At Michigan, it’s no different.
Enter fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner, who is coming off a 2013 season where he threw for 2,960 yards, 21 touchdowns, rushed for 483 yards and 11 touchdowns – and set a few Michigan records along the way.
But with the good came the bad, as Gardner threw for 11 interceptions and finished 2013 as 7-5 as the starting quarterback before injuring his foot late versus Ohio State.
Last season’s offensive inconsistency led to the firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges in January.
Then the Wolverines made a bold move, and hired former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to fix the struggling offense line and help Gardner, who appeared shaken at times last season with the amount hits he was taking down the stretch run in Big Ten play.
“I can’t say enough about Devin’s buy in into what we’ve asked him to do,” Nussmeier said. “He’s done an outstanding job. He’s gotten better each and every day. When you look at the progression from day one first practice this spring, and he goes through the spring a little limited with the foot through the 15 practices. What he accomplished this summer with his goals in the weight room, and just where we wanted him to be when we opened camp. To see where he has gone the first week of camp. We are really, really pleased with his progress.”
Gardner is the true definition of a duel-threat quarterback. He can beat you with his arms or legs. But last season, he made some errant interceptions that cost his team. This time around, Nussmeier says he doesn’t want to handicap Gardner’s skill-set, but just wants his quarterback to use his offensive system wiser.
“You never want to restrict a players ability,” Nussmeier said. “You got to play to the players strengths. We talk about it all the time in the staff room, it’s our job as coaches to put our playmakers in the best possible positions to make plays. And Devin obviously has great natural playmaking ability. So the focus has been to let the system work for him. And then when things break down, use his natural playmaking ability.”
A big reason Nussmeier thinks Gardner will make major strides this season, is his ability to make calls at the line of scrimmage.
“I think his overall understanding of read progression , how we’re going to get through progressions , getting off a primary target, getting to a secondary target,” Nussmeier said. “He is really starting to utilize his check downs and progressions.”
Nussmeier admits he has complete “confidence” in his quarterback, however, he wants Gardner to be more focused on the efficiency of the offense.
“Devin is an extremely confident guy,” Nussmeier said. “And he should be with his skill-set. I think the biggest thing was to get Devin focused on what we wanted to accomplish as an offense, to get him to understand why we were calling the plays we were calling. Is it built to be an explosive or an efficient play? Why we are asking them to make the checks that we are asking him to make. Those are things that take time. He has really spent the extra time to know those types of things.”
Michigan opens its season at home on Aug. 30 versus Appalachian State.