Brady Hoke has told his team before that “the only noise that matters is what [they] get constructively from the coaches.”
But after two narrow -- and difficult -- wins over Akron and Connecticut, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner said he has heard it from the outside too. And that noise hasn’t been positive.
“When you play as bad as I played, you kind of earn that,” Gardner said.
For the past few season he had seen how quarterback Denard Robinson had to deal with the criticism and scrutiny. He had counseled Robinson during those times and saw what he’d go through when he put the Michigan defense in difficult situations or threw a poorly timed pass to one of his receivers.
Now, those kinds of experiences and push back are put on Gardner. And while Gardner said that he likes to just have quiet during those times and then move on, Hoke said that he knows Gardner understands how much the team believes in him, the same way in which Gardner believed in Robinson the last few seasons.
“He has got a lot of guys that have his back -- when you think about the 114 other guys who have a lot of faith and belief, and the coaches and all that,” Hoke said. “I think he’s resilient. I think he’s smart. I think he’s confident.”
In the Wolverines’ games against Akron and Connecticut, Gardner made mistakes he hadn’t made in quite a while, mistakes that a redshirt junior shouldn’t make.
On Wednesday Gardner said that a few of those mistakes and errors had come about because he had stepped away from his fundamentals and techniques. While players work countless hours to try to avoid doing just that, Gardner said it’s easy to go regress into bad habits during hard moments in games.
“I took a psych class and [they said] it takes 10,000 hours to get out of a habit or something like that and when you get in the heat of the moment or something like that you can revert back to the old ways of doing things so it’s so easy to do that,” Gardner said. “We just have to stay focused.”
Hoke said that Gardner had responded well in the bye week and that he had seen his quarterback returning to the basic techniques and nuances of the position, which will be key if Michigan hopes to strike any kind of offensive rhythm against Minnesota.
Part of finding that groove will be creating plays that are based not on panic mode or desperation, but on what the Gopher defense is giving Gardner. In the past, Gardner seemed to be able to create offense out of nothing, exploiting defensive holes with his athleticism. But recently he didn’t do that very well.
“Sometimes you try to do too much and get a little outside yourself,” Gardner said. “You just have to stay grounded, stay focused.”
This Saturday in the Big Ten opener the Wolverines will likely be breaking out a new offensive line for their matchup with the Gophers -- one that features Graham Glasgow at center and Chris Bryant at left guard, as well as a run game that could see more of Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith helping out with Fitzgerald Toussaint’s carries.
These changes could prove to be crucial to Michigan’s success moving forward. Or, they could prove to be more hurdles, thrown in unsuccessfully at the beginning of the conference season.
But the bye week should’ve helped alleviate some of the growing pains the Wolverines could experience with these personnel changes. And it definitely gave Gardner more time to get in the film room and get back to his fundamentals.
But did he spend 10,000 hours training last week like his psych class would suggest?
“Not quite 10,000,” Gardner said. “But almost.”