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Posted on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Denard Robinson will set records this year, but Michigan won't alter approach for Heisman campaign

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is considered a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, but the Wolverines won't alter the way they operate to boost his candidacy.

Melanie Maxwell |

The Michigan football team has won a record 895 games. It's won 11 national championships and 42 conference championships.

It has 78 consensus All-Americans.

And yet, just one primarily offensive player has won the Heisman Trophy since World War II.


"Because we spread that thing around," said Desmond Howard, Michigan's lone offensive Heisman Trophy winner since 1940. “You got to understand, I won the Heisman within the rhythm of our offense.

"We had guys who could tote the pill and we toted it, we just didn't throw the ball to 21. We tried to run the ball -- that was still our primary goal."

Still is.

Heisman Trophy campaigns have grown in scale in recent years. Some are understated, such as Washington State promoting Ryan Leaf in 1997 by distributing single leafs to voters.

Others are ostentatious, such as Oregon spending $250,000 to affix a Joey Harrington billboard to a New York City skyscraper.

This year, Heisman hopeful Matt Barkley of USC has gone high-tech. The quarterback designed his own app called "Project Tro7an," which will track his progress this season.

Michigan has its own Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Denard Robinson. But don't expect to see an app for that.


Senior quarterback Denard Robinson is feeling loose heading into his third season as a starter, despite growing scrutiny.

Melanie Maxwell |

The Wolverines historically have refused to single out players for public promotion, including during Heisman runs for Howard in 1991 and Charles Woodson in 1997.

That philosophy extends to the field.

"The most important thing is the team has a chance to be as good as it can be, even if that means sacrificing Heisman Trophies," offensive coordinator Al Borges said in a recent interview. "Some of the accolades that go with high-profile players, that's not at the top of our lists.

"There's no goal in that room that says 'Denard Robinson wins a Heisman Trophy.' I'd love for that to happen, and I've had kids get close to it, but this is not a place that you go to, necessarily, with that in mind. This is a place you go to to win football games."

Robinson put up historic numbers as a first-year starter in 2010. His 1,702 rushing yards that season remain an NCAA record for quarterbacks.

But that heavy usage also caused Robinson to break down. He played poorly down the stretch, and left 10 games with injury.

When Borges arrived at Michigan last year, he introduced a featured tailback to taper the Wolverines' reliance on Robinson.

Robinson's numbers went down, but he also found better consistency, durability and effectiveness. The Wolverines averaged 33.3 points per game, their best offensive season since 2003.

Robinson has embraced that approach, even if it costs him the kind of overall production that could help him win college football's top individual award.

"It comes down to the team winning," he said last month. "How many times the team wins, that's how much I'll be up for the Heisman. If we keep winning, there's a possibility I could win the Heisman. If we're not winning, I won't even have a chance to make it to New York."

Borges won't help Robinson pad his stats. But that's not to say Robinson won't set records anyway.


Quarterback Denard Robinson has worked on his passing this offseason. Will that help his Heisman candidacy?

Jeffrey Smith |

The senior begins the season either holding or on the verge of breaking several records. That includes the all-time NCAA rushing record for quarterbacks. With 3,229 career rushing yards, Robinson needs only 1,251 yards to match former West Virginia quarterback Pat White.

"I didn't even know that," Robinson said. "I'm shocked that even came up. I just want to be the best I can be, the best for the team. Whatever it takes to do what's best for the team. If I have to run it that many times, carry it that many times, I'll do that.

"I really don't set my goals to be the best (rushing quarterback). I just want to be me. I just want to be best for the team, and be accountable for the team. Whatever happens with the (record), we'll see."

A look at Robinson's place in the record books entering his final season as a collegian:

Single-season rushing yards by quarterback: Robinson holds the record at 1,702 yards, surpassing Air Forces’s Beau Morgan (1,494) in 2010.

Career rushing yards by quarterback: Robinson (3,229) ranks 13th, and is 1,251 off the all-time mark held by Pat White of West Virginia. Robinson rushed for 1,176 yards last year, so the mark is within reach.

Big Ten
Career rushing for quarterback: Robinson's 3,229 yards trail only Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El (3,895). If he stays healthy, Robinson will crush this mark.

Career total yards: Robinson (8,160) is only 974 yards from surpassing Purdue's Mark Herrmann to crack the top-10 list. If he matches last year's 3,349 yards, he will be fifth all time. He is 4,532 yards from Drew Brees' all-time record 12,692 yards, which likely is out of Robinson's reach.

Career rushing yards: Robinson (3,229) is eighth all-time and will edge past Jamie Morris (4,393) for third if he matches last year's output of 1,176 yards. He could catch Anthony Thomas for second with another 67 yards. He likely won't catch Mike Hart (5,040) for the career record.

Career passing yards: Robinson (4,931), currently seventh in school history, is poised to pass Tom Brady (5,351), Jim Harbaugh (5,449) and Todd Collins (5,858). If he matches last year's total of 2,173 yards, Robinson also will pass Elvis Grbac (6,460) for third all time, trailing only Chad Henne (9,715) and John Navarre (9,254).

Total yards: Robinson already has the two best seasons in school history, recording 4,272 in 2010 and 3,349 yards in 2011. He's third in career yardage at 8,160, but trails leader Chad Henne by just 1,140. Robinson easily will be the school's career leader if he remains healthy.

Touchdown passes in a game: Robinson already is tied for the school record with four against Notre Dame last season.

Career touchdown passes: Robinson (40) should pass Steve Smith (42) and Rich Leach (48) for fourth all time.

Interceptions: Robinson (30) is sixth all-time, seven from tying Chad Henne for the career record. He tossed 15 last year and 11 in 2010.

Rushing touchdowns: Currently fifth all-time, Robinson (35) likely will pass Mike Hart (41) and Chris Perry (39) for third all time. He likely won't catch Anthony Thomas at No. 1 (55).

Career scoring: Thirteenth all-time, Robinson (210 points) won't come close to Garrett Rivas' school-record 354, but could climb into the top five with 70 points (he had 96 last year). He already owns the quarterback record over Rick Leach (204).

Career touches: Robinson (1,126), currently third, needs 441 touches to pass Henne for the school record. He had 479 last year and 547 in 2012.

Average yards per play: Robinson (7.25) currently holds the school career record ahead of runner-up Todd Collins (7.02). Both of his first two years as starter rank among the top 10, topping out at 7.81 yards per play in 2010, second only to Drew Henson's 7.93 in 2000.

Average yards per game: Robinson (328.6 in 2010, 257.6 in 2011) already owns the two best seasons in school history, and his career mark (214.7) is 6.4 yards better than No. 2 John Navarre.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for



Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

TheWay, you're spot on. DR is judged by an impossible standard by those who do not understand the qb's function. Where is it written, that a qb has to be a better passer that rusher? Part of the qb's function is to run the ball, it's just most modern day qbs can't. The forward pass came later, about 1906. Chad Henne, M's top passer avg. 2429 over 4 years, his best year 2743, his soph yr 2526. DR's soph yr 2570 and that was while rushing for 1702 yds. So, those of you that thinks DR's a glorified RB, he's actually the most complete qb in Michigan history.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

See, there you go. You say he can't throw the ball. Yet he has a better career passer rating than "better" QBs like Tom Brady and John Navarre. His 2010 season rating was better than any season Chad Henne, Brian Greise, or Tod Collins ever had. In your opinion, was Tate Forcier a better passing QB than Denard?


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 1:09 a.m.

The way, Because all of the Michigan QB's you mentioned can actually throw the ball. Denard has great feet, a great smile, great in his personal life, but he's not even a good passer. He plays QB, a position where he must stretch the field in this new offense. Also, when I spoke of Bellomy "playing" and Denard/Devin in other positions it was for the sake of having more talent on the field, not because I think Bellomy is a better QB right now. I was polling for the commenters on our site.


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

Matt, but he IS. By Michigan faithful. You can find it all over this very site. You can find it in every article about Denard that MGoBlue puts on Facebook. You can find it everywhere. Michigan fans bashing Denard's passing ability, calling him a RB, calling him an "arm punter". Heck, you can even find some people who think RUSSELL BELLOMY should be starting QB and Denard/Devin should be playing different positions. If it's just because people are comparing him to QBs around the nation, then why did Chad Henne not get jeered off the field? Or John Navarre? Or any other Michigan QB in the last 20 years for that matter? They all had pretty pathetic careers by that standard, why is Denard the first to be ridiculed?


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 3:46 a.m.

Would you want DR on your team? The answer is helzz yeah.


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 1 a.m.

As SEC fan said though, DR isn't being compared to the other QB's in Michigans history he is compared on a national level aganst the other QB's. Is he a good QB. Tally10 I will concede that DRob is the most complete qb in Michigan history, or at least "Modern history" just because he could play just about every skill position on offense


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

Denard is judged by an impossible standard. His passing numbers are right up there with the best in Michigan history, yet he is constantly bashed for being a weak passer. His rushing numbers are up there with the best RBs in Michigan history, yet people say he's too fragile to run the ball regularly (which is funny considering how much time Mike Hart missed in his career and I only remember people talking about how tough he was.) And on top of everything, he's been as good a teammate as we've ever seen. I really hope he just dominates this year and wins the Heisman, if for no other reason but to shut up the legions of haters.


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 3:43 a.m.

DR is a stud. It's unfair to compare him to any other qbs in that he is sort of a hybrid. I would love to have DR as my QB. No one ever said he's the next Bret Favre but dude is one of the top 4-5 players in college ball right now. Give him a break?


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 11:08 p.m.

not being originally from here, I can say down South, most QBs we discuss are compared to other QBs in the nation, not at our school. That would go for any position really. Maybe you're just talking about the flak he's receiving from um fans? that may be new...but when the analysts (ESPN, etc.) compare players, they're comparing them to other players in the nation, not at the school. I've never heard anyone compare the Mannings or Tebow to their predecessors at their respective schools.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

Seriously, did Jim Harbaugh ever have to listen to Michigan alumni/fans call him a running back trying to play QB?


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

But that's just it. How many of the other Michigan QBs were judged the way Denard is?


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

" His passing numbers are right up there with the best in Michigan history, yet he is constantly bashed for being a weak passer. " I believe that's because as a QB, he's being compared with other QBs at all other schools, not just Michigan. As a um QB, he will end his career quite close to the top, but when compared on a national level he is weak as a passer. Denard had 2,173 yds passing last year and 2,570 in 2010. Great years for a um QB. He has 40 TDs and 30 INTs. But for comparison: Ty Detmer threw for 4,560yds in 1989 alone and had 15,301 yds for his college career. Roethlisberger threw for 3,100yds, 3,200 yds, and 4,400 yds in his career Eli Manning threw for 10,119 yds in his 3 years as a starter. 84Tds, 36INTs Graham Harrell (texas tech) threw for 4,555yds his sophomore year and 5,111 yds his senior year. Tim Tebow passed for 9,286yds, 88TDs and only 15INTs. He also and rushed for 2947yds and another 57 TDs.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

OldBitty, a loss to a scheduled BTN team is worse than a loss to Alabama.


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 3:39 a.m.

The "reigning national champion" finished 2nd in their division. I'll take that EVERY YEAR! Wouldn't you? Roll Tide. Good luck to UM and safe travels.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

Tell me again where the reigning national champion finished in their conference.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

BTN in a TV channel.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

How many times has the BTN champion gone to the BCS Championship game?


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

Ya can't win the BTN if ya can't beat the teams in the BTN and if ya don't win the 10 you don't go to the Rose Bowl or the Championship game.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

BTN team?


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

"...but Michigan won't alter approach for Heisman campaign " Right! But they should alter it to maximize DR's talent and the talent of the team. Putting a lot of focus on finding Hemingway's replacement, making DR a pocket passer and talking about his accuracy isn't the answer. Two critical things necessary for a successful pocket passer: 1) receiver separation, and 2) protection which DR had very little of. Michigan don't have JH but they do have Roy who is just as big as Desmond Howard and Roy's 72 catch season ( 2010 ) is 9 more than Desmond's 63 best. NEWS FLASH: Borges, you are not a constant deep threat team. I can't remember, but I think it was Bellichick who said, " don't let what you can't do stop you from what you can do. " IMO,if Borges takes that approach, M has a better chance of winning the B1G, and DR the Heisman.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

TheWay - Yes, Borges should take advice from me, I have a BS degree in Football Offensive Strategies Technology, played an OC on TV, and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

Do you really believe Al Borges should take advice from you?

Thomas Jones

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

DR IS going to go down as a Great Michigan Man Period(.) He has "wowed" fans for the last 3 years and stayed out of "trouble"(Guns, Drugs, DUI's, etc.) I respect him as a student and as a man! Thank you DR and I can not wait for this season! GO BLUE or GO HOME! BAMA is gonna feel that BLUE TIDE.... it is a'comin'


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

Good post.


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 3:36 a.m.

I have to agree> I've never heard any negative pub on DR. I hope he does well this year and UM continues to improve. See you in a few days, Roll Tide.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

Denard is absolutely right. He doesn't even get mentioned for the Heisman without a great team record. If there is nobody else on that team that can catch his passes, can run the ball without fumbling, that can tackle or cover the pass--he does not win that trophy. If we win the B10, if we win a big one on the road in September (or better both), we can all talk about Denard and Heisman. But so much is dependent on the team's success rather than his individual success. And he has shown himself to be a great team leader and I expect on Sunday, he will be announced as a co-tri-captain with Jordan Kovacs and Big Will.

Terry Star21

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

"The Wolverines historically have refused to single out players for public promotion, including during Heisman runs for Howard in 1991 and Charles Woodson in 1997". This is what sets Michigan football far above everything and everyone else. They are the nations best team, with the nations winningest record and the nations best disciplined team. Michigan football sets the bar for the highest overall standards for their athletes and team. Now we have added, without question, the three best coaches in the nation. What an absolutely fantastic time to be a Michigan football faithful. MgoBlueForTiM...the whole team/coaches win the Heisman.

Howard the Duck

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

" They are the nations best team, with the nations winningest record and the nations best disciplined team. " Now, if you could only keep them out of the criminal justice system!

concerned citizen

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

Nice article with great stats. An honor that Denard deserves is jersey #1.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

The #1 jersey is the biggest load of crap "tradition" at Michigan. It has never once been awarded to a receiver beyond "oh, hey, this freshman wants to wear number 1 and it's available". Not once.

Robert Granville

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

Receivers only... it should stay that way no matter how prolific a player is running the offense.

jeff blue

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Hi All, Beating Alabama in Texas and then beating ND in Southbend would be very nice, but I don't care that much about the non-conference. Clearl,y you must play your best ball in every game. I think that the Big Ten Conference games are most important. We were 6 - 2 last year and it will be nice to improve upon that. Here are the key games on my radar: MSU in Ann Arbor Nebraska in Lincoln OSU in Columbus Wisconsin in Indy (B10 championship game) PacTen at the Rosebowl That is what I care about. JEFF GO BLUE


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

Why do you think the big10 games are most important? Don't you think um has to be at least competitive against 'Bama to stay in the top 10? I'd submit a big loss (i.e., um never seriously has a chance to win) would be a huge setback for um and the big 10.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

The improvement will come in performing better in the away game and against B10 conference teams. If Denard can achieve that and help Michigan win those games, he'll be a leading Heisman candidate.


Wed, Aug 22, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

Kyle, the game is in Arlington, not Dallas just like Russell Bellomy went to Arlington Martin not Dallas Martin.

Kyle Meinke

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

MRunner, Denard was pretty awful last year on the road. I agree that will be a barometer for success this year. And we'll get an early reading, after he travels to Dallas to face Alabama.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

Denard will always be the greatest of warriors in our own Colosseum- the big house. The names and stories of famous Roman gladiators (Priscus, Verus, Spartacus) are still passed down after 2000 years, and their arena still stands. The great need no PR machine. Hail Denardicus! Thumbs up.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Plus Denard won the September Heisman Trophy for the last two years while Michigan was beating up the MAC and other small schools!

Robert Granville

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

Denard's best games of 2011 were in the back end of the season.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Like the small school Notre Dame, that beat up on MSU.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

Time for state to get their come upins.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

sparty can't touch that and it's killing you!! GO BLUE!!!

Ted Bundy

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

Oh your tears are so sweet!


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Win the Big Ten, get us to the Rose Bowl and beat USC, and Drob will be remembered as one of the top 5 Michigan men of all time.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

But will he win the big games this season?


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

I feel the same,the records are nice fluff but a big ten championship is what it is really all about.Here is to a great year for the Wolverines!The team The team The team.


Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

Those are nice stats. I like his attitude about the main goal being to win games and I think DR is genuine about that. DR is a unique talent and personality, very likeable on and off the field. DR will be a good ambassador for Mich. for years to come.

Kyle Meinke

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

Hailmary, I've talked to Denard enough that I feel like I can say he really isn't bothered at all that his stats went down last year under the new coaching regime. It's something every QB in his position would say, but, c'mon -- these are competitive people who each want to make the NFL. And win Heismans. Stats play a big role in all of that, and the players know it. But I do believe Denard is different. I've never met a quarterback who cares about stats less.