Michigan Football: Who Will Be the X-Factor on Wolverines' 2013 Offense?

Ian BergCorrespondent IMarch 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

This year will mark the third of the Wolverines under Brady Hoke and fans are expecting a championship-level effort out of Ann Arbor. Michigan is loaded with talent and both the offense and defense are expected to have strong showings in 2013.

On offense, Michigan will spread the ball around and utilize a number of skill players throughout the year. Without Devin Gardner, that distribution plan would have issues.

Gardner stepped into the starting quarterback role last fall when Denard Robinson fell to an elbow injury.

In only five games, Devin Gardner threw for 1,219 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He was also able to rush for an additional 101 yards, but he is more of a pure passing quarterback than Robinson, sticking behind the line through his progressions.

Once Gardner took over the starting quarterback position, nearly every receiver doubled their output. This is a natural fit for the Wolverines and one that will lead to a lot of wins.

Previously a receiver, Gardner has the athleticism of Robinson, but showed quickly that he was a far better signal-caller when given the opportunity. Gardner was more selective with his throws in the latter half of the season than Robinson was in four campaigns as a quarterback for Michigan.

The offense had direction with Gardner at the helm in 2012, as opposed to the sporadic, backyard style that Robinson brought to the table.

In the first half of 2012, Robinson threw nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also tossed for 1,319 yards before his last throw in Week 8 against Nebraska. Robinson’s injury led to him becoming a stronger NFL prospect and the Wolverines finding the key to their offense.

It was a win-win after the pain dissipated for the former quarterback turned receiver.

The Wolverines now have a quarterback that fits the mold and is capable of driving the Hoke offense to championships. The pro-style offense fits Gardner well, and it is one that he has shown a proficiency at.

After a medical hardship waiver was awarded to Gardner this winter (via mlive.com), he now has two more years of eligibility.

The Hoke offense has a signal-caller that can learn on his feet and will excel over the next two years in the program. The Wolverines were a middle-of-the-pack program in the Big Ten with Robinson, they are now an elite program returning to the top.

With Gardner healthy, this offense will thrive. He has become the key to the program and is a distribution specialist when he drops back in the pocket. This is the look that Wolverines fans are used to.

Having an offense drive the field with a strong signal-caller and bulldozing ground game is the Michigan way.

It is being reborn under Brady Hoke with the help of rising star Devin Gardner.