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One of just four juniors invited to Chicago, Gardner is the only QB in attendance who wasn't starting at this time last year. To amplify that pressure, he's taking over for NCAA 14 cover boy Denard Robinson at one of the most "under-a-microscope" positions in sports—a hallowed role occupied by Jim Harbaugh, Tom Brady and countless other greats over time.
Gardner was terrific down the stretch in 2012 and is a major reason for Michigan's optimism going forward. He threw for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns in only five starts. Even though his record was just 3-2, those two losses came by five points each and both were against top-10 opponents (Ohio State and South Carolina).
Now attending his first media day, it will be nice to pick Gardner's brain and see how he's dealt with the burden of leadership. It's one thing to come off the sideline and play the role of season savior. But it's another thing entirely, a much more difficult thing, to deal with an offseason of expectations in Ann Arbor.
Questions won't just touch upon those intangibles, but also how much Michigan plans to use him. Despite starting 2012 as a wide receiver, once Gardner took over at quarterback, most of his damage was done from the pocket. How he plans to use his speed (and whether he thinks his body can hold up if he does so frequently) remains a principal inquiry for Michigan.