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Posted on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

Brady Hoke and players react to Denard Robinson's passing-game struggles, and other notes

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has thrown for six touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Melanie Maxwell |

Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson doesn't need help running the football.

Through three games, he's averaged 117.3 rushing yards and has an average of 7.0 yards per rush. But in the Wolverines' new hybrid offense, he's being asked to have two facets. And that other part isn't working for him just yet.

"We need to complete a couple balls if (teams are) going to load the box and play man coverage, which (Eastern Michigan) did," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Monday. "And that's smart. We've got to complete a couple of those things to loosen people up."

Robinson has completed 49.1 percent of his passes, and he averages 177 yards per game and has four interceptions to go against his six touchdowns.

Following the 31-3 victory over EMU on Saturday, Robinson seemed somewhat irked when asked about his passing struggles. On Monday, Hoke and players offered their thoughts.

"There's no question that as coaches we can do a better job, maybe make him a little more comfortable with the throws," Hoke said. "We can always see from our vantage point what we can help him with, and then we have to make sure we set our feet a little more."

Senior center Dave Molk acknowledged that there have been issues with inconsistency in the passing game when he explained that Robinson still needs some development when it comes to pro-style passing.

One thing Molk won't say, though, is that the electric signal caller is hurting Michigan's chances to win.

"He just needs to progress as a player, and that's something that he'll find within himself," Molk said. "When he figures that out, he'll figure that out. Right now, what he does is working.

"He's an incredible player, and we all know that. We all know that he's just a winner."

Senior tight end Kevin Koger, a team captain, further deflected any criticism of Robinson, saying that the wide receivers need to do a better job when it comes to the smaller details of Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges' offense.

Robinson is the team's most recognizable player, and in turn, carries more pressure on his shoulders individually. Koger says he knows that. But said that he's one of 11 on offense, and that the other 10 players on the field need to do a better job of picking up Michigan's passing attack.

"I feel like sometimes he's too hard on himself," Koger said. "It's like, 'I know you're a great player and you're expecting a lot out of yourself,' which he should, but a lot of that stuff is on us.

"Not every pass is going to be perfect. As receivers, we have to help him complete those passes."

Top 25 a curse?
Michigan made its first appearance in the national rankings Sunday, entering at No. 22 in The Associated Press Top 25, and No. 21 in the USA Today coaches' poll.

The Wolverines are ranked, and senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen says he wants no part of it.

"I think it's a curse, honestly," Van Bergen said. "I'd rather not be ranked until the end of the season when it comes down to bowl teams. When you're ranked, all that does is put something on the chalk board for the other team.

"I'd rather not be ranked until the end of the season. Let's figure out who's the best at the end of the season."

Hoke echoed Van Bergen's feelings about national rankings to a degree, saying that he takes no stock into them until the season's finished. Hoke also added that he did not vote for Michigan in the coaches' poll.

Van Bergen said a 3-0 start and a spot in the national rankings won't be something that the team grabs a false sense of security from this year, adding that previous hot starts in 2009 and 2010 lulled the club into feeling confident.

"The last couple years it's felt like a much bigger accomplishment," Van Bergen said of the early-season success. "We felt much better about ourselves, we had some undeserved confidence because we didn't play very well. Right now, I think we're at the stage where we recognize that we haven't played very well, but we're 3-0.

"We haven't put together a full game offensively or defensively, yet we found a way to win in our three games. We have the awareness that we haven't played well yet, and we have to keep getting better and improving."

Hoke credits Roh and defensive line, but wants more up front
Hoke said Monday that junior defensive end Craig Roh "played his best football of the year" against Eastern Michigan.

After not collecting a tackle during the season's first two weeks, Roh broke out against the Eagles with five tackles and a sack. Hoke added that he "felt" his defensive front more against EMU than he had in the previous two weeks, crediting sophomore end Jibreel Black and senior tackle Mike Martin for their improved efforts.

But that doesn't mean the group has been good enough just yet.

"The standard for defensive line at Michigan is going to be the highest in the country at some point," Van Bergen said. "I think it is right now, especially in (Hoke's) mind. We're definitely not playing up to that standard right now, myself included.

"Coach Hoke's going to maintain that, he's a defensive line guy, Coach (Greg) Mattison is a front seven guy and Michigan has traditionally had a dominant defensive front seven. We have to set ourselves to that standard that they have, and we have to play better. … We don't want to be held to a lower standard, we want to be held to that high standard."

Staff confident in Gibbons
Michigan sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons made his first field goal of the season Saturday on his first attempt, a 21-yarder.

And though it's only been one short attempt, Hoke said that the staff is comfortable with Gibbons — who went 1-of-5 last season — in the place-kicking role.

"It was great," Hoke said. "He's been great all fall. He worked hard over the summer, mentally has himself in a good place. He's been very consistent all fall camp and to this point of the season. I like the mechanics to everything, from the snap to the hold. I've been impressed with him, and I'm very confident in him."

Sticking with the kicking game, Hoke also complimented freshman punter/kickoff specialist Matt Wile for his early-season play.

"I think for a young guy to come in and do both punting and kickoffs, and he can do long field goals, for a young freshman he's hanging in there," Hoke said. "He had the one punt that's not what he wants, but he's done a nice job. There's a maturity level that you have to have and some accountability to your teammates (you have to have)."

Odds and ends
Hoke said that the job of starting punter won't automatically go back to sophomore Will Hagerup when he returns from his four-game suspension prior to the Big Ten opener against Minnesota on Oct. 1. "It makes for good competition," he said. "It enhances our competition." … Injured outside linebackers Cam Gordon (back) and Brandon Herron (leg) are both expected to be available this week against San Diego State. Hoke said that Gordon is further along than Herron at this point, and if Herron is indeed a full-go, he'll be involved in an "intense" competition with junior Brandin Hawthorne at weakside linebacker. … According to Hoke, sophomore running back Stephen Hopkins is battling a "sub flexor" (elbow) injury. Hopkins did not have a carry in the win over EMU.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

Dude couldnt hit the side of a barn, from the inside. Wait till Nebraska,Wiscy,Iowa,MSU,now your talking bitch slap!


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Well that's cause we're winning. If/when we lose some games this subject will rear its head up again


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

DRob struggles on any pass where he can not get a clean look at the receiver. This translates into a lack of accuracy with any of the fly patterns or skinny post patterns, where he only see's the DB's in a trail position. The result is an over throw when he's got the arm strength or a jump ball when he doesn't. However, on curls, slants, square ins, even deep outs, he's been able to make these throws. When the receivers are crossing in front of him, he's pretty good. The coaches should ID this tendancy and work that directly into the game plan. Make it clear that the last option on just about any pass play is the deep route, focus on getting the ball to the receivers working the middle of the field, and dump off to the back or tight end in the flat when the first and 2nd options are covered. Continue running the deep routes to stretch the D and only take that shot once DRob gets into the flow of the game. DRob can be deadly in this offense IF it starts playing to his strengths. This isn't the NFL and we're not trying to turn a Michael Vick into a Tom Brady. We need to simplify his read progressions and give him a chance to be successful.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

Denard is like a lot of young QB's, in that he needs a few completions to settle down and get in a rhythm. Coaches need to call some short dumps to backs, quick slants, etc. early in the game to give him a few easy ones and get it in gear. Since koger and Smith are great receivers it should not present a problem. Look for that agains SDSU with the 72,000 screaming fans cheering our boys on.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

Borges and Hoke should have used Devin Gardner in the 4th quarter of the Eastern game at 28-3. Try to develop Devin Gardner at least 2 full offensive series per game to prepare him as the backup in the B1G just in case Denard gets injured or if they need a better passer. One will never know how good Devin Gardner is until he gets a chance to play. If they do not develop Gardner and Denard gets injured in B1G play, Michigan will be in trouble.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 7:22 a.m.

Everyone knows, the early season polls are mainly to keep fans talking (which we enjoy and are pretty good at). Watching the last game: Saw one throw by Denard bounce off the back of a Michigan lineman's helmet. Haven't kept track of this but it seems he throws one of those helmet shots per game or close to it. Also - his passes get batted away by opposing linemen about the same rate. His one vulnerability that can't be fixed: he's just 6' 0&quot;. Can't say for sure but that may mean we'll see Devon Gardner out there before too long (he's 6' 5&quot;, 220 lbs.) Hey - we've got San Diego State's website listing Michigan Stadium capacity at: 72,000. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> But it's because U of M put up this ridiculous LIST of capacities for their stadium since 1927: 72,000 is the first capacity listed. Obviously, someone read that first number and thought that was the current capacity. The Aztecs must be made to pay for this insult! LOL!

David Vande Bunte

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

Maybe 72,000 is actually just the difference in seating capacities between their stadium and the Big House...


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 3:58 a.m.

Why are we still discussing the former coach and his record? Losing seasons, NCAA violations, blaming others for his failures, etc. He sucked at Michigan for three seasons, and was fired for it. It doesn't take three seasons to teach a kid how to make a tackle. In fact, Hoke and company did a good job of it between spring and summer practices, despite reduced practice time due to the rule-violating former coach. Good freaking riddance and if I never hear his name or see him scowling and yelling on a sideline (or anywhere else for that matter) again, that will be a good thing. Back to the subject, Denard has to throw accurate passes if we're going to compete against good teams. Not jump balls, not behind the receiver, not three feet above the TE's outstretched arms, or in the dirt. On the numbers, in stride. If/when he learns how to do this, we'll have a good team capable of beating anyone left on our schedule.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 5:23 a.m.

Agreed... I really hope DR gets his passing together and builds some confidence. If not, things might get a little hairy down the road...


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 3:21 a.m.

Refreshing quote from this article: Hoke discussing that the coaches have to do better to improve DR's passing. That in a nutshell is the difference between now and before and that's what I want in my coaches. Even if the players are not perfect, and even if the results are a bit bumpy. No more will we see players thrown under the bus. I really like Hoke's approach so far.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:24 a.m.

How could anyone here support Rich Rod? Have you been happy the last three years? I think not. The Rich Rod era should be deleted from the Michigan record books. He destroyed the program. Yeah the offense was fun, we beat Illinois 67-65. Great game, good fundamental football, that's all crap! Good to see we have the program back in good hands and that we have coaches who have realized how to make in game adjustments. Go Blue and Go Brady Hoke!


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

RichRod took a defense with 7 returning starters that just beat Florida with their All-Universe QB, Tim Teabow, and turned them into instant crap with his 3-3-5 defense. Michigan had their problems that year but had a good defense. RichRod took players who were suited for, and coached for, the 4-3-4 defense and tried to inflict the 3-3-5 defense on them. They were poorly coached. They lacked in fundamentals and technique. And the coaches made no in game adjustments. Although I blame the former defensive coordinator , I blame RichRod more for his obstinate insistence on using the 3-3-5 almost exclusively. It was almost as if he was going to prove his system works no what matter the consequences may be. The result was the worst 3 years in Michigan football history despite having a record setting offense. That should be proof enough for all of you spread offense fans that DEFENSE is important. Maybe the most important part of the game. I'll take a good offense with a great defense any day . Just look at 1997! That's what makes a national champion. Great offense with bad defense...well we all know what that's like.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

It is because RR is THE MAN who would take Lloyd Carr's mediocrity of a team to greater heights! RR is the genius who instilled the world class spread offense capable of scoring a point a minute and over 50 points per game, he brought in Denard Robinson who will personify an RB, WB and QB in one. Michigan fans and Dave Brandon does not know how to build a program. RR will be building from the foundation upwards and that explains the 3-9 season, then 5-7, then 7-5 and then this year 9-3 and when Denard is a senior will bring UM its first spread Big Ten and National Championship!!! One day, all of you Michigan fans and Dave Brandon will regret the day you fired the genius of the coach in Rich Rodriguez!!! LOL!!!


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 11:47 p.m.

In every game the defense has gotten better as the game has went on. Coaching is the reason. Last year we were as bad in the fourth quarter as the first. The offense is all new but will improve. We are 3 and 0 people. Relax and enjoy the ride! Go Brady and team, GO BLUE!!!!


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 1:01 p.m.

3-9, 5-7 and 7-5 in three years not a sign of good coaching. LC and Bo never had those years. In RR's third year, the offense was a mess, the defense was a mess, the kicking game was a mess, his off the field behavior was a mess. That is not the sign of good coaching. Yeah his offense was a mess cause his offense could not adjust when checked that is the reason why RR's team has not won against good teams. RR was a poor coach and his record says it all.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 5:17 a.m.

Stop making excuses for the worst coach UM has ever ever seen. Outside of coaching the spread RR was flat out awful. Running a 3-3-5 it the B1G? Seriously? Better yet, run a 3-3-5 and NEVER blitz. Instead, just leave your freshman corners trying to cover a wideout until further notice. RR's defense last year was a disgrace. Injuries happen, hoke is already dealing with them, but thats not an excuse for a team that can bring in talent like UM to be that god awful. He brought in the wrong kind of players, and coached them (poorly) into the wrong scheme. Why do you think Obi Ezeh showed promise with Carr and then failed with RR? Poor coaching, and a stupid defensive scheme. RR's team got worse and worse as opponents adjusted, and i can think of anytime where RR made adjustments to put his team in a place to succeed. Hoke and Co. are doing it every game.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 1:52 a.m.

You guys crack me up. How about Donovan Warren leaving before he should have for the NFL which took everyone by surprise, Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd getting season ending injuries ? That's your top 3 corners gone for the season w/ no time to replace them. Those corners were the main reason the defense suffered last year if you ask me. Sure the linebackers weren't good, but who would have known that Obie Ezeh would get WORSE in his career. I would call all of the above bad luck that you can't do much about.... it's all spilled milk though, just things to think about next time you're trashing on Rich Rodriguez. If in the same breath you knock on coaching being terrible for the defense you should mention how awesome and fun the offense is to watch. Something we would have NEVER gotten without RR.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

The defensive coaching absolutely could have been improved, but I hope you realize that Greg Mattison will be paid over a million dollars this year. That money was not available to Rich Rodriguez to go hire a defensive genius. Hey - I'm not saying GERG did a great job as a defensive coordinator, but there is a whole lot more to it than what you seem to think. Also, if you want to bring up recruiting don't forget about Demar Dorsey. NCAA eligible, UofM gave RR the OK to bring him in, then later changed their mind and blocked him from enrolling. Yeah, there was the shaky past and maybe it was best we didn't get him, but at the time he was a TOP recruit we thought we had coming in. RR brought in 5-star Will Campbell as well - and hey they don't always pan out as soon as you want them to. Also don't forget what Lloyd Carr told Morgan Trent, to which Morgan Trent told the papers about RR! A lot of people &amp; factors were stacked against RR and his staff.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 1:37 a.m.

1Block, Yeah, coaching. Just like MichFanTex said, there should not have been all Freshmen starting if the recruiting had been worth a darn. Last year was year 3 for the previous coach, so the fact that so many Freshmen were starting is on the coach. Period. Further, you even say yourself &quot;now were developing those guys.&quot; Exactly. Before we weren't developing anyone and it showed on the field. Poor recruiting and poor player development falls completely on the previous staff, whereas quality recruiting and proper player development appears to be what this staff is doing. Therefore, these coaches will ultimately have a better team than anything the previous staff could have done.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 12:55 a.m.

Maybe somebody should have been recruiting D players. Had they been from day one 2009 would have been getting Sophomores and Freshmen D players involved and 2010 they would have been sophomores and Juniors with game experience. Maybe fewer midget receivers and more DBs would have helped. Certainly listening to Van Bergen tell it much more is being expected from the D this year than any of his previous years. And remember, that would have included 2008 which should have been the best overall D unit for years 2008-2011.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

Coaching eh ? How about having non-freshman corners ? Woolfolk and Floyd are both good and actually on the field/healthy and Avery is now a year older. How about the fact that the D-Line is basically all back ? When you see Van Bergen and Martin take double teams don't forget that's helping the line backers. Sorry, but it bothers me when people just like to pile on the coaches from last year - never in my life had I seen as many freshman on a Michigan team as last year - those cupboards were BARE and now we're developing those guys...

NC Wolverine 20

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 11:39 p.m.

Stewie Mandel says Michigan is overrated at AP 22. I tend to agree, but I do think that the D is making incremental improvements. Perhaps by the time the B1G season starts, Michigan will not be the sieve that it was in 2010.