Spring QB Competition Pushing Gardner

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner received a nod of confidence from Coach Brady Hoke this spring. Gardner reflects on the competition behind him and where his progression is at in the Wolverines' new offense as fall nears.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It was a new day, sun shining, first year offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier on the sideline for Michigan’s spring game Saturday.

Unfortunately for redshirt senior quarterback Devin Gardner he couldn’t escape the shadows of a disastrous and turnover ridden 2013 season, at least for one play -- the first play of the scrimmage -- as he dropped back and was promptly picked off by sophomore cornerback Jourdan Lewis.

“It was a miscommunication,” Gardner said. “I thought (the route) would flatten out and he thought he would go over the top.

“It’s just something we got to work through, you know he’s an early guy and he’s played well so I wasn’t mad at him cause I knew he was going to come back and make a play, which he did.”

Gardner threw 11 interceptions last fall despite completing 60-percent of his passes and showcasing his toughness playing the rest of the Ohio State game with a broken bone in his foot.

Though Saturday’s inconsistent passing performance isn’t exactly what Michigan coach Brady Hoke would like to see come Saturday’s this fall, Hoke has maintained Gardner is and would be their No. 1 choice to start at quarterback for the Wolverines.

“I think Devin had really a pretty good spring,” Hoke said. “He became more consistent on a daily basis I guess is the best way to put it.

“Today, obviously you don’t like starting the scrimmage from your black zone throwing a pick but overall, I think he’s shown improvement. I think he’s shown command, which that includes a maturity about him.”

Last season Gardner had little to no competition behind him on the Wolverines’ depth chart, just true freshman Shane Morris and walk-on Brian Cleary.

This spring, Michigan split snaps at quarterback with a sophomore in Morris, redshirt junior Russell Bellomy coming off a knee injury that forced him to miss the entire 2013 season, and welcomed early-enrolled freshman Wilton Speight.

Dealing with the added pressure and extra competition, Gardner believes he managed it well and sees the positive impact it’s already had on his game.

“Oh my goodness, it was amazing how much better they made me,” Gardner said. “I found myself trying to be super perfect in everything.

“And obviously you can’t be perfect but you can play as best you can when there’s guys coming back, coming from behind and wanting to compete and play, it puts a sense of urgency on you.”

Gardner added, “I think I did a pretty good job of that. But like I always say, those guys competed fiercely and we’re going to continue to compete throughout the fall and summer.”

Knowing this is his last chance to prove himself and cement his place in Michigan football history, Brady Hoke saw a heightened sense of urgency out of Gardner this off-season.

“He works at it,” Hoke said. “He always has been kind of a football junky but he’s worked at it even more so this spring.”

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