Michigan WR Devin Gardner in quarterback mix after not getting reps in weeks
ANN ARBOR -- Devin Gardner once was a quarterback. And then he was part quarterback, part receiver.
Lately, though, he's been all receiver.
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said Tuesday that Gardner hasn't received a quarterback snap in at least a couple weeks, which explains why the junior remained stationed at wideout even as backup Russell Bellomy floundered against Nebraska.
"He hasn't taken a rep at quarterback in a long time," Borges said. "(Sliding him under center) would not have been a smart move."
Borges said Gardner ceased taking quarterback reps because it's too difficult to get more than two quarterbacks a full complement of snaps.
"It can't be done," he said. "I'd do it in a minute if I could do it, but you can't rep three quarterbacks and prepare him to play wide receiver, too. That’s impossible.
"You have to make the decision where you think he’s going to help your team the most and then go from there.”
Gardner backed up Denard Robinson the past two years, but the former No. 1 dual-threat quarterback recruit moved to receiver in the offseason to capitalize on his athleticism.
He has at least one catch in every game this season, including a career high five against Air Force. He has 16 catches for 266 yards and a team-high four touchdowns.
But Robinson injured a nerve in his throwing elbow during the second quarter Saturday against Nebraska and didn't return. He also injured the nerve against Illinois, making it twice in three weeks he's left games.
Bellomy replaced Robinson in both games, including playing more than half the loss against Nebraska, but his performance was disastrous. He missed on his first 10 throws and finished 3-of-16 passing with three interceptions.
Robinson is expected to start Saturday against Minnesota (noon, BTN), but Michigan is opening up a competition for the backup job in the event Robinson misses more time.
That includes diverting some of Gardner's practice reps to quarterback.
"We look at the reps and see where we can fit him in," Borges said. "We see the health of our quarterbacks, and how they hold up. But he's got to do it now, because who knows what's going to happen? Denard's going to be OK, but who knows what's going to happen the next snap?
"You have to find a way to balance (the practice reps), whether you like it or not. I would prefer to keep it the way it is, but we're just not afforded that luxury."
Borges said Gardner is challenging for Bellomy's backup quarterback job.
“Denard’s going to play -- but again, you don’t know because of the injury," he said. "So we have to prepare for any eventuality. We’re going to kind of compete for the backup, if you will, and go from there.”