The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 275

14 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW M Devin Gardner Aims To Grow In Many Ways Devin Gardner grew over the course of the 2013 season, often the hard way. He knows he hasn't arrived, but he's put in a base upon which to build. The fifth-year senior quarterback went from a turnover-filled non-conference cam- paign to throwing only three interceptions in Big Ten play. There were some close calls and dropped balls by would-be pickoff artists, but Gardner still contends he made steady progress as the season went along. "The biggest thing is not trying to make plays that aren't there," Gardner said. "Don't force balls. Use the gifts I have — if the throw is not there, either check it down or use your legs. "I feel like I got a lot better at that. I cut down on the interceptions, and I don't know if people noticed that. That's something I wanted to work on after the first half of the season. I made great strides there. "I don't think any of the picks were really bad throws. If the defender wasn't there, it would be right in my guy's hands. But it was just forced, because they were covered." Gardner struck up a great working re- lationship with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, given the latter's attention to detail and high-energy voice in his ear. Nussmeier played the position in the pros, and brings a high level of credibility to the instructions he's barking out. Nussmeier also wants his quarterbacks thinking a certain way, and that does noth- ing but help, Gardner said. "Quarterback coaches always talk about calculated risks," Gardner said. "Those were risks, like: 'Do we really need this right now? Or can we check this ball down, get five yards, and go again?' It's things like that. Coach Nuss is doing a great job of helping me think about stuff like that while I'm playing." Gardner insists the move forward can't all come from the new boss. The veteran quar- terback continues to put more responsibility on himself to lead in the way head coach Brady Hoke urges him to do. That means not only being attentive to self improvement, but to making sure his teammates are taking the steps forward they need in order to improve the whole. " E ve r y b o d y w a n t s t o w o r k , a n d that helps me a lot," noted Gardner. "I don't have to beg them to come. I texted all the guys, '9:30.' I didn't say anything else. Everybody was here at 9:30, ready to roll. That makes it a lot easier for me, as a senior leader, when you've got that kind of response from the guys." That said, once practices start again, Nussmeier has a way about him. Gardner and others can relate to the approach he takes. "Oh, he can talk junk," Gardner said. "He can talk junk with the best of them. I like Coach Nuss. When we make a big play, or we're doing well, he can get after the de- fense a little bit. "Even before we start stretching, he's get- ting in the defense's head, talking to them, making fun of Frank [Clark]: 'Hey, junior college guy. You just get here? What junior college did you go to?' Stuff like that. He's just a great guy and an ultimate competitor. Our personalities match perfectly." Gardner picks up on some of that, and he's trying to urge the offense on, in his own way. He's learning when to kid around, and with whom. He also knows a group that takes an enormous amount of heat, like last year's offensive linemen, needs to get some reassurance along the way. "Everybody looks at linemen like the big, tough guys who don't really need encour- agement," he said. "They're like anybody else. If a receiver drops a ball … some peo- ple need encouragement first, before you start ripping them. "They've got to be encouraged, like any other position. You continue to love on them and make sure they know you believe in them, which I do. I feel like they've gotten so much better this year." The key for his final season in a Michigan uniform, Gardner insists, has everything to do with not backing down, and not letting anything that has happened in the last year and a half hold him back. "It's not letting up," he said. "We've watched some Appalachian State. No mat- ter how good they are, we're going to play our best. We're going to give our best every single game. "I can see some of it now, just in the competition we have, working out when coaches aren't even there. Guys just don't want to be beat. Everybody wants to win. When we're running in the sand, everybody wants to be first. "It's being angry and wanting to compete. Afterwards, we're still cool. We can almost come to blows during the workout, but as soon as we're done with the workout, ev- erybody's still cool. That just shows we're competing as hard as we can to get better." Gardner has focused this offseason not only on his own improvement, but also on being a leader by making sure his teammates are putting in the time to take steps forward, as well. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 8,10-12,14-28,30-32.IMA.indd 14 6/19/14 4:58 PM

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - 2014 Michigan Football Preview