You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan's Denard Robinson looks to become next Al Borges QB to make Year 2 leap

By Kyle Meinke


Denard Robinson finished the regular season with two big games, and Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges expects more of the same in 2012.

Melanie Maxwell |

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson ended the regular season playing perhaps the best football of his career.

The junior had his best overall performances in the final two games, when he led Michigan to 85 points and a pair of wins. He peaked against Ohio State, when his stat line was an absurd 14-of-17 passing for 167 yards and three touchdowns.

He also rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns, a performance that carried Michigan to a 40-34 win and a Sugar Bowl matchup next Tuesday against Virginia Tech (8:30 p.m., ESPN).

Offensive coordinator Al Borges credits that development, more than anything, to Robinson becoming comfortable with the nuances of the spread-West Coast offense.

Which raises the question: Just how good can Robinson be, given an entire off-season to soak in Borges' scheme?

"It’s so different now than when we first started," Borges said last week. "When he gets a chance in the off-season, puts his little 7-on-7 drills together with the rest of the guys and then gets into spring football. ... By the time we hit next fall, I think he’ll hit the ground running pretty good. He’ll be very comfortable under center.”

Even at Robinson's lowest points this season — including a midseason lull that had some critics calling for backup Devin Gardner to start — Borges insisted Robinson's performance arc under him was normal.

And, sure enough, Robinson finished with a flourish. He completed 133 of 237 passes this year for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns.

But, his mistakes also added up. He had 14 interceptions, which tied for seventh in the country.

Quarterbacks tend to struggle in new systems. Borges' system is no different.

He often cites the development of former UCLA quarterback Cade McNown as a precedent for Robinson.

When Borges was hired at UCLA before the 1996 season, he inherited McNown, a sophomore returning starter. But McNown struggled in that initial season, completing 176 of 336 passes (52.4 percent). He had 16 interceptions (versus 12 touchdowns) and a Pac-10-worst 115.2 passer rating.

In their second year together, though, McNown was 189-of-312 passing (60.6 percent) and had 24 touchdowns against just six picks. He led the country with a 166.0 passer rating.

Another Borges protege, San Diego State's Ryan Lindley, followed a similar arc. Despite being a returning starter in Borges' first year in 2009, Lindley's completion rate dipped by 2 percent, to 54.7, and his interceptions spiked by seven, to 16.

In his second year under Borges, Lindley was 243-for-421 passing (57.7 percent) for 3,830 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 picks. He had a passer rating of 149.4, which was 21st nationally — one spot behind Robinson.

Lindley became a top NFL prospect in his second year under Borges (although that stock took a major hit this year without him).

Borges said he expects Robinson to make a similar leap next year.

"I think he’s catching on," Borges said. "He’s doing pretty much what every quarterback I’ve had in the first year has done. He started a little slow. Again, I said this before, is our passing game is so different from what they’ve done. There were going to be pains because there always is."

"He’s starting to absorb the concepts and be able to understand what we want, and it’s showing up at the end more than it did earlier.”

Borges said Robinson's evolution will continue in the off-season, when he will have Robinson work on his understanding of the offense, footwork, timing and read progressions.

He'll be working on those same concepts this week in preparation for the Hokies, whose defense ranks 14th overall and seventh in points allowed per game.

Michigan scores 34.2 points per game.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Terry Star21

Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 2:19 a.m.

It's just great to be a Michigan football Faithful ! the dream


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

With DR's work ethics and will to win, he'll have a great season next year. This kid made the biggest transformation from his freshman year to his sophomore year that I have ever seen in NCAA History. He played sparingly his 1st year and set the NCAA Passing/Rushing record his 2nd. Now that DR has played 1 year in AB's system, one more game and the off season, he'll be electric next season. Oh, the other big thing we're missing...TEAM CHEMISTRY ( SYNC )!!!


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 6:57 p.m.

One journalistic quibble: Why is it always written: "spread-West Coast Offense?" When writing titles, I thought the use of capitalization was accepted, even mandatory. I vote for: "Spread-West Coast Offense" from here on out. Well, provided there're are incoming players who can keep the Offensive Line playing at top level, there's good reason to expect wonderful things from DeRob starting in about 8 months. With Fitz Toussaint also putting up record numbers in 2012, this could be a fabulous season for the Wolverines. We couldn't think of a better way to introduce Ohio Coach Urban Legend to the Michigan Wolverines down in Colobus*, Ohio next November, could we? *Colobus: this is not a misspelling, that Ohio city's name came from the Colubus Monkey - which was much admired by town fathers. Somewhere along the way, the name got "corrected" to honor Christopher Columbus and to divert attention from the monkey business behind the Buckeyes football program. ;-)


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

he better enjoy next year because if he doesn't go to Europe or Canada it's the last time he'll play QB.Hasn't got the tools for the NFL.Oh ya it will catch up with Tebow sooner rather than later.


Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 6:02 a.m.

I'm sure you'd prefer John Nevarre.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

OH yes!!!! The "MEAN one" strikes again!!!


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

Denard is vastly more talented than Cade Mcnown or Ryan Lindley. He is faster and a better runner than MICHAEL VICK. People who wanted to bench him are football philistines.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

There is this one guy that I know......he's a security guard at Chuck E. Cheese and he said ........ Denard! Denard cast your vote! Shout his praises from your throat! He is truly a superstar! Winning with Borges and this thing called Nas-CARR!


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

I'm pretty sure that 14 completions for 167 yards doesn't qualify for "absurd"[ly good] performance. And this against an Ohio State team that we UMers are strongly trolling on mLive that the MSU victory did not constitute a "quality win." Not convinced.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

It's not all about the stats, Aarox. It's about controlling the line of scrimmage, and thus the game. That to me is what Denard really started to do at the end of the season, and especially against OSU. To me, that's what Peyton Manning did best in the year he won the super bowl, especially when it was pouring rain and stats were horrible. Denard never had that opportunity in the old offense because it was not about line control and time possession. It was about quick strikes. I think next year bodes well actually.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

14 for 17 and lets ignore the 170 yards running.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

Besides Molk who else do we lose from the O line? Let's not overlook losing the Center of the Year in college football. He cannot be easily replaced.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

We also lose Mark Huyge and the blocking ability of TE Kevin Koger. Not to downplay the loss of Molk, but the toughest of the three (Molk, Huyge, Koger) to replace could well be Koger.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

Worry not. Yes, Molk is a loss. But I doubt the coaches have ignored this. There are options: <a href=""></a>


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

All of the ingredients are there for more success. 1) Denard has a very hard work ethic and has the desire and will to improve. 2) The coaching staff always believed in him. Having their confidence in him, allowed Denard to improve the way he did at the end of season. 3) Experience is the best teacher. 4) He is a team leader. Denard led this to victory several times this season, hence Most Valuable Player Award. 5) Hope and pray he stays healthy. Michigan will roll on in 2012, including the Surgar Bowl. It is difficult to imagine Michigan's offense would average less than 34 points a game in 2012 as they did in 2011.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

&quot;Let's not confuse BCS selections with quality of performance. Kansas, Arkansas, Boise State, and South Carolina are certainly not making that mistake. They all beat us square and fair on the gridiron and are on the outside looking in.&quot; Not sure how you figure that Kansas STATE, Arkansas, Boise State, and South Carolina beat us fair and square &quot;ON the gridiron&quot;. We did not play any of those teams. To beat us on the gridiron means they played us and beat us... obviously that did not happen. Besides Boise State, all of the other teams have 2 losses, just like us. If we had the chance to play them, I like our chances against any of those teams. Our D is the best of all of them (scoring D), and only Boise State and South Carolina are even close. The others are well behind us. Boise State has the best scoring O, but you have to consider the quality of opponents they play. Arkansas is next, and ours is right behind them. Arkansas and Michigan played against teams that had much better D's than Boise State's opponents. I think we would beat any of those teams head to head. If there were a playoff system we would probably get the chance to play some of them.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

I'd add MSU for what it's worth. Not that I have to like it but its hard to argue that we are the better team this year.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

As long as the BCS keeps accepting teams that are not in the top 10, we have a chance to keep making BSC bowl games. Let's not confuse BCS selections with quality of performance. Kansas, Arkansas, Boise State, and South Carolina are certainly not making that mistake. They all beat us square and fair on the gridiron and are on the outside looking in.

Pete Johnson

Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

I believe Al will having him ready to go next year. You have to remember the last two years Denard was nothing more than a glorified running back, only using his God given abilities to make things happen. He never was really developed as a QB. Next year will really be DRobs 2nd year of developing as a QB and I say look out. He will be mentioned in the Heisman race and will get his shot in the NFL. Go Blue!!


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

He will be mentioned in the Heisman race.........CHA-CHING!!!!


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

Denard is going to absolutely shred teams apart next year. We've got a glimpse of what it will look like the last few games. Once he becomes fully comfortable in the passing game, he will be nearly impossible to contain. However, one of the biggest improvements Denard made at the end of the year was that, when passing, if it wasnt there he didnt force it. Instead, he tucked it and ran, or extended the play until a receiver could break free. Thats tough to defend. Not to mention, Fitz will be back, and Denard is still going to get his number called on designed runs. The offense is going to light it up next year, and i cant wait. But for now, i guess ill just settle for a big win in the Sugar Bowl. Go Blue! UM-35 VT- 17


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

RJ, I agree 100%. The biggest improvement was killing defenses by running on designed pass plays when no receivers were open. These QB runs hurt the defense alot more than most designed QB runs where they can just load the box. As Denard continues to improve his passing the true duel threat aspect becomes evident. This is going to be fun to watch!