that is nice bonus change
devin gardner wide receiver possibility
A couple of good sources have passed along information about Michigan's hot topics du jour.
On Trey Burke. This should not be a scenario like Harris or Morris where the player leaves for dim draft prospects. In Harris's case he wanted out no matter what; Morris had people in his inner circle pushing him into the draft.
Burke is not either of those guys. If the NBA does not tell him he is a first round lock, he'll be back. Since that doesn't seem in the cards—name the last one-and-done under six feet tall—Michigan should avoid the terrifying prospect of entering next year with no point guard at all.
On Devin Gardner. Someone who's seen Gardner at all of Michigan's practices so far says he's "instantly Michigan's best receiver and adds a new dimension to the offense." He's "crazy athletic" with "surprisingly great hands." The one complication for Gardner-to-WR is the situation at quarterback, where he's still the clear #2 option. Gardner is still taking all the second team QB reps.
/end inside info, begin speculation
A lot of people have been mentioning Woodson when talking about this when trying to guess how much playing time is reasonable for a guy who's still full time at a second position. He got 10-15 snaps a game on offense back in '97. Gardner may start at that level, but if it's crunch time and he's 6'5" with a city block catching radius…
Walker, Gardner, Avant (L to R)
After yesterday's one-two gut punch of basketball news, let's talk football, shall we? The story that will likely dominate the spring is the potential move of quarterback Devin Gardner to wide receiver, at least part-time. Gardner, in case you didn't see Brian's UV yesterday, showed some pretty serious skills at receiver when camping as a high schooler. He's also 6'5", athletic, blessed with hands large enough to make the catch above, and familiar with the offense. Meanwhile, Michigan's two known quantities at receiver are Roy Roundtree, whose production plummeted last year when QB OH NOES wasn't a regular part of the playbook, and Jeremy Gallon, who looks quite promising but is also listed at 5'8".
Gardner taking some snaps at receiver is a good idea then, right? I certainly think so, but I've heard several arguments to the contrary. Allow me to present them, then do my best to crush them.
Argument 1—Gardner shouldn't play receiver because if he's hurt at wideout and Denard gets inevitably dinged (or hurt himself, God forbid) we're totally screwed.
This is the argument I've seen the most, and the mentality behind it is one I absolutely hate. Yes, I'm aware that Michigan has just three scholarship QBs on the roster. That is the reality for this year and it's not an optimal one. Denard Robinson has been known to get knocked around on occasion, sometimes requiring a backup cameo. He's a running quarterback. Injuries happen.
But it takes a large leap from "Michigan is thin at QB" to "Gardner can't play wideout because injury doomsday scenario." First of all, if Denard gets hurt, that's a doomsday scenario in and of itself. If Gardner is hurt at the same time, well, the football gods hate Michigan. Does the slim chance of this worst-case scenario happening mean Michigan shouldn't play one of their best athletes at a position in dire need of help when he otherwise wouldn't see the field? No.
Simply put, college coaches cannot operate under the assumption that the worst will happen. That's the same line of thinking that made coaches doubt the viability of the forward pass (remember, only three things can happen when you throw, and two of them are bad) and causes the Zooks of the coaching world to punt on 4th-and-3 from the opponent's 38. Brady Hoke has proven that he's got some serious cajones, and that's generally regarded as a fantastic trait in a head coach. This is not how he operates.
Also, redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy may very well be an equally viable backup option as Gardner, or at least at the point where the dropoff between the two backups isn't large enough to justify keeping Gardner on the bench when he could be contributing at wideout. Which brings me to the next argument...
Argument 2—Gardner shouldn't play receiver because it'll take away from his practice reps at quarterback and he won't develop.
This one holds more water than the first argument, but I still don't agree with it. Gardner is already splitting backup reps at QB with Bellomy, and unless you think Gardner needs a ton of "mental reps," I don't think it hurts to have him spending his non-throwing practice time running routes and catching passes.
It's not like Gardner is switching sides of the ball. In fact, playing receiver can help with his quarterback play; running routes can hone timing, understanding of schemes, and keep him sharp and ready to see the field.
This year's NFL draft will provide a great example of a player who went through a very similar mid-career situation. Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill was a three-star dual-threat QB in the 2007 class, redshirting in his first season. As a redshirt freshman, he battled for the starting QB job but ultimately fell behind two other players. At 6'4", 220 pounds, Tannehill was moved to receiver in fall camp by head coach Mike Sherman. All he did was catch 55 passes for 844 yards and five TDs.
The next year, Tannehill again competed to start at quarterback, but lost out to Jerrod Johnson. As the primary backup, A&M could've handed him a headset, but instead they threw him back out there at receiver. Tannehill had 46 receptions for 609 yards and four TDs while also appearing in three games at QB in mop-up duty. As a junior, Tannehill started the season as a receiver but earned the starting nod as a quarterback partway through the year, completing 65% of his passes and throwing 13 TDs to just six interceptions. After a strong senior season as the full-time starter at QB, Tannehill is expected to go in the top 12 in this year's NFL draft. If playing receiver stunted his development as a quarterback, it wasn't enough to merit keeping the team's best receiver off the field.
Argument 3—The dumbest argument ever.
Sorry to put you on blast, Eric Lloyd, but I can't let this just slide on by:
@AceAnbender Why would you try this without trying Denard at WR first? That's for sure his NFL future and Gardner is better QB.
— Eric Lloyd (@EricLloyd) March 21, 2012
Just no. If I seriously have to argue this point, and I hope I don't for 99.9% of you out there, I'll keep it short. Denard Robinson is about to be a senior in his second year under the current system, coming off an All-Big Ten season that followed up one of the most productive years by a quarterback in the history of college football. Whether or not he's going to be a quarterback at the next level, it's by far the most optimal position to play him at in college.
Devin Gardner has attempted 17 career passes—10 against Bowling Green in a 2010 curb-stomping—and has spent his entire career as a backup quarterback. If he's better at this point in his career than Denard, he hasn't made that apparent to anyone who would have the best idea about whether or not that was the case. End of argument that hopefully never needed to be made.
Michigan can explore the opportunity of sticking a 6'5" playmaker on the field at a position of huge need, or they can keep Devin Gardner on the bench for fear that the worst thing ever will happen. Unless you're the type to keep a fully-stocked bunker in case of the nuclear holocaust, the choice here is rather apparent.
Fifteen minutes of Bo yelling at officials. Wot it says on the tin:
Can't see Hoke doing this; am now imagining Bo's reaction after the Hagerup incident against OSU. It does not go well for the kid. I love the announcers' reactions, which are mostly bemused. Musberger as Bo charges about ten yards onto the field to protest a pass interference non-call: "That's why they give him an extension cord."
Hoke with Dave. This had slipped my mind until a helpful reader reminded me of it. After Hoke took Ball State to 12-0 in his final year, he showed up on Ball State alum David Letterman's Late Show to deliver a Top Ten. It is exactly as you might expect:
Is that a red tie? Horror!
The Devin To WR thing. The internet was abuzz with rumors that Devin Gardner spent his first spring practice at wide receiver to the point where actual reporters actually asked Al Borges about it. Via Heiko, the response:
Are you experimenting with Devin Gardner at other positions?
“We’re doing what we did a year ago, pretty much. We’re giong to play the best 11 guys. Devin’s the backup quarterback right now. He’s number two, and we’re going to do what we have to do to get the best 11 on the field. Nothing’s changed in that perspective, so we pretty much have the same mentality that we had.”
Are you looking at him at wide receiver?
“Yeah … the practices are closed for a reason.”
That gruffy, annoyed non-denial was taken as confirmation of the Gospel from on high by the internet, and… yeah, I'm with you guys. Michigan is at least gingerly exploring the possibility of throwing Devin Gardner on the field as a wide receiver. Whether that's for wacky trick plays or is a serious exploration of what Gardner brings to the field there is unknown probably even to the coaches.
Me, I hope it's the latter. Gardner's nearly 6'5", has huge hands and explosive leaping ability, and this old film of him screwing around at WR at some camps…
…reminds me of that Sports Science thing they did on Justin Blackmon in which it was explained that he could catch anything within a half-mile radius of him. If you've got enough faith in Russell Bellomy to spot Robinson when he gets his inevitable dings, I'd roll with a potentially elite talent at WR.
The obvious downside is what happens in the event of a serious Robinson injury and next year, when Gardner is the presumed starter at QB. It's not a move that doesn't come with risks. Hoke seems like a guy who looks at the upside of things more than the downside. If you think getting Gardner on the field helps you win this year you have to do it. Next year is next year.
You can't escape me. Cleveland State reveals that Michigan has home dates with Oakland and the Cleveland State/BGSU winner as part of their participation in the Preseason NIT. Unlike a lot of of tournaments, the preseason NIT actually gives a berth in the final to the winners of their preliminary rounds—as it should be.
This is good. Michigan should be scheduling decent mid-majors instead of total dreck as they seek to get that RPI up in a year when they could be a national contender. Even if Oakland and CSU aren't up to their previous standards they should still be a far cry from the SWAC. CSU was 22-11 last year and made the NIT. They lost to Stanford in the first round but still finished in the Kenpom top 100. They lose three starters and a key reserve but Gary Waters has led his team to 20 wins in four of the last five seasons. They'll be at least decent.
Oakland had an off year by their recent standards and loses a third of their usage with Reggie Hamilton's graduation; they return everyone else except Laval-Lucas Perry, though. BGSU was a middling MAC team. These are much better opponents for numbers purposes.
The rest of Michigan's nonconference schedule is still unannounced but we do know they'll be getting a home game from Arkansas, a home game in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, will travel to Bradley as part of a quid pro quo for Bradley hiring Beilein's son, and will play WVU in New York. If they reach the Preseason NIT finals they're likely to meet some combination of Pitt, Virginia, and an unknown team.
Michigan's also added Arizona for a home and home starting in 2013-14, when Sean Miller's monster recruiting class (four top 50 players including Nick Stauskas teammate Kaleb Tarczewski) will just be finding its feet. Those could be big time matchups.
Etc.: Dolla dolla bill extends to the students, who will be paying $205 for six home games this year. Denard interviewed by BTN. Inside Michigan Hockey profiles the team headed into the tournament. Bowls versus the tourney in terms of money headed to teams. Michigan's first black player was George Jewett in 1890; Michigan Today profiles him.