"I never knew about the Michigan, Ohio state rivalry, but they’ve always been good."
to play football, not to play trumpet
Devin Gardner is the quarterback for Inkster, and is looking to win a State Championship this weekend, as a junior. [Note: Inkster lost to EGR 43-24 in the state finals; this interview took place before that. –ed]
His team is obviously having a great year, but Gardner's individual stats stick out as well. He has 47 total TD's, 25 passing and 22 running, with only 6 INT's. He looks to take that success to a State Championship against East Grand Rapids. He hasn't been able to put 100% into his recruitment yet, but says he'll be able to narrow things down after his basketball season. Here's what he had to say.
TOM: What do you think has lead to your improvement from last year to this year?
DEVIN: Coach Carter helped me, he didn’t accept anything but perfection. We focused on throwing, decision making, and running. We run a mixture of a spread, the read option and pass, so it’s important to make good decisions.
TOM: What have you focused on when trying to improve?
DEVIN: I can always improve my decision making. I’m over 60% with my completion percentage, so that’s good. I just practice every play hard, so when game time comes, I know where my teams going to be. So in time it’s going to get better, and easier.
TOM: What goals do you want to accomplish for your senior year?
DEVIN: I want to win a state championship this year. Next year, I want to do the same thing. I don’t really want the individual award. If we win state then that means I did a good job.
TOM: When do you think you’ll really start to get into the recruiting process, and start to analyze schools?
DEVIN: I took a few visits, but haven’t really gotten into it yet, I’m still focused on state championships. I’m going to focus more during basketball season.
TOM: Are there already some schools that have you thinking about them?
DEVIN: Not really, all the schools are equal right now. I guess if I had to name the top right now it’s Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, those are a few that have been in contact with me.
TOM: I heard that you said Ohio State is a school you really like, what about them sticks out to you?
DEVIN: When I was younger, I didn’t pay attention to the actual football game, but my favorite color was red, and they always won. I never knew about the Michigan, Ohio state rivalry, but they’ve always been good. They just continue to win, that’s what sticks out.
TOM: So does playing early factor into your decision?
DEVIN: Possibly. Anywhere I go there’s going to be competition, but it may come into play.
TOM: What about the style of offensive scheme, will that matter?
DEVIN: It doesn’t matter, because I’m getting better at throwing so it doesn’t matter. Plays are always going to break down, so if I’m in pro I can show my athleticism. Whether it’s designed to run or not, I’ll still be able to run.
TOM: Have you started building any relationships with coaches?
DEVIN: I talk to a lot of coaches, everyone that’s offered me. Most of the coaches talk about my family, and how I’m doing in school, they all are trying to build personal relationship.
TOM: Lately, there’s been some comparison with yourself and Robert Bolden, what do you bring to the field that he doesn’t? What sets you apart from the quarterbacks in your class?
DEVIN: I’m more athletic, and I’ve got great speed. My determination, I just want to win. I can’t speak for them, but I know I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. There are also a lot of athletes, not just quarterbacks, and I’m a quarterback that’s athletic.
TOM: Have you gotten to take any unofficial visits to any schools yet?
DEVIN: Yea, I went to Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Toledo, Michigan, MSU, and Ohio State for the Nike camp.
TOM: As a quarterback, how do you decide what school is really best for you?
DEVIN: That’s the toughest part, because that’s the most important decision of my life. My mom, brother, and coach Carter talk about what school is best. Ultimately it’s my decision, but they’ll help.
TOM: Do you want to try to go where any of your teammates go?
DEVIN: It would be nice if they could, but I want them to go where is best for them. That would be selfish of me. I tell coaches about them, because they work hard. From my class we have a really good wide receiver, Jonathon Taylor.
TOM: A question that a lot of people having been asking is about Michigan’s losing season. Can you weigh in on it? From a recruits point of view, how does this season, and the losing record factor in?
DEVIN: It really doesn’t bother me that much, because I saw Michigan last year, and it was totally different. They haven’t gotten their players yet. I can see the system will work, it’s just not working because the players aren’t doing the right things, or plays are breaking down. Once they get the right players, and the others used to it, they’ll be good.
TOM: Have you developed any relationships with other recruits yet?
DEVIN: Yea, Austin White, Nick Hill, we met at the Notre Dame game, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Robert Bolden, and Joe Boyster.
"I never knew about the Michigan, Ohio state rivalry, but they’ve always been good."
We've had one win in what, eight years now? The kid was only eight before then.
we got a legitimate shot at this kid. hopefully in addition to the coaches recruiting him, so can ricardo and jackson. sounds like they can potentially have some influence on him.
Agreed. Ricardo and Jackson will have more of an effect than the coaches I think. The coaches are biased because it's their job to be, but when you hear from guys who are in the same position as you and they are biased because they've done their homework and decided M is the best, that pulls a lot more weight. Do your thing Ricardo!
Can't be sure, but the stats seem to imply this kid can throw the ball as well. That would be a great fit with the talent we have/have coming in at wideout.
Just curious, isn't Ty Wheatley out of Inkster?
im sorry maybe this just shows how much of a homer I am but I lose interest in a recruit when they put o state that high on their list, but to me its like saying id be interested in fighting for the US or maybe Germany in WW2
Right. Because kids from the midwest who consider playing for the best team in the midwest are evil.
Someone pass JJ & Ricardo the snake oil and wizard hat. Def interview Tom...thanks for all that you do.
The general assumption this year is that every other team in division 3 is playing for second behind EGR. I don't expect an Inkster win, but I'll be watching anyway.
I did get to see Gardner a couple weeks ago; Chelsea faced Inkster in the regionals (the quarterfinals); it was the same day as the Northwestern game, so the weather was cold, wet and miserable. Inkster beat Chelsea 16-13, and Gardner did show off his athletic ability quite a bit -- when he started running around, he made things happen (he frustrated Chelsea by using his feet to convert a couple fourth downs). He's a big, strong player, too, so he's not the easiest to bring down. They didn't throw a lot (probably because of the weather), but when they did throw, his throwing motion seemed a bit strange. I can't really describe it, as I was seeing it through a camera lens, but it just looked a little odd to me. But it works for him.
Speaking of quarterbacks, has anyone been watching the high school finals? Specifically, did anyone watch the Holland Christian/Detroit Country Day game? Even more specifically, the Holland Christian quarterback?
Yeah man, A.J. Westendorp!
He's big (6'2" 210lbs) and athletic and a very accurate passer. He set a state finals record with over 440 total yards, over 300 passing with 4 tds. Last I saw he was like 24-30 passing in the finals game and I think he had around 60 total tds on the year. Best of all he has a 4.0 in the classroom. I know he's a senior, Tom do you know anything of where he's going? Or if he's getting recruited by anyone big?
Either a walk on somewhere or GVSU.
I went to the Holland Christian game -- I have a familial interest in HC -- and I was very surprised at how good he looked. His intelligence and vision were impressive, and a couple of the throws he made on the run were remarkable (one was right to the chest of his receiver but was dropped for no good reason, and another went for a touchdown). After watching him play, I was a little surprised I hadn't heard more about him. I asked my sister and brother-in-law (who live in Holland and have kids in the HC system) if they knew anything about his college plans, and they said they hadn't heard much of anything.
On the other side, I was surprised at how undisciplined Country Day was. Where HC was a solid, disciplined, organized team, Country Day just seemed to be a collection of good athletes. They took several delay of game penalties for no good reason, they burned timeouts early and often, and they just seemed like a team that got to the final simply by being athletic enough to run past everyone else.
because HC is such a young program. I'm from the Holland area myself (went to West Ottawa) and I was around when that program was created. My jaw dropped when I heard they were in the final (and won), and now I'm further surprised to hear this.
Is their coach a big name?
As far as high school coaches go, their coach -- Willie Snead III -- is a HUGE name. When they got his resume, they actually thought it was a joke: he won a state championship in Florida, he had been a finalist for national coach of the year, he had a nationally-ranked team, and he listed Urban Meyer as a reference ... and yet here he was applying for the head coaching position of a five-year-old football program at a Christian high school in Holland. It turns out he was looking for a certain sort of environment in which to raise his kids (one of whom is a sophomore and a big part of the varsity team), and Holland fit the bill. It's a pretty cool story, and from what I hear, he's a great guy (and, obviously, a great coach).
Michigan players in the mix. I listened to a radio show that helped explain how Univ. of Pitt. got its program back on track. Coach basically stated that they looked at players that lived less than 4 hr.s from college. This allowed more time to research the players and made it easier to establish contacts. For what it's worth I found it intresting. Has anybody watched this guy play in high school?
Having spent a considerable amount of my adult life living in Pittsburgh, maybe I can shed some light on this. While a good approach to build a foundation, it will never put Pitt over the hump. Western Pennsylvania has great talent for linemen (on both sides of the ball), traditional quarterbacks, and linebackers. If you look specifically at Pitt, their gamebreakers (e.g. McCoy) aren't from western Pennsylvania, and that in large part is because the larger programs in the area cherry-pick the few (and I do mean few) gamebreakers that do come out of western Pennsylvania (e.g. Pryor at OSU, King at PSU). It is definitely a good strategy to gain a local connection with the program (as western Pennsylvania is VERY western Pennsylvania-centric), but it Pitt's approach also has a lot to do with the fact that it isn't a school that has national pull. I do think that Michigan needs to do a better job at keeping certain kids in-state; I thought this specifically watching the USC game last night regarding the receiver that USC has from Muskegon.
When did Ohio State always win in the past 17 years??
Right, because he remembers the game from the year he was born…
Yeah, stupid me thinking that someone young enough to base what football team they like based on color would be in his teens.
For all but one of the past eight of them.
you think ohio state cares that beanie wells was a Michigan fan growing up?
I watched Devin play EGR in the finals. And while his team was blown out in the second half I did not feel it was because of his play. East Grand Rapids dominated the line of scrimmage and pressured Devin in the backfield most of the night. And while I do remember him throwing one pick (while under duress) I also remember him scrambling for his life buying time and then finding open receivers for critical third down conversions. Other times when the pocket broke down he flat out ran for long conversions himself. His throwing style is somewhat unconventional. I am not sure how to describe it. But I did witness him hooking up with a receiver on a deep route. He hit his man in stride for an early TD. I came away impressed with his overall athleticism. Now as far as him considering other schools....even tOsu. That does not concern me. I am sure some of our greatest players like Desmond or Woodson, Ohio natives, probably considered osu when they were growing up.
Blue Balls -- don't compare the Pitt program to Michigan. If our performance over the last 10 years was anything like Pitt, we wouldn't be putting luxury boxes on the stadium, we would be covering sections of the stadium to make the capacity smaller.
Focusing on the local talent is appropriate for establishing a foundation for a program, but unless you are Texas, USC, or a Florida school, there isn't enough local talent to annual contend for Conference and National Championships.
And the hysteria over not getting enough in-state kids needs to get taken down a notch. When we are losing out on players we want (RoJo comes to mind) is when we should get worried. There aren't many instate kids that RR has targeted and then missed out on.
Right on. I completely agree with that.