Devin Gardner officially designated as primarily a receiver, drops to 3rd-string QB for Michigan
ANN ARBOR -- Devin Gardner's full-time move to receiver is official.
The junior, who backed up Denard Robinson last year at quarterback and was listed there for the season-opening loss against Alabama, has dropped to third on the depth chart for this week's matchup against Air Force.
Redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy, who threw a pick on his only pass against the Crimson Tide, is the new backup to Robinson.
Meantime, Gardner surpassed sophomore Jerald Robinson on the depth chart at receiver. He started there Saturday and hauled in a 44-yard touchdown pass, his first and only reception since moving to the position.
But more appear to be on the horizon.
“I would say that he’s a wide receiver first, and a quarterback depending on where you’re at in the game or the week," coach Brady Hoke said Monday, his most declarative statement yet about his plans for Gardner at receiver.
The move appears to be permanent for the year, although Gardner retains hope he will win the quarterback job next year. He's expected to compete with Bellomy and incoming recruit Shane Morris for that position.
"I'm definitely a quarterback, so that's without a doubt," Gardner said, when asked about his desire to play the position next year.
Gardner continues to take snaps at quarterback, although he says he has no problem tabling his aspirations to play that position to do what's best for No. 8 Michigan (0-1) -- which, right now, is finding bodies that can catch.
Michigan receivers combined for just eight grabs against Alabama.
"I think of myself as a football player, and a football player who is trying to help this team," Gardner said of his evolving role with the team. "So whatever Coach Hoke feels is going to help the team, that's what I'm going to have to do.
"It's not really hard. I just want to help the team. I'm a team-player first. And I'm a competitor. So whatever position I'm at, I'm going to do my best."
Gardner's debut at receiver drew mixed results. His spectrum ranged from dropping a catch on the Wolverines' first offensive play, to hauling in a 44-yard touchdown pass.
He also had plays that fell somewhere in between, such as one pass that sailed high. Gardner, who stands 6-foot-4, skied for the ball -- over all-SEC corner Dee Milliner -- and got his hands on it.
But he dropped it.
The play encapsulated what Gardner is right now: A bundle of potential who is an unfinished product.
Gardner said he needs to work on his hand strength to convert more plays.
"Stronger hands to hold onto the football," he said. "One came off my hand, and the other one, (Milliner) knocked it out at the last second and I should have had that one too. I just have to have stronger hands and be more physical."
Gardner also appeared to run a couple incorrect routes, and he faded the wrong way on another. He said he also needs to learn to get out of his breaks faster.
The plus side of all that: It can be taught. His size can't, which makes this a worthwhile move for Michigan.
"We've been throwing basically every day, trying to get the timing down and everything, but there's nothing like game experience," Gardner said. "If you're running routes in one-on-ones and things like that, that's not how a real game is.
"I mean, sometimes you get a one-on-one, but that's not how a real game is. You get a lot of zone coverages and things."
Added Hoke: "We’re very comfortable and very confident in Devin at wide receiver. I know Denard is. As he continues to play more, continues especially at a game level and game speed -- you try and do that every day at practice -- I think he learned a little more about playing wide receiver.”