Why I’m Moderately Thankful for Devin Gardner’s Mediocrity

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football

It’s such a tired cliche. But in “Daddy Sang Bass,” Johnny Cash says, “I remember when I was a lad. Times were hard and things were bad. But there’s a silver lining behind every cloud.”

It’s one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs. And–I promise–it’s serving a purpose here.

When Devin Gardner was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, my mind immediately turned to the possibility of him putting together one breakout season and fleeing to the NFL without cashing in on his opportunity to stay and develop. And despite many claims that our very own Devin Gardner would never do such a thing and act upon such a high, we’ve seen this story too many times to buy me comfort.

The perfect example is Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. He almost mirrors the career of Devin Gardner.

As a freshman for the Badgers, Gordon appeared in only three games, accounting for menial yardage against lesser opponents. His sophomore campaign wasn’t looking like anything special, either, until he burst onto the scene late and began to be a productive member of the Badger backfield. The highlight of the 2012 season came in the Big Ten Championship against Nebraska, where he rushed for 216 yards on only nine carries. And now this season, because of some numbers I’ve only been able to generate in video games, it’s looking like Gordon will be one of the top picks at running back in the 2014 Draft if he declares.

Who honestly saw this coming? Sure, the potential was there. But outside of mom’s ambitious dreams and dad’s tough love, it’s not as though we were looking at Melvin Gordon a year ago and saying, “Yeah, this kid will be an excellent get in the draft next year.”

I was fearful of the same thing happening to Devin Gardner–come onto the scene, see you’re actually a hot shot, and sprint for the cash and glory in the NFL.

It’s not that I wouldn’t have been happy for Gardner. Because I would have. Any kid who has done well enough to get his name tossed around in the NFL Draft certainly has the right to follow his heart. But as many fans and critics and coaches will be quick to point out, even if Gardner had constructed a worthy season up to this point, it probably would not have been in his best interest to declare.

Many scouts would want to see Gardner stick around the college game and continue to develop at quarterback, especially considering his switch to wide receiver for the first part of the 2012 season, which probably derailed some of the progress he had made before then.

From a program perspective, it’s always a blessing when a guy like Devin Gardner sticks around for an additional year. Michigan experienced that feeling when Taylor Lewan surprised us all and passed up a chance to go to the NFL after last season. The leadership of Gardner is undeniable. He’s a great presence on the team and is quick to take blame for faults. His on-field inconsistency has masked that, unfortunately, and it’s a shame.

And you might also add that this gives a guy like Shane Morris even more time to prepare for the day when he takes over the Michigan offense. He’s inevitably saving Morris (and probably fans, too) from an overload of stress next season.

From a personal perspective for Gardner, he’ll be able to spend an extra year at Michigan to prep his game for the next level and fight for a Big Ten Championship and–who knows–maybe a shot at a national title. And the great thing about Gardner’s attitude is that it ensures us he won’t just feel obligated to hang around and spend next season pampering himself, not taking any risks for fear of the results. He’s going to put it on the line when he plays.

Notice: The title reads “moderately thankful.”

I cry just as much as much as anyone else when Michigan’s offense takes the field.

But this will go to serve well for Devin Gardner and this team. That’s inevitable.

Tyler Fenwick
Managing Editor at The Big House Report
I am an aspiring journalist studying at IUPUI. I am the third (and youngest) manager of The Big House Report, and it's my responsibility to make sure it runs more smoothly today than it did yesterday.