As mentioned earlier, Michigan released its first depth chart of the season. Setting aside the fact that Fitz Toussaint is on it and whatever that does or doesn't mean, we've got another interesting development: Devin Gardner is still the second-string quarterback.
And he is also a third-string receiver.
Gardner shows up on the depth chart twice, behind Denard Robinson at QB and behind Roy Roundtree and Jerald Robinson (no relation to Denard) at one receiver position. This goes against Brian Cook surmising that Gardner had been moved to WR full-time, but Cook was going off of observing Gardner practicing exclusively at wideout over the weekend.
First of all, it's nice to see Roundtree on the depth chart. Unlike with Toussaint, Brady Hoke did address Roundtree's status and said he had been back to practice with the first unit, so his minor knee surgery has healed on schedule.
Now, it could be the case that Hoke is slow-playing Gardner's transition to receiver and plans to give him more snaps than a typical third-stringer would get against Alabama. That may be the way to read Roy Roundtree's statement to Kyle Meinke of AnnArbor.com:
Roy Roundtree said he wouldn't be surprised if Devin Gardner played "a lot" at receiver.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) August 27, 2012
That said, it wouldn't be wise to expect much production from Gardner in his first game out wide.
Gardner absolutely has the physical tools to succeed and that includes against top-level corners like Alabama has. The problem is that, as is to be expected with anyone going through a position change, Gardner is still early on in the adjustment process. So that means statements like these from OC Al Borges, as told by Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network:
I asked Borges about Gardner, and his eyes got big. Borges says Gardner doesn’t know how good he can be. He’s an athletic freak who will figure in the rotation. Count on it.
What that means is that things like double moves, crisp routes and timing—all the things that go into the polish of a receiver—just aren't going to be there for Gardner at this point.
And that is the type of receiver that a disciplined secondary like Alabama's absolutely feasts on.
Make no mistake, Gardner's going to be a significant part of that offense by the end of the season, either through development at receiver or if the Horrible Injury Reaper finally catches up to Denard Robinson (though that seems like a Wile E. Coyote-Roadrunner type of relationship at this point). Gardner's too athletically gifted to be of no use to Michigan's offense for very long.
Regardless of where Gardner is on the depth chart—and where he is ain't great anyway—he'll probably be pretty quiet in Week 1.
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