QB Devin Gardner: Superman Needs Help from Michigan Teammates

Phil CallihanContributor ISeptember 29, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 14: Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines scrabbles away for the tackle of Nick Rossi #44 of the Akron Zips during the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium on September 14, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan on the game 28-24. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Michigan Quarterback Devin Gardner doesn’t lack confidence.

Even last season, when he accepted a move to wide receiver, he still believed that he was a great quarterback. 

When injuries to Denard Robinson and Russell Bellomy gave Gardner the opportunity to move back under center, he never doubted that he would be successful.

But as Michigan begins Big Ten play against Minnesota, the opponent against whom Gardner first faced as a starting quarterback last season, that extreme confidence may be his biggest weakness.

EAST HARTFORD, CT - SEPTEMBER 21: Brady Hoke, coach of the Michigan Wolverines, congratulates Devin Gardner #98 after a touchdown in the second half against the Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field on September 21, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

“I think he's been Superman for a long time," said Michigan coach Brady Hoke during his bye week press conference.

"I think when you grow up being Superman, you have that in your mind. He’s competitive, and the thing that I talk to him about is there’s ten other guys.”

When the Wolverine offense has struggled, Gardner has taken it upon himself to pick up the slack.

A sporadic running game and a shaky interior offensive line has amped up the pressure on Gardner. He has struggled, throwing eight interceptions and fumbling twice with the Wolverines barely escaping defeat in their last two games.

Last season, Gardner led the Wolverines to a 35-21 road victory over the Golden Gophers, and established himself as the starting quarterback heading into this season.

Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) scrambles out of the pocket getting away from Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Matthias Farley (41) during the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Now some are wondering if Gardner’s confidence is part of the problem.

Gardner has led two fourth quarter comebacks, albeit against two teams that the Wolverines were not expected to have much trouble with.

The problem is that in both cases, the hole he was digging out of was mainly due to his poor play earlier in the game.

In Superman’s world, his foes use his weakness to kryptonite to attack him.

Sep 21, 2013; East Hartford, CT, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke greets quarterback Devin Gardner (98) after a touchdown in the third quarter against the Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY S
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Gardner’s weakness is more complex.

Scale back the confidence and the spark that allowed him to bring the Wolverines back from the brink of defeat might also disappear.

“You’d rather tame a bucking bronco than an old mare,” said Hoke, commenting on need to balance Gardner’s playmaking ability with the mistakes that come with it.

The Wolverines need other playmakers to take the pressure off of Gardner or that bucking bronco might end kicking their chances for a Big Ten championship out of the stadium.