As we inch closer to kick-off of the 2014 college football season, The University of Michigan enters the year as a wild-card, at least to me. Their roster is loaded with talent, however, the talent hasn’t produced nearly as much as expected, if at all, since they have been on campus together.
As 2014 rolls in, it has been kind to the university thus far, highlighted by Doug Nussmeier leaving the Alabama Crimson Tide, and joining forces with Brady Hoke at Michigan. Jabrill Peppers, Ty Isaac and Drake Harris highlight the newest Wolverine players coming to Ann Arbor, but what does this all mean for the offense?
This offense still has playmakers that can turn the game on it’s side immediately, and none more important than Devin Gardner. People were quick to kill Gardner last year because of “poor performance,” but fail to realize that he had one of the best seasons a Michigan quarterback has ever had. He had an impressive 2,960 yards passing last year, and would have easily gone over 3,000 yards through the air if he had played in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but he sat out due to broken foot.
He accounted for thirty-two (32) touchdowns last year both through the air and on the ground, twenty-one (21) of them passing, and was a main contributor to the success of the team. He even broke records as a starting quarterback this year against Indiana, in one of the most entertaining Michigan games this season. Gardner accounted for 584 yards, 503 of them passing, in the game, both Michigan records.
He was turnover-prone, however, so that is where he is truly criticized, and if Michigan will succeed this year, he needs to eliminate a good portion of them. Turnovers happen, sure, but ones you can control should result in a sack-taken, or the ball thrown away, not to the opposing team. Gardner is a highlight machine, but he also needs to clean up his decision making skills, and hang on to the football.
I truly expect a great deal from Gardner this year, mainly because of what I saw last year. He has the potential to be something special in Ann Arbor, and I think that we should expect that from him. He has the physical tools to make every throw, and the speed to blow by defenders, so why should the fan base lower their expectations, especially when their quarterback has so much potential?
Below will be my personal expectations of Gardner; These do not reflect the thoughts of any member of TBHR but myself.
Yards: 3,000 passing, 400 rushing.
Gardner proved last year he can excel at the quarterback position, he needs to continue to build off his success, and not dwell on his turnovers and mishaps. The running backs will take some weight off his shoulders in terms of rushing, so I think he will rush for a little less yards than his previous season.
He threw 11 total interceptions in 12 games last season, so been eliminating 4 could result in a couple wins for Michigan. One interception a game will kill any offense, so if he cuts down, the smallest total could benefit both parties.
Touchdowns: 25 Passing, 6 rushing
If Gardner is productive again this year, I expect his touchdowns total to be similar, but more through the air, mainly because of the two running backs that Michigan will have will be more experienced, and ready to score this year.
As of today, I have Michigan winning 8 games, and losing 4. This can change heavily depending on the production of Nussmeier’s new offense, but I think 8 wins should be the expectation this season.
Look out for more Player Expectation pieces from myself, and several TBHR writers very soon.