Gardner visited MSU on December 16th, on the same trip that saw Ogemdi Nwagbuo also give a verbal to the Spartans.
MSU beat some stiff competition for the 6' 6" 250 pound tight end, including Louisville, who tried to woo him with an unofficial visit as late as November 17th, and Kentucky, his favorite team growing up.
Some were were concerned that with the often mentioned trio of Kentucky, Louisville, and Western Kentucky, that Gardner might be more of a sleeper. However, some of the big boys were after Gardner as well. Nebraska, Clemson, and Cincy offered, and Michigan, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame showed interest.
Early on in Gardner's recruiting, many thought this member of the "Tremendous 26" would follow a former family member to Kentucky. His grandfather, Harry Denham, played basketball and football for Kentucky in the 1930's, and current Kentucky recruit Chris Cessna pushed hard, and offered to be Gardner's roomate in college...to no avail.
Bobby Petrino and Louisville also made a strong push. Louisville actually jumped ahead of Louisville at the end by sending handwritten letters every day. Nebraska pushed hard by sending a couple letters every week and calling every other day. In the end, Gardner saw a great opportunity with the Spartans, who use tight end's as a critical cog in their offense.
With Kellen-Davis struggling some with run blocking, and Ryan Woods and his sore knee moving on, Gardner saw the opportunity to get some playing time early on.
As he told managing editor Mike Fowler in a previous article, "I want to play for a school that has a good program and is going to win a lot of games while I'm there." He also added, "Education is important to me, but it is also important to me how the team is-how hard they work, the coaching staff and whether they win or not." Certainly Gardner envisions the same turnaround that John L Smith does.
Gardner has great skills at 255 pounds, and great speed with a 4.8 forty. Gardner had 25 receptions for 337 yards and three touchdowns as a junior. He cites his strengths as catching the ball, and he demonstrates soft hands on film. He also is a physical blocker at the point of attack. He also has a great motor, playing throught he whistle on every play, an attribute that will make people smile.
Gardner also has the versatility to play multiple positions as some schools looked at him as a offensive lineman as well.
Certainly this is a nice "get" for MSU as they bolster the tight end position, once of key importance in the spread offense. I'll have more on Gardner later. Stay tuned!