What Is Devin Gardner's Future with the Michigan Wolverines?

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor INovember 27, 2013

IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Devin Gardner #98  of the Michigan Wolverines breaks a tackle during the second quarter by defensive lineman Mike Hardy #98 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on November 23, 2013 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Every year there are surprises and disappointments from preseason predictions, and in 2013, there may be no bigger disappointing performance than that of Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner

It's led some to wonder what Gardner's future is at Michigan. Will he be able to stay at quarterback and recover from this season? Or will the coaching staff go another route and put Gardner in a different position in 2014? 

A lot of the answers to those questions won't be had until this spring and likely depend on who is coaching Gardner in 2014.

The fact that we are asking questions about Gardner's future as the Michigan quarterback should tell you just how disappointing his season as been. 

Over at ESPN.com, Gardner was thought of as the 11th-best player in the Big Ten coming into the season. 

It was hard not to buy into the hype, considering how Michigan looked with Gardner at quarterback down the stretch in 2012. 

January 1,2013; Tampa, FL, USA;  Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (12) runs with the ball as South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) and linebacker Shaq Wilson (54) defend during the second half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Gardner threw for 1,219 yards (243.8 yards per game) and 11 touchdowns to five interceptions in five starts last season. More than the stats, it was how different the offense looked with Gardner behind center that had people excited. 

In four of the five games, the Michigan offense scored 30 or more points. Only in the Ohio State game did the Wolverines fail to score 30 points. 

Michigan looked like a team capable of playing consistent pro-style offense with Gardner at quarterback. 

However, all of those projections and prognostications about how good Gardner was going to be and how good his team was going to be have fallen by the wayside. 

In no way is 2013 a success for Gardner or his team. First off, the Wolverines started the season ranked No. 17 in the country. 

Today, the Wolverines are sitting at 7-4 and haven't been ranked since before a 29-6 loss to Michigan State to open up November. 

Gardner's numbers have dropped compared to last year nearly across the board. He's completing 58.7 percent of his passes this season compared to 59.5 percent last year. Additionally, he's averaging 228.1 yards passing compared to the 243.8 average from last season. 

He also has failed to cut down on the interceptions, throwing 11 interceptions in total and throwing an interception in all but three games this season. 

Not all of those numbers are directly Gardner's fault. He hasn't had much help from perhaps the weakest overall offensive line in the Big Ten and has been sacked 32 times this season. 

The run game hasn't been there as well, and Gardner has had to be more of a running quarterback than the pro-style offense was supposed to allow him to be. He's averaging 14.2 carries a game this season compared to 9.4 carries a game last season. 

Overall, Michigan is averaging just 128.8 yards a game on the ground, which ranks 100th nationally and 11th in the Big Ten. 

However, this past week against Iowa, Gardner put up one of his worst performances of his career. He completed 46.4 percent of his passes for just 98 yards, yet he managed two passing touchdowns. 

Gardner also had a terrible fumble when the Wolverines couldn't afford a turnover. It led to Gardner putting the blame on himself following the game. 

"I lost the game by myself," Gardner said, according to MLive.com. "I fumbled the ball when they trusted me (with it)."

It's all led to questions as to whether or not offensive coordinator Al Borges has put Gardner in the best positions to be successful, or if it's about Gardner's skill set just not being good enough for the offense Michigan wants to run. 

With highly touted freshman Shane Morris—a prototypical pro-style quarterback—waiting in the wings, the thoughts of moving away from Gardner and going fully to the pro-style offense have only increased as the season has gone on. 

Gardner hasn't exactly set the world on fire as a quarterback like most thought he would this season, and there has been a lack of depth at wide receiver, the position Gardner played before quarterback. 

Could that be where Gardner ends up being the best help to this team heading into his senior year? 

We may not get the answers to those questions or scenarios until we know what is going on with the coaching staff. 

What we do know is that based on Gardner's 2013 season, there is huge room for improvement, and if it isn't coming, it may be time to see what the youngsters can do for this offense. 

Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.


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