349.

In other words, Denard Robinson gave Michigan about 50 percent more yards of total offense per play than Gardner.

You need more out of your backup than that, especially in a system that needs a good backup quarterback. And all we know about redshirt freshman QB Russell Bellomy (ostensibly third on the depth chart) is that he was a far more productive quarterback than Gardner in the 2012 spring game. So if Michigan wants a safety net at QB, perhaps Gardner isn't where the Wolverines need to turn.

And if that's the case, there's really not much left to stop Brady Hoke from turning Gardner loose at wide receiver full time.

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