Michigan’s field general held court during the B1G Media Day breakout session -- he shed light on his growth as a leader, his confidence in his team, the overblown reaction to his so-called “guarantee” of victory over Ohio State, and more.
Question: You lose a great weapon with Denard (Robinson) and people not knowing where he was going to line up. How is that going to change things?
Devin Gardner: “It is going to be the same. At Michigan, we always say when a guy leaves, the next guy has to step up. Denard is gone and we lost other seniors as well. He is not the only one that left. We are going to have to step up and find new weapons and continue to compete.”
Question: What stood out to you the most since the end of spring? Has their been one offensive player that you’ve seen a big change?
Devin Gardner: “I’m not sure it is a big change, but you guys don’t know about him. Amara Darboh was really exciting to throw to and you will get a chance to watch.”
Question: What clicked in that Iowa game last year that allowed you guys to be able to score at will?
Devin Gardner: “We worked hard all that week. We had permitting weather and we played hard. Iowa is not a bad football team by any means. They gave a lot of teams a good game and I feel that they are going to be good this year. We were really clicking that game.”
Question: Can you talk a little more about Darboh and what excites you about his game?
Devin Gardner: “He is a big strong guy. He is fast. He is everything you want in a wide receiver basically.”
Question: I had a chance to see you at the Manning Passing Camp working closely with Eli Manning. What were some of the things the he taught you and you took away from that experience?
Devin Gardner: “Just being focused and not ever see my shake. During the game I see him all the time and he just looks regular like a lot of guys in the NFL. He always says stay focused and don’t let anything bother you during a game and don’t let your team see you sweat.”
Question: Do you feel that this program is back to where it should be now, talking about potentially winning a Big Ten, potentially play in a national championship?
Devin Gardner: “I felt that has been the expectation at Michigan forever. I don’t understand that Michigan has not gone anywhere. We’ve been down for a few years, but I feel that we competed hard and did our best with what we had and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Question: How is the offensive line? I know you probably don’t work individually with them, but have you seen those guys make the kind of commitment that you want to see out of them?
Devin Gardner: “Definitely. With a guy like Taylor Lewan coming back for his fifth year when he could have been drafted first overall. There is no opportunity for those guys to not be able to work hard. I’ve seen them earlier in the morning doing extra running, extra picking up blitzes. We don’t even know what type of blitzes we are going to see during the season and they’re working on every blitz possible and protect me. That’s refreshing for me as a quarterback.”
Question: How much say do you think you should have or want to have in helping to figure out who those guys are because those are the guys that are protecting you?
Devin Gardner: “I trust my coaches. Whoever they feel is going to protect me the most I’m right with them. Those guys will prove whether they can or they can’t and they’ll be replaced or they’ll stay in. It is up to the coaches.”
Question: A thing or two was made about comments about Ohio State this summer a couple of months ago and you were not guaranteeing a win but it was close. What is your take on all that?
Devin Gardner: “The media is going to make a story in a time like that when there is nothing going on but baseball. They are going to make a story where they see one fit. I’m not going to retract my statement. I never said promise, I never said guarantee. I said we were going to work hard and do our best and I do believe we are going to win the game. That’s not arrogant. I’m confident in my football team. If that is not okay with the media, I don’t know what to tell them.”
Question: So that is just you being you?
Devin Gardner: “Yeah that is me being me and I’m confident in my football team and they are confident in me. I wouldn’t expect any player from any team to ever answer that question differently and if they do they don’t deserve to be on that football team. Whether it is Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois or whoever, Central Michigan, if one of their guys feel that they cannot beat us, they shouldn’t be on the football team.”
Question: The media picked up on it, but it seemed like one of the Ohio State players picked up on it too and started talking a little trash on Twitter. How much do you want to jump into the fray but how much do you have to pull yourself from that too?
Devin Gardner: “I’m a guy that loves competition. If he loves to talk that’s fine. We’ll get a chance to play those guys. Our focus is August 31st, we just can’t wait to play that game but in due time we will play them as well. We’ll get a chance to cross that bridge then.”
Question: Coach is not ready to tip his hand towards a starting center, but what does Jack Miller bring aboard?
Devin Gardner: “He is doing well. I don’t know who is going to start. They are both doing really well. You have Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow, two very different players. They differ in size, playing style. I just can’t wait to see who starts. I’m pretty sure that it is going to be the best person for the job. They don’t discriminate in any way. Nobody is guaranteed a job.”
Question: Would you consider the fact that with Elliot (Mealer) the possibility that Jack could come in that two guys from the state Ohio will be the first person to always touch the ball at Michigan?
Devin Gardner: “Wow, I never thought about it like that. That’s pretty cool.”
Question: That’s cool? Why is that cool?
Devin Gardner: “I don’t know. It is just ironic, weird.”
Question: With Graham in there, he is a tall guy does that change your passing lanes or anything to have a 6’7” guy right in front of you.”
Devin Gardner: “Height for a quarterback is way overrated. I got Taylor Lewan who is 6’7”. It could be Ben Braden or Glasgow or whoever at left guard that are 6’7” and whether it is Jack Miller or Glasgow, Jack Miller is 6’4”. You have Kyle Kalis 6’5” and (Michael) Schofield at 6’7”. I’m 6’4”, I’m shorter than all those guys. I feel quarterback is all about finding passing lanes. Being a good quarterback, height has nothing to do with it. Unless you’re Joe Flacco who is 6’7” and you can see over everybody.”
Question: Can you take us through where you were a year ago to the time where you are now and they are so different.
Devin Gardner: “A year ago at this time I was working out in Ann Arbor. It was Taylor Lewan, Denard and Jordan Kovacs to media day. I was working out and I was running routes. I was trying to help the team in that way. I feel like it is the same thing, but just helping the team in a different way.”
Question: How does it feel to be the new face of Michigan football?
Devin Gardner: “It feels great. I feel like I’m able to help my team in any way possible. I get the ball first or second on every play and I feel like I have the skills to be able to perform.”
Question: What is Taylor’s diet like?
Devin Gardner: “He doesn’t eat bad things. He doesn’t eat like me I can tell you that. He eats very healthy and not a lot of carbs and things like that. I do not know if I could do it. As a lineman you eat a lot anyways. I don’t really know what he is eating, but he looks good.”
Question: The way that game unfolded, you started playing quarterback after that. In that game you were still playing receiver.
Devin Gardner: “That’s what the coaches wanted me to do. I wish I could have in that game and I wish had a chance the game before. The coaches didn’t see it fit to do that. When I had a chance I took full advantage.”
Question: You were able to graduate in three years, which is a challenge for many people going four and five years.
Devin Gardner: “It is pretty hard. You’ve got a lot of studying, a lot of meeting with teachers and things like that. I’m just grateful that I was able to do it.”
Question: How surprised were you that Taylor came back?
Devin Gardner: “I wasn’t very surprised. He is a team guy and he loves his teammates. Like he has always said, you only get one chance to play your senior year of college football. NFL is always going to be there. Sometimes they talk about not having it or whatever but that’s not happening. What are you going to do with a life without football? I feel like it is great that he came back, but I feel deep down he always wanted to.”
Question: Devin who is the team to beat in this league?
Devin Gardner: “University of Michigan.”
Question: Every time huh?
Devin Gardner: “Yeah.”
Question: Talk about your experience against Ohio State and what you expect from them again this year.
Devin Gardner: As you guys know it is called “The Game” for a reason. It is always going to be a tough fight no matter what the record. One is 0-12 and the other one is 12-0, it is going to be a great game and it is going to be a hard fought game. I just can’t wait to get a chance again in the Big House.”
Question: That was your experience last year?
Devin Gardner: “Yeah definitely. It was a hard fought game all the way to the end. It was a very close game like it should be as “The Game”.
Question: Did you hear about the human interest story of the kid who named his tumor Michigan and coach has invited him to the game?
Devin Gardner: “Yeah that is great on the part of Coach Hoke. Even though we play football and the rivalry is so big, what he is fighting is so much bigger. If what he needs to do is name his Michigan and he said that he needs to beat Michigan, I fully support it. Beat Michigan in that aspect, but when it comes to the game, I don’t support that in any way. I am happy if he beats Michigan in that aspect, but when it comes to the game, it is going to be a little different.”
Question: Who was the biggest influence on you in terms of knowing that education is so important?
Devin Gardner: “My mom. She never really asks me about football much. She always how I am doing in class. You know how I felt about that, but I guess it helped. My brother as well, he is a teacher. He is really big in the school. He is getting his PhD now. I feel like I made them very proud.”