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Michigan's Devin Gardner is making move from QB to WR

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Tony Ding/Associated Press
Michigan's Devin Gardner is making the transition from college QB to NFL wide receiver.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tuesday was the second big day of Devin Gardner's transformation from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver, and the former Michigan standout thought it went well.

Gardner (6-foot-4, 216), who started at quarterback for the Wolverines for his final two and a half seasons seasons in Ann Arbor, is practicing at wide receiver this week at the East-West Shrine Game.


» Ohio State finishes atop final CFB 24/7 Top 25 Power Rankings


"This is fun for me," he said after Tuesday's East team practice. "I'm excited to be able to compete."

Date: Saturday, Jan. 17
Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network


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Gardner started preparing for his position transition as soon as Michigan's season ended with a Nov. 29 loss to Ohio State, including catching passes from a JUGGS machine. But catching passes in that type of environment is nothing like being on the field, going against corners and safeties trying to impress more than 100 NFL scouts in attendance.

Even though Gardner played wide receiver for half of the 2012 season and had 16 receptions for 266 yards and four touchdowns when Denard Robinson was the Wolverines' starting quarterback, he admitted he was going through quite a learning curve in terms of technique and the like. He also admitted he was having to get used "to the volume of running you do as a receiver."

One positive with the move: Gardner said his background as a quarterback helped him understand how to get open.

Asked to provide a self-scouting report, Gardner said, "Good athlete. A lot of range. A little raw. Competes like hell."

He did look more at ease during drills Tuesday than he did on Monday's opening day. He looked to be more comfortable getting into his cuts and appeared a bit more natural catching the ball.

But he did admit there were times Tuesday when he thought about being at quarterback again, most notably "every time I got a bad ball. Come on -- there's no pass rush."

Ultimately, Gardner is a high-level athlete trying to learn a new position on the fly. His size, body type, elusiveness and speed (he likely will clock in the mid-4.5 range in the 40 when he is tested) make him an interesting developmental prospect on the third day of the draft.


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In one admission that might not endear him to Michigan fans, Gardner said he was glad Ohio State won the national title Monday night. But he was quick to point out he was glad because it was a Big Ten team, not that it was Ohio State. He also was quick to say "Go Big Blue" right after praising Ohio State's win.

Gardner said the title was a good thing for his old conference.

"I'm a Big Ten fan," he said. "We get a lot of crap. Now, it can't be all SEC."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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