ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Devin Gardner will get on the field for Michigan next season as much if not more than last season. The question is where.
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges would neither confirm nor deny whether Gardner has been working at positions other than quarterback this spring.
“Practices are closed for a reason,” Borges said when asked if Gardner had been working at wide receiver.
But everything else Borges said Monday at least indicated he is looking into ways to play Gardner more this season. Since Borges arrived on campus with Brady Hoke prior to last season, he has steadfastly maintained his ability to evolve and adapt along with his quest to play the best 11 guys he has.
He proved it last season as well, shifting his own offensive philosophy from pro-style to more of a hybrid spread offense to accommodate the abilities of his starting quarterback, Denard Robinson. And he has been hailed as an innovative play-caller and designer, often coming up with different, unique ways to incorporate players.
Last spring his biggest question was how he was going to tailor and incorporate Robinson into what he wanted to do. Now, the same question remains with Gardner.
“He’s an incredible athlete and has so many dimensions to him,” Borges said. “He’s smart and picks it up fast. He doesn’t have any problem that way. That being said, every time you put together a plan, you have to be able to factor him into it somewhere, you know what I mean, if it doesn’t sacrifice any other phase of our game.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to get him in the game in some way, shape or form without breaking the rhythm of the quarterback, which I don’t think we did. See to it that we use him getting the ball, throwing the ball and see him decoying.”
One of the more interesting situations this spring will be how Michigan will use Gardner. The Inkster, Mich., native has been one of the most athletic players on the Wolverines since he arrived on campus in the spring of 2010, when he could have slid his way into a then-open quarterback competition with Tate Forcier and Robinson.
It never really happened as Robinson won the role. Gardner saw his redshirt burned as he played sparingly in front of Forcier for the first two games of the season, and Gardner essentially wasted a year Michigan will eventually try to get back with a medical redshirt for a back problem.
Last season, Gardner played in relief of Robinson and sparingly in what Borges called the “deuce” formation, which had Gardner and Robinson on the field at the same time with Gardner at quarterback and Robinson split out wide or in the backfield.
Gardner has completed 18 of 33 passes in his career for 261 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also has run for 74 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries and caught one pass for 2 yards.
This spring, after a small refresher course on the offense, look for Michigan to continue to tinker with ways to get Gardner into games.
“Devin is a part of that,” Borges said. “We’ve got about five guys that are a part of it.”
One thing Borges isn’t concerned about -- any movement hurting Gardner’s growth as a quarterback and potential heir apparent to Robinson after this season.
Borges feels Gardner is intelligent enough to handle any additional or changed responsibilities while continuing his growth as a quarterback.