Michigan Football: What to Expect from Devin Gardner Next Season

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2013

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Quarterback Devin Gardner #12 of the Michigan Wolverines passes in the fourth quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl January 1, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  South Carolina won 33 - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Denard Robinson is graduating, leaving the Michigan program in the hands of Devin Gardner

Coming into college, Gardner was recognized as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. He was usually listed as either a 4-star or 5-star, and most believed that he could one day lead the offense for the Wolverines.

That time has now come as he will be virtually undisputed as the starter heading into spring practices.

While Shane Morris could put some pressure on the rising senior, the job is Gardner's to lose. This means that he must come ready to perform right away. 

On the field, Gardner has definitely shown that he has what it takes to succeed. Athletically, he will be a good transition from Robinson as the Michigan native can really move when necessary.

Last season, he showed multiple times that he can get out of the pocket and pick up large gains on the ground. He had seven touchdowns in four games at quarterback near the end of the season, and his 101 rushing yards would have been much better without the high amount of sacks.

Of course, the sacks could also become a problem if he does not learn to get rid of the ball faster. Still, Taylor Lewan should be able to lock up his blindside.

It is important for fans not to expect him to be like the previous quarterback, as a runner. However, he will provide enough of a threat that it will free up room for running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint, Thomas Rawls and freshman Derrick Green to excel.

This will be even better for the offense as it will allow more balance as defenses will have to focus on more players that could beat them.

As a passer, Gardner does still have work to do. He is aggressive with the ball, often looking down the field for a big play. However, that does get him into trouble at times as evident by his interception in every one of his five games.

It is unlikely that the quarterback will improve much upon his 59.5 completion percentage, but making smarter reads will go a long way toward bring up his 11-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Either way, the pro-style system will be much more dynamic this year with a quarterback that can throw down the field with consistency.

Gardner will not have to be an All-American in his first full year as a starter. There is a lot of talent around him between those currently on the roster and incoming freshmen that could play right away.

For the Wolverines to succeed, the quarterback should put together a stat line of around 2,800 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions with about 400 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

These are very attainable figures for Gardner as he looks to improve upon the team's 8-5 record from this past season.

If he can reach this level of play and the rest of the squad does its job, Michigan could be in for a very good year.