ANN ARBOR -- Catching a glimpse in the latter half of the 2012 season of what might be to come for the Michigan offense in 2013, junior quarterback Devin Gardner is fully entrenching himself as a leader for the Michigan football team, gaining the trust of his teammates, and coaches, on and off the field.
“He’ll call me at night and we’ll talk for 10 minutes about something,” said Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges. “Sometimes it has nothing to do with football.”
“Anytime you start experiencing success, like I said dozens of times, you can become a better leader. It doesn’t necessarily follow but once the team gains confidence in you it’s easier to invoke your leadership, where, when you’re not doing so well, that’s tough to do.”
Starting the final five games last season in place of an injured Denard Robinson, Gardner experienced plenty of success in amassing 11 touchdowns to just five interceptions through the air, seven more touchdown scampers on the ground, totaling 1320 total yards of offense at the quarterback position.
Looking closely at the success of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Seattle Seahawks man under center, Russell Wilson, and even former No. 1 overall pick, the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton, Borges and Gardner have found similarities, nuances if you will, that could be added to the Wolverines package this fall.
“We’ve looked at some of that stuff and heck we’ve looked at everybody,” said Borges. “Look at guys with similar skill sets to our quarterback.
“Are there going to be some drastic changes? No. But there will be some subtleties that will be a little bit different and all of it mostly geared to the players we have with the quarterback being at the top of the list.”
Young wide receivers emerge
The departure of Roy Roundtree along with the loss of Jerald Robinson at the wide receiver position leaves Michigan with experienced players in Jeremy Gallon (caught 49 balls for 829 yards and four touchdowns in 2012), Drew Dileo, and Jeremy Jackson, but a potential hole at the outside receiver spot in the form of stretching the field vertically.
Enter Amara Darboh (6-2, 213 pounds, sophomore) and Jehu Chesson (6-3, 193 pounds, redshirt freshman) -- two unproven playmakers drawing high praise from Al Borges, ready to make a huge impact for the Wolverines if their practice field exploits move from state street to main street by August 31st.
“The ones you probably don’t know much about are Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh and those two have demonstrated in the first few days that they have some big play ability,” said Borges. “They’ve won a few jump balls, lost a few but haven’t lost them all.
“Both of them have really good straight line speed, particularly Jehu, but Amara is more field fast than he is time fast but his time isn’t terrible either. Big receivers, rangy receivers -- we wanted to get some bigger kids in there.”
Offensive line shuffle
Standouts? Al Borges isn’t ready to commit to any potential starters along the interior of the offensive line just yet but is feeling very comfortable knowing he’ll have an all-American left tackle protecting Devin Gardner’s blind side and another at right tackle in Michael Schofield that’s played a lot of football in Ann Arbor.
Taylor Lewan’s decision in particular, is playing dividends with all of the youth on the depth chart this spring.
“He made a statement to start with just by deciding to play another year here,” said Borges. “Which I think is pretty cool, a pretty cool sign to send to the rest of the team.
“That’ll help our team immeasurably and I think as we continue to go through it, just like the coaches now, continue to mentor some of these younger players – it’s helpful in so many ways and not the least of which that you have a solid left tackle that’s a proven commodity.”
In game experience is lacking on the interior of the offensive line for Michigan but through six practices Borges likes what he sees out of the young pups up front.
“Ben Braden is doing a nice job and Joey Burzynski has been pretty solid -- Jack Miller,” said Borges. “You can tell he’s played the position a lot now and Jack is more confident, doing a nice job with the snap which is a big part too.
“And Kyle Kalis is picking it up. All of those guys but no standouts, I wouldn’t venture to say that but I think every one of those guys has improved.”
Still looking to replace former all-American center Dave Molk, that position battle is as fierce as ever and one that will most likely last well into fall camp.
“He’s being pressed hard by Graham Glasgow and Joey Burzynski which is forcing the issue not just with him but with all of them,” said Borges. “As that situation continues to develop I think Jack see’s an opportunity, as does Graham and Joe for that matter.
“With most kids, competition tends to bring the best out of them and I think that position is a prime example because it is pretty much up for grabs.”
To watch video of Borges, press play below. Check back later today for more Borges on the running back situation and the Wolverines plan at the tight end position.