After Devin Gardner's performance yesterday the debate over which prospect is the best in the state should be far less contentious. Gardner has been downright dominant in camps and combines this summer and his Sound Mind Sound Body performance was more of the same. One of the things that set this kid apart is his thirst for competition. Many prospects would sit events like these out, after all, he has earned over 20 offers and is already committed to Michigan. Nothing left to prove…only work to do on his game, right? Wrong. Anytime Gardner has a chance to prove he is better than the man lined up across from him, he is going to take it.
At quarterback he looked strong and had considerable zip on his passes. He has long possessed nice touch on his deep ball and that was again on display in passing drills. However, he is still working to perfect the throwing mechanics that sometimes cause his ball to sink or get there late on the short and intermediate throws. That said, his progress is obvious and should be even more stated later in the summer after he puts in more work at events like the Peyton Manning camp.
When not at quarterback, Gardner really wowed the coaches and scouts in attendance. After a passing drill he'd step into the receiving line so he could take on the best DBs. One by one he called them out… most notably Dior Mathis and Mylan Hicks. Mathis was probably the fastest player in attendance, but that meant little against Gardener. Gardner's strength advantage and impressive quickness allowed him to defeat Mathis' jam quite easily and get into the open. From there Gardner's long stride took over and his long deceptive gate kept the separation between him and his fleet-footed counterpart. Mathis' only recourse was to grab jersey. That only served to further stoke Gardner's competitive fire. "You're the best corner in the state," yelled Gardner at Mathis. "You can't stop me, so you have to grab me… and you're the best corner in the state?"
Mathis grabs some jersey
With Mathis down, Gardener was ready to take on Hicks. That was a taller task because on this day the Renaissance product was the top defensive back on the field. (More on that later.) Once Gardner found out who Hicks was he immediately went about setting up the match-up. "I was just joking around with him and said, ‘I heard they call you lockdown'," Gardner said recalling his conversation with Hicks. Then he said, ‘Naw, they call me clamps!' Why did he say that? I had to get him."
And get him he did. Gardner did his best LeBron James impersonation to sky for one pass on a comeback route. On a subsequent play he shook free from Hicks with a quick move to the inside on a crossing pattern. The ball didn't get to Gardner, but he felt he had proven his point. ‘WHERE'S MYLAN HICKS,' he shouted.
Gardner goes up over Hicks
The challenges were all in good fun and in the spirit of competition. When they stepped away from the field they were friends again. But Gardener had sent a message. He was the best quarterback on the field... he was the best receiver on the field… he was the best player on the field.
Mylan may have had some issues covering Gardner, but who didn't. And for the record, he did a much best job of all the defensive back contingent of sticking with the versatile Inkster star. Had he not lost his footing on Gardner's aforementioned quick move on the crossing pattern, he probably wouldn't have gotten left so badly. All that said, Hicks is a stud. He doesn't have Mathis' sheer speed, but he is just as quick and is more physical. He is tremendous at putting himself in prime position to make a play on the ball… and if he is in the vicinity when the ball arrives, forget about it. Hicks has outstanding ball skills. Right now the word is he is leaning toward Michigan State. The next week will likely be huge, as his parents are scheduled to make their first trips to East Lansing and Ann Arbor.
Mylan Hicks (right)
Miller's first taste of football in the North went well. Two things were obvious… he could get deep or go up over anyone in attendance. He was too strong for most DBs he faced, and the speed he possesses at his size made it unfair at times. Hicks was the only DB that experienced his fair share of success in one-on-ones. Miller's biggest enemy on the day was the dropsies. The short to intermediate passes…i.e. those with some steam on them… weren't always handled cleanly. He got better as the day went on and was always at his best when paired with Gardner.
Mathis has the speed to cover like a blanket, but a few of the receivers… namely Gardner and Miller… were able to get the best of him because of their distinct strength advantage. That gave them a clear edge off the line. That resulted in a lot of grabbing on Mathis' part. He may be better served playing off the bigger more physical receivers at this event so his speed can be more of an asset. It's hard to imagine the result being much different if he keeps pressing the aforementioned duo. Chalk it up as an average showing on the first day of camp for a guy that generally dominates in this kind of setting.
Mathis covers Gardner
This is another youngster that just thrives on competition. Events like these seem to do White a disservice because he is so physical and tough. Two-hand touch just isn't his kid's style. Still, White impressed with his pass catching ability out of the backfield. He once again showed that the difficulty he experienced at the Columbus 7-on-7 was an anomaly. He also showed that there is something to be said for football speed. Throw his hundred meter times out the window when he is on the gridiron. When the ball is in the air, he has an extra gear. The same can be said for when he sees a crease. Put simply… the kid hauls tail to paydirt. Off the field, things are getting just as interesting with White. Wednesday night Ricardo Miller was on the job. When Miller went home Thursday evening, Gardner seemed to pick up where his future teammate left off. They have been working overtime to try to convince White to become a Wolverine. Whether their efforts are having an impact remains to be seen.