For years, Devin Gardner has called himself a quarterback. But now Michigan football coach Brady Hoke is calling him something else.
“I would say he’s a wide receiver first,” Hoke said. “And then a quarterback depending on where you’re at in the game or the week.”
In a 41-14 loss to No. 2 Alabama, Gardner didn’t play a single snap at quarterback, while redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy took one. And on Monday, when Michigan’s depth chart was released, Bellomy had moved in front of Gardner at the quarterback position.
But Gardner still doesn’t see it as a complete position shift. Or as a shift at all.
“I think of myself as a football player and a player who’s trying to help this team,” Gardner said. “Whatever Coach Hoke feels is going to help the team, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Gardner made just one catch on Saturday, though it was the Wolverines’ lone passing touchdown. And on that single pass, he accounted for nearly a quarter of Michigan’s receiving yardage.
It was an overall disappointing loss for Michigan with few bright spots. For Gardner, it was his baptism by fire. His first start at wide receiver came against arguably the best defense in the country, and from there, he can only go up.
“That’s probably the best defense we’re going to play so I can learn a lot from that,” Gardner said. “My tempo and my speed, getting out of breaks a little faster, little things like that.”
And the coaches agreed. While they have phased Gardner into the position through practice, they knew nothing would simulate a matchup against Alabama quite like the game itself.
“We’re very comfortable and very confident with Devin at wide receiver,” Hoke said. “As he continues to play more at game level and game speed -- and you try and do that every day in practice -- but I think he learned a little bit more about playing wide receiver.”
Gardner will continue to take snaps at quarterback in practice, though he didn’t specify what percentage of time he’ll spend at which position. Early during fall camp it was 50/50, but with Bellomy as the No. 2 quarterback, his snaps surely will decrease.
Gardner hopes that in his senior season he’ll be able to contend for the starting spot at quarterback. But if the coaches prefer to keep him at wide receiver and that’s where he contributes most, he said, that’s where he’ll stay.
Either way, the experience at one will help him at the other.
“I know all the patterns and everything and I know what the quarterback is looking for,” Gardner said. “And it’s even going to help me when I play quarterback because now I know what the receiver is looking for as well.”