Devin Gardner is only working out at quarterback for Michigan this spring. (David Guralnick/Detroit News)
Ann Arbor -- There have been a number of steps in the maturation process of Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, and coach Brady Hoke has noticed one particular aspect in his growth.
Through three spring practices, Gardner has impressed Hoke with his film study, leadership and dedication toward improving.
"I'm proud that he's really figuring out that being the Michigan quarterback is something special," Hoke said Tuesday after practice. "His work ethic, his intelligence -- he is a football junkie. He's done a nice job of wrapping his arms around his responsibility."
To help himself improve, Gardner has been watching plenty of film. He said he reviews film of each practice not once, but twice. And Gardner has been constantly texting offensive coordinator Al Borges about things he sees during film review.
"He'll be in (Wednesday) a couple hours watching practice, making sure he's doing the right thing and his teammates are," Hoke said.
Gardner is more confident and has improved his defensive reads.
Last spring, Gardner was practicing at receiver and quarterback before moving to receiver in the fall to help add depth. When starting quarterback Denard Robinson was injured late in the season, Gardner took over and started the final five games.
That offered a sneak peak into how Borges plans to run the offense with Gardner, and clearly it gave Gardner much-needed game experience. He said he breathed easier this spring after completing his first pass of the first practice, a deep route to Amara Darboh.
Gardner, who said he's less tired this spring because he's focused only on quarterback and no longer has to run routes, said he would have approached this spring the same way regardless.
"It didn't change my mindset much," said Gardner, who recently learned he was granted a medical redshirt and will have another year of eligibility.
Defensive back Thomas Gordon said Gardner's athleticism and ability make him difficult to defend.
"You never know with Devin," Gordon said. "Devin, he lets that thing fly, it doesn't matter where he's at on the field."
Left tackle Taylor Lewan, who opted to return for his final year of eligibility instead of heading to the NFL, said Gardner has worked on his arm strength and accuracy.
He also has worked on being more of a leader. That doesn't mean he's more vocal, but Gardner understands his words carry weight, and he's been making a point of having small discussions with teammates when needed.
"I like to tell guys secretly that maybe they did something wrong," Gardner said. "I don't like to embarrass guys unless it's needed. I would appreciate someone pulling me to the side telling me things much rather than announcing it to the team."
Lewan said Gardner has the ability of getting into the heads of his teammates in a way that encourages them to work harder.
"To be on his level," Lewan said.
Gordon calls Gardner a "professional trash-talker."
"He knows what gets you mad," Gordon said, adding that's a positive trait because it sets a tone for improvement throughout the team.
But while much has been made of Gardner's maturity, he has not lost his goofy nature that so many of his teammates described last season.
"Devin is still Devin, and Devin will always be Devin, but he's done a great of using his personality and his humor to lead this team, especially with the receivers," Lewan said. "Those guys have learned a lot from him. If you get called out by the starting quarterback, that's kind of a kick in the (butt) in my opinion."