Michigan receivers, lacking timing with Denard Robinson, change practice habits
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan's passing game was lackluster last year, so the receivers spent much of the summer working on their timing with quarterback Denard Robinson.
They ran extra routes, especially with the infusion of new receiver Devin Gardner. They beefed up their seven-on-seven schedule.
Now four games into the season, the timing is off.
Senior receiver Roy Roundtree said the timing hasn't been quite right this year, and it was especially bad against Notre Dame. The Irish were effective -- particularly in the first half -- of pressuring Robinson and he didn't handle it well.
"Once he gets rushed or something, probably trying to rush his throws, and that made us hurry up our routes and our timing was off a little bit," Roundtree said. "But we've worked on that and made the adjustments. I feel like we'll do fine."
Robinson completed 55.0 percent of his passes last year, a dip from his 62.5-percent clip in 2010. He also tossed 15 picks, a Big Ten worst by a large margin.
Coaches said they expected him to be better this year, now that he's in his third year as Michigan's starting quarterback and his second year of coordinator Al Borges' scheme. They were hopeful his turnover woes would flag after he immersed himself in film study.
Instead, Robinson's completion percentage actually has dipped to 54.5 percent. His eight picks are third in the country.
Robinson has 54 completions on the season. Purdue, Michigan's opponent Saturday, has two receivers who combine for 53 catches.
Roundtree said the timing with Robinson was sharp in the summer, but actual competition introduces variables that aren't seen in tank tops and shorts.
That includes cornerbacks jamming receivers, such as what Notre Dame did in Michigan's 13-6 loss two weeks ago.
"Bump and run, that can throw you off your route a little bit, because you have to get back on your route tree," Roundtree said. "It takes you a longer time (to get to your spot) because you have to fight a defender off."
Roundtree said part of the timing problems are the result of lazy receiver play. So, he reinstalled an old policy last week: Any time a receiver doesn't finish off a practice play by running into the end zone, it's a loaf.
Loafs equal gassers after practice. Roundtree doles out the punishments.
"Last year's seniors did that, and I felt like I wasn't (hustling) during the season and it kind of showed through film," Roundtree said. "Guys not hustling off the ball, including myself.
"We got to put that back in practice because it's going to help us. Even though it's going to be hard in practice, because you get so many reps, but then in the game you'll be used to it. I felt like I had to do that because seeing that on film, it was terrible."