Denard "Shoelace" Robinson has departed for the NFL and Devin Gardner is finally the man at quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines. Gardner took over for Robinson in 2012 as the quarterback because of Robinson's injuries and ineffectiveness, but because of Shoelace's status with the program, his presence cast a huge shadow over Gardner.
Last season, there was still a debate over who the starter should have been.
This season, it is clearly Gardner's show.
The 21-year-old is already receiving preseason honors for his potential and what he's already accomplished in his career.
The 6'4", 205-pound junior from Detroit completed 59.5 percent of his passes in 2012. He tossed 11 touchdown passes and ran for seven scores. That production combined with his enormous upside has landed him on the Davey O'Brien Preseason Watch List and the Big Ten Players to Watch List for the upcoming season.
It could be argued that Gardner hasn't done enough to be considered for preseason honors, but he's been perfectly prepared to have a stellar 2013 season.
Gardner has had the opportunity to learn behind Robinson for the past two years. He's also had the opportunity to play some receiver, which offers a different but helpful perspective to the offense.
Physically, Gardner brings a little more to the table than Robinson did. He's not quite as dangerous as a runner, but he's far from immobile. As a passer, Gardner has the arm, touch and accuracy that will allow the Wolverines to do things offensively that they couldn't do with Shoelace.
Gardner has playmakers at receiver in 5'8" dynamo Jeremy Gallon and capable slot receiver Drew Dileo. Neither receiver offers a ton of size, but both are shifty guys who can make defenders miss.
Few things help a quarterback as much as receivers who can find success after the catch. Gardner also has fellow Big Ten Players to Watch List member Taylor Lewan returning for his senior season to help protect him.
Brady Hoke's pro-style offense has always been better suited for Gardner than Robinson, but kudos goes to Hoke for adapting his scheme to fit his players and not vice versa. Now he has a quarterback who is capable of shining in a more conventional offense.
That's just what Gardner is going to do in 2013.
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