Position grades: Michigan's QBs were talented, but inconsistent
Note: This is the first in a eight-part series grading Michigan's position groups. Wednesday: Tailbacks.
There was good. There was bad. And there was the occasional ugly.
That's the nature of an 8-5 season -- good enough to win some, bad enough to lose others. Such was Michigan's fate in 2012.
Over the next eight days, we'll grade each of the position groups to determine what went right and what went wrong. Quarterback seems like a fitting place to start, considering so much of Michigan's successes and failings stemmed from that position.
Without further ado ...
Starter: Denard Robinson/Devin Gardner
Key reserves: Robinson, Russell Bellomy
The good: Robinson continued to dazzle on the ground, where he racked up 946 yards in eight quarterback starts. He averaged 118.3 yards rushing per game, behind a line that didn't yield a single 100-yard rusher outside of him -- all season. He rushed for more than 200 yards against Air Force and Purdue, and passed for multiple touchdowns against Air Force, Massachusetts and Illinois.
Gardner was the full-time guy in the last five games after Robinson suffered an elbow injury, and the offense flourished with him. He was 75-of-126 passing for 1,219 yards, 11 TDs and five picks. He matched a school record for touchdowns in a game with six against Iowa, and accounted for 18 overall in the five games. He passed for multiple scores in all but one start.
He showed poise in guiding Michigan to a final-minute comeback against Northwestern, then won the game on a scoring run in overtime. He engineered a pair of second-half comebacks against South Carolina, including tossing a touchdown pass to Jeremy Gallon in the final 4 minutes, but the defense spoiled what could have been a game-winning play.
The bad: The offense was turnover-prone under Robinson's direction, reaching a six-turnover nadir against Notre Dame that cost Michigan a shot at the national runners-up. Michigan adjusted by shifting more emphasis to the run game, and passing shorter when it went to the air, which collared the turnovers but made the offense more predictable. Michigan was held without a touchdown for one 120-minute stretch.
Robinson then damaged the ulnar nerve in his throwing elbow against Nebraska and, although the Wolverines say backup Russell Bellomy was prepared for action, he didn't play like it. He misfired on his first 10 attempts and finished 3-of-16 passing with three picks, the biggest reason Michigan lost the game -- and, as it turns out, lost a shot at the Big Ten title.
Robinson finished the season 89-of-167 passing, a completion percentage of 53.3 percent -- the worst in his three years as a starter.
Gardner's five-game foray at quarterback was mostly successful, but he struggled with his accuracy a bit in the final two games against Ohio State and especially South Carolina. His completion percentage dipped from 65.7 percent in his first three starts to 51.8 percent in the final two.
The overview: Robinson is as dichotomous as any player in recent memory, capable of thrilling one day and bombing another. His top-end performances are as good as any in the country, while his flame-outs (Notre Dame) were just as spectacular. While he truly was a playmaker, he became a liability due to his challenges in the air. Michigan had to revamp its offense midseason, becoming more predictable, to mask those issues. Gardner's move to quarterback ushered in stability and consistency, as the receivers became more involved and the passing game made Michigan's offense less predictable.
The grade: Lots of good, some bad. Games were lost by the quarterbacks, and won by them. Michigan had talent under center, but lacked consistency until Gardner took over down the stretch. B
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