Gardner adapts to change to offensive line

We, as humans, often consider change a bad thing. The people who embrace change are the ones who realize that it helps us grow as humans. Eastern Michigan redshirt junior Cole Gardner embraced change because he knew it would benefit his team as he moved from tight end to the offensive line.

“It was a team thing,” Gardner said. “We were struggling trying to find a guy coming in and they came in and asked me. They said, 'Hey, we’re thinking about it and we want you to think about it.' It wasn’t like they forced me to do it, so it made it like it was my decision and it helped that I wasn’t pressured into it, which is huge. The coaching staff is great at that. They’re great guys at that and it made it easy.”

Last year, Gardner recorded eight receptions for 78 yards and played in all 12 games as a tight end.

Gardner knew change was coming from different directions as last year's starter Tyreese Russell graduated but coach Chris Creighton had also brought in two other tight ends to get playing time.

“We knew that we could find some transfer tight ends and we have,” Gardner said. “Cody Tuttle and Sam Browning have been doing huge things. It’s pretty big. So I think we can do that and there’s an easy adjustment with that.”

Eastern Michigan offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer noted how impressed he was that Gardner embraced the change.

“He’s awesome,” DeBoer said. “He’s been doing an awesome job. What a selfless act, you talk to him and he will say it’s what was best for the team. We knew he could be good and he’s gotten better at a much faster clip than what we expected. He just hopped in on day one and was all in on it. He understands what it takes to be an offensive lineman each and every play.”

Gardner noted how change doesn’t come without a few bumps in the road as well.

“I felt like I’ve done good - I’ve had my days though,” he said. “That’s one thing that I knew coming into it. I was going to have the days when I was going to struggle and it was going to happen just because I’m in transition. So it’s a day by day thing. The days that I have been struggling, I’ve got to push it away and come back the next day and I think I’ve been able to do that pretty good job. Yeah, the adjustment, it was a little bit of a change right away but just being able to be like ‘alright, next play’. Like if I mess up on a play, I can’t dwell on this.”

Gardner is expected to get the start on Saturday at left tackle as his Eagles take on Old Dominion at 3:30 p.m. in Rynearson Stadium for the Eagles’ home opener.

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