The Progression of QB Devin Gardner: A Look Into Reads and Footwork

The Progression of QB Devin Gardner: A Look Into Reads and Footwork

Submitted by Space Coyote on August 26th, 2013 at 1:36 PM

This was initially a response to the front page post "Preview 2013: Quarterback". Not in an effort to claim such high self-importance, I do believe the response deserves it's own thread so people can digest it properly. What it amounts to, in principle, is that Devin Gardner still has a long ways to go to becoming a great QB for Michigan, but it's due to subtle things, reps and practice, footwork and trust in his eyes, more than any major overhauls. What I also want to emphasize with this is just how impressive this makes DG's performance last year. He is still raw and is still learning, but has shown great potential for his future. When he starts to improve these small aspects of his game, he'll go from whipping on bad defenses and struggling against faster defenses, to being that QB that can lead you to victory against any defense. Oh, and no trolling from me this time.

Devin tends to make the correct reads... eventually, but he still has a long way to go to make the correct reads timely. This is something that is extremely difficult for young QBs, as the rate at which you digest the fast moving info in front of you is a very complex thing, as you can imagine.

Right now, though, he stays on his initial read or initial progression too long. This also gets into his footwork issues. Footwork plays a large role in throwing power and throwing accuracy; it also plays a huge role in timing. Let's look at this example:

Here, Gardner should drop (off of PA), hitch step, throw to first read or hitch step to second read, throw. Instead, he drops, hitch step, hitch step, hitch step, second read, hitch step, throw. It's at least two hitches too long. The pass play and routes are designed to keep the deep passer and shorter pass nearly in the same throwing lane, meaning when Gardner hitch steps to his second read, it's a very subtle move to the outside and throw. But because Gardner is late, because he isn't trusting his eyes to process the reads quick enough or his feet to take him to his next read, he can't make up the ground with his reset. A reset so deep to the sideline would be difficult anyway, you're asking the QB to get his shoulders, hips, and foot about 40 degrees over and then step accurately (rather than flaring open and throwing across body as Denard often did because of poor footwork) to make the throw accurately, which isn't likely.

Instead, if Gardner trusts his eyes and feet, on the second hitch it's probably less than 10 degrees of a shift in body. This means his mechanics are still under control, his weight is still correct, his eyes still see the field but now at a faster rate. Delivering the ball on time gets him at least 12 yards on the accurate pitch and catch and then probably at least 8 YAC. That's a 20 yard gain wiped out because of not being completely up to speed and not trusting his feet to take him through progressions.

Again, this is something that takes a lot of time and reps. You hope to see it this year if his footwork is as improved as what we're hearing. These subtle things will greatly improve timing and accuracy for Gardner. They'll make it so this is a 20 yard gain, so his pick against Iowa doesn't happen, so his pick toward the end of the Northwestern game doesn't happen, so the slug-go route isn't late to Gallon and instead of a long gain it's a TD. But that's the huge difference something extremely subtle makes. That's reps and trust in your reads and feet. That's where DG wasn't yet last year. If he makes that step this year: watch out.


Now, to those worried about Borges's ability to begin to develop QBs, it's important to see that DG has, as early as last year, made subtle changes to his footwork to improve his ability to throw. He is improving, it's about consistency.

Look here:

This is a throw to the opposite side of the field and perhaps the best throw Gardner made all year. This is honestly an incredible throw for a college QB to make, far hash, 12 yards down field, with correct timing and perfect accuracy.

But look at his footwork. Gains depth on second and forth drop step. Closes down on step 6 and 7. Step 7 isn't a straight step back, notice how he subtly moves back at a 45 degree angle, pulling his momentum to that sideline. By the time he plants that 7th step, he's in a position to immediately step into the throw, he's balanced  with his momentum pulling him to the sideline, and he steps into the throw with good weight transfer to hit the out route.

This is a progress that will take time. But it is happening. There is progress.