Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DE Kenny Wilkins, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, WR Drew Dileo, WR Jerald Robinson, WR DJ Williamson, WR Jeremy Jackson, WR Ricardo Miller, and RB Stephen Hopkins.
|Detroit, MI - 6'4" 195|
|Scout||5*, #5 QB, #43 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #1 DTQB, #132 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #5 QB, #128 overall|
|Others||#9 overall to Lemming|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, LSU, Ohio State(-ish), Florida|
|YMRMFSPA||Going there: Vince Young|
|Previously On MGoBlog||One metric buttload. Elite 11 wrap. Commitment post. TomVH interview. Tim interview. Friday Night Lights caught him against Southgate, Highland Park, and Pioneer.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Descended from the heavens on a cloud 17 years ago.|
There are a million billion different to choose from but the most relevant is probably the one you've already seen:
And here's a rush mix for fun:
This might be totally unnecessary. Devin Gardner already has eight pages of posts in the MGoArchives and has been fawned over just about weekly since his March commitment to Michigan. You've seen him in the spring game. You've heard quotes about him from everyone from Tom Lemming to Rich Rodriguez, and if you've been on the site the past year you've seen ridiculous HD clips of him going up against half the schedule. The best this post can do is remind you. But by God, the tabs are open so here it is.
This is what you need to know:
Putting a football in Devin Gardner's hands is like handing a master artist a paint brush and an empty canvas. Within seconds, an array of possibilities present themselves as creativity begins to give way to a breathtaking masterpiece.
Seriously. This is going to happen. At some point in his career Devin Gardner is going to become Football Michelangelo, and Michigan fans will leave the stadium confused because they've obviously been raptured up and Heaven looks just like Ann Arbor. (Attention postcard companies: copyrighted, bitches!) I am not kidding you.
"He had a great junior year and has simply built upon that," said Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu. "He is considered one of the top handful of quarterbacks in the country and is firmly entrenched as a five-star prospect. As far as upside goes, I don't see many quarterbacks that have his potential."
Seriously, he's pretty much Vince Young…
On tape the Michigan native resembles Vince Young, starting from the No. 10 jersey he wears and extending all the way through his three-quarters release and sneaky, elusive, long-striding ability to make big plays with the ball in his hands.
…except better! Seriously:
Rivals.com national analyst Barry Every ranked Gardner as the top overall quarterback at the camp based on long-term potential and the ability to win football games.
“I don’t think there’s any question, after having seen him for four days, how hard he competes and how hard he wants to be the best,” Every said.
Every and Biggins agreed Gardner compares favorably at the same stage of his career to players like Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Juice Williams and Dennis Dixon, all Elite 11 alumni.
Holy crap! Whoever put this article together decided to put Vince Young, Tim Tebow, and Dennis Dixon in the same sentence with Juice Williams! Also that stuff about Gardner "comparing favorably" to three spine-tinglingly awesome quarterbacks! And Juice Williams! He's also an "advanced version" of Terrelle Pryor!
Obviously this is true and the rankings above, which are extremely friendly but not exactly better than Vince Young (#1 overall), Terrelle Pryor (#1 overall), and Tim Tebow (top 5) are lies. But what gives? The theory promulgated by this site goes as follows:
- Junior Devin Gardner is an enormously raw QB prospect in serious need of coaching and development. His throwing motion is the dreaded "shot put." When ESPN wrote him up as a promising Elite 11 ball boy, even Gardner acknowledged it:
- Over the summer, Gardner hits every camp imaginable to improve his throwing mechanics and general quarterback things. Gardner is wildly coachable and makes great strides, culminating in the Elite 11 camp where Rivals goes ga-ga over him—for a while he was a top 50 prospect and the #1 QB in their rankings—and everyone else slides him up into that five star area. At that camp he wins "best feet" and "best in the classroom". Allen Trieu gets the pithy quote, this evaluating his performance at the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp two summers ago:
- Over the course of Gardner's senior season his mechanical improvement slowly fades as he goes back to what he knows. This is his Flowers for Algernon period. Sites notice this over the course of the year and especially at the Under Armor game and slide him down, saying things like "after watching him in Orlando, I think he needs a redshirt." Rivals sends his ranking back down; Scout sticks to its guns but doesn't move him any higher after he settled in around #40.
After watching him during the week, Gardner will have to learn to be tall in the pocket and take advantage of his height. He says his biggest weakness is his accuracy, which is a direct result of arm placement and how the ball is released. He has a real bad habit of dropping his release point when throwing, as well as sinking his hips and knees when throwing. This happens more when throwing shorter routes, as he tries to guide the ball.
"We all know he's a great athlete and he showed that by doing very well at receiver in addition to quarterback. What has impressed me the most recently, though, is how much he has improved as a passer. His mechanics are like night and day from this time last year and his passes have much more zip. The work he has put in as a passer has paid off."
Thanks to Tim you can see evidence of this slide with your own eyes. The pushing motion was evident in the state championship game. It was also very prominent in the Friday Night Lights-caught Highland Park game (stick around to 3:50 for a sick back juke, though). When he opened the season against Pioneer it was absent.
That's the theory, and it was borne out by Gardner's performance after he enrolled early. In both the spring game and semi-public fall scrimmage he threw ugly interceptions and struggled to deal with pressure. Your author's impression from the game:
Meanwhile, Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.
Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.
In another spring bits post, Gardner was said to "look like a freshman" and be "clearly behind the two sophomores."
On the other hand, when a couple of trusted observers took in the coaches clinic and the scrimmage associated with that they both reported back about the coaching staff's raves:
As for Devin Gardner, raves about his "incredible feel for the game" from QB coach Rod Smith were relayed via both observers. Other spring hype: "huge," "covers ground without seeming to move" like Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor, and… wait for it… "well ahead of both at this stage." Gardner is a "gym rat" who will happily spend all day watching film. However, he's "nowhere near" having a grasp of the offense and his throwing is erratic. When he's good, he can make deep throws with touch unlike either of the other two, but his overall accuracy lags because of the mechanical issues. His delivery isn't consistent yet. This will not be an enormous surprise to anyone who saw the difference between Camp Devin and Degraded Devin over the course of this high school football season.
That's what we've seen at Michigan. We have some idea what his scouting report looks like, but here's a bunch of tantalizing quotes anyway. Rivals:
Has excellent height, thick neck and shoulders and long arms. His lower half is built like a two-guard and his overall body structure looks line an athletic outside linebacker. He is built similar to a young Jason Campbell when at Auburn. … Definitely needs that redshirt year in order to hone his skills and learn the offense. His potential is almost limitless and he could be a major terror for defensive coordinators at the next level. Gardner should be a two- to three-year starter with all-conference and NFL potential.
More from Trieu:
Athletic quarterback with innate ability to feel pressure and elude defenders. Has good change of direction and is very elusive. Has a nice arm and can make all the throws. Needs work mechanically, but shows good touch on his passes, particularly the deep ball. Is a very smart and poised player who is cool under pressure and in the clutch. Shows good command of the offense and understanding of the game.
"(Devin Gardner) really impressed me a lot," [Scout Florida expert Geoff] Vogt added. "He was bigger than I expected him to be. His arm was everything that people made it out to be. He was accurate... He clearly, in my opinion, is the top quarterback on that team... He'd be the No. 1 quarterback in Florida straight out this year and that's really saying something. I think he has a really bright future at Michigan."
Scout also says he's a "superior athlete," something backed up by his performance at that SMSB camp, where he finished third in the 60 meters at that camp behind two 5'10"-ish defensive backs. When he showed at a Scout combine he clocked a 4.57 40—impressive for a guy his size—and won the combine MVP.
And then there's the Graham thing. Gardner has it. After he realized he couldn't get by on sheer athleticism any more, Brandon Graham was indefatigable, constantly working, never depressed, always progressing towards his ultimate destination, and impervious to all the crap Michigan football's been caught up in the last few years. There's a rare resiliency in that kind of work ethic, and it's something Gardner seems to share. The Elite 11 classroom award, the constant drive to make himself better, the early enrollment despite obstacles: these are all indications.
There are also testimonials. JC Shurburtt:
Michigan commit Devin Gardner (Inkster, Mich./Inkster) has also surprised many. His hustle, leadership and athleticism add up to a tremendous maturity that will help him compete early for playing time in Ann Arbor.
“One thing we have seen every day, he loves to compete,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very conscientious guy, he’s a very, very quick learner and he’s shown a few things. He’s got a long way to go as you can imagine any true freshmen would, especially at quarterback, but he’s gotten better each and every day.”
Rivals says he's "very motivated to be the best" and a "high effort guy."
Gardner and his team also gutted out an appearance in the state playoffs by ending the season on a tear. Because their conference disbanded suddenly and they were left in the cold, Inkster played a brutal schedule with eight road games, three of them against Ohio powers. They barely scraped into the playoffs at 5-3 thanks to a road win over Steubenville (OH) and their 68-game home win streak.
Once in the playoffs and then proceeded to blow doors off. Tim took in a 35-7 beating of Southgate; Inkster proceeded to roll to the state championship game, beating their first three opponents by a total of 136-54 with Gardner pouring in eleven touchdowns. Everything fell apart in the state title game, but just getting there was a testament to Devin Gardner's ability.
So now he's here and we'll see how it works out. Every indication is that Gardner will, sooner or later, be the centerpiece of an assault on defenses across the Big Ten. The only thing we don't know is when it starts.
Etc.: "Face in the crowd" on SI. Talks nonsense with baby. Trieu interviews him. Played WR some at the SMSB camp and we should give serious thought to teach him how to run the fade on the goal line. Has an impressive wikipedia page, too. Burned OSU offer.
Why Vince Young? The combination of size, speed, a wonky throwing motion, and the multiple comparisons from gurus tips the balance over to Young, who redshirted despite being the top prospect in the country and didn't come into his own as a passer until he played Michigan in the Rose Bowl—awesome timing!
Guru Reliability: High. Ton of exposure to him. Elite 11 camp, UA game, all that stuff.
General Excitement Level: Towering. Vast. Expansive.
Projection: Should have the luxury of redshirting with Denard's emergence into a viable option. Given Rodriguez's statements on the matter…
There is also freshman Devin Gardner, but Rodriguez said he wouldn't burn Gardner's redshirt if it was for a couple of plays a game.
…you'll probably see him on the bench unless both sophomores struggle. After that it's kind of hard to see him unseating an established junior, but they'll mix him in when given the opportunity; a lot of people have claimed he's going to be the starter as early as 2011, but I think he'll have to wait until he's a redshirt junior, at which point he should be Awesome Devin through and through.