Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner is going to turn a lot of heads this year.
How will Gardner play in 2013?
Gardner has failed to see much playing time over the last few seasons, mainly due to the emergence of Denard Robinson as a dual-threat, big-play star. Gardner was only on the field in the latter part of the 2012 season after Robinson got injured. In five games, he led the Wolverines to three wins and a pair of losses.
Entering last season, Gardner had only attempted 33 passes in a Michigan jersey. In 2012, the quarterback completed 75-of-126 attempts (59.5 percent) for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was picked off five times throughout the year but was still good more often than not.
Now that Robinson is gone—currently on the roster for the Jacksonville Jaguars—the team is Gardner’s to lead. Michigan is lucky that he’s still with the program, as he told Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press that he considered transferring elsewhere when he wasn’t getting the playing time he thought he deserved.
Gardner decided to stay, and he’s bound to show Michigan and the country what he’s capable of in the upcoming season. Aside from a Week 2 showdown against Notre Dame, the Wolverines don’t have a difficult schedule for the first chunk of the season. That means Gardner should be able to build up a bunch of confidence.
Even though the new full-time quarterback for the Wolverines doesn’t have a lot of experience under his belt, he’s still being considered one of the top players in the nation. NCAA.com released the watch lists for each of college football’s award for 2013, and Gardner’s name is on a two of them.
Gardner made the watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the top quarterback in the country, and the Maxwell Award, which is given to the college football player of the year. Some people must think this kid is going to be a stud this season, and they aren’t wrong to think so.
Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer is one of many who think 2013 will be big for Gardner:
Lots of talk from Hoke on Devin Gardner at quarterback, and for good reason. He's gonna have a big year.— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) July 24, 2013
Travis Haney of ESPN recently listed his projections of the top 50 breakout players for the updated season, and Gardner cracked the list (Insider subscription required). In fact, Haney put the Michigan quarterback atop the list. Yes, Gardner is No. 1, as the scribe projects him to have quite the year for the Wolverines.
Here’s a portion of what Haney had to say about Gardner:
The trickle-down effect, that air of positivity, is obvious in meetings with both players and coaches, and none more so than his starting quarterback, Gardner. If Hoke is the mayor of Wolverineland, Gardner is his lieutenant. He’s affable, comfortable and back to being a quarterback. Not just that, but the quarterback.
Michigan may have won just eight games last season, but this year should be a big one for the program. The Wolverines recently came in at No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. That’s pretty good, and the team is probably that high because of what Gardner could potentially do under center this season.
Don’t be surprised when the Wolverines soar into the top 10 of the poll after the first few weeks of the year. Gardner is going to make the most of his opportunity as the starting quarterback and will make a fool out of a bunch of the defenses that will try to stop him. He’s bound to take Michigan to a BCS bowl game this season.
Gardner might not have been in the spotlight the last few years, but he’ll shine bright when the media is constantly covering what’s sure to be an impressive season for the Detroit native. By the end of the season, expect him to be considered a serious contender for both of the aforementioned national honors.
All statistics in this article were obtained via ESPN unless otherwise noted.