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Posted on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.

Legs, arm and mouth: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson trying to become triple threat

By Kyle Meinke

Denard Robinson's arm is going to be closely scrutinized heading into next season, but there's another body part that could be just as consequential to the Michigan football team's fate.

His mouth.

The Wolverines' senior -- still weird to say, right? -- quarterback has been known for his effervescent smile since he first stepped foot on campus as an 18-year-old country kid from Deerfield Beach, Fla. Four years later, the shy Robinson is trying to mold himself into a team leader.

That means knowing when to wipe away that smile and kick someone in the rear.

"Sometimes, you have to get up in ‘em," Robinson said of motivating others. "You can’t always be nice to them. I can’t always have a smile on my face."

He said it, of course, with a wide smile.


A second-quarter touchdown against Ohio State, above, drew a vocal reaction from Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Now he's trying to be a more vocal leader on the practice field and locker room.

Angela J. Cesere |

Robinson became close over the years to his former center, David Molk, a captain who was known for his vocal, sometimes-brash leadership style.

Soft spoken by nature, Robinson hopes to adapt that kind of demeanor himself and is learning to open up. That effort was on display during his 8-minute news conference Thursday night, when he was more outgoing and articulate than at pretty much any point last season.

He appears to be taking this leadership business seriously, and it's something teammates have noticed.

"He’s been outgoing," senior receiver and close friend Roy Roundtree said. "Being the quarterback, that’s what it takes, because everyone’s looking up to the quarterback.

"He was just saying all this went by so fast, and now everybody is going to be looking up to him. ... He was a shy kid coming in, but now he’s matured more. (I'm) just giving him extra points, because he wasn’t like that at first."

How far has Robinson come? When he first came to Ann Arbor, Roundtree couldn't even understand the play calls in the huddle because "he's so country."

"(Now), you can actually hear the play fluent in the huddle," Roundtree said. "We've finally gotten him to be assertive enough that we can understand his play calls."

Robinson also has taken to becoming more visible around campus, attending several sporting events that span sports such as men's and women's basketball, to hockey and track.

He was never more visible, though, than when he received a shout-out from President Barack Obama during a campus visit Jan. 27.

"That’s one of the days I’m going to sit down and tell my grandkids, 'Look, I got a story for you,'" Robinson said. "As soon as I got done meeting him, I called my mom, dad, brothers, and told them, 'I just met the President! I just met the President of the United States!'

"(Offensive lineman) Patrick (Omameh) was right next to me, and was just like, 'Oh my gosh, he really just called your name, man!' And I was like, 'This is crazy.'"

Of course, becoming the face of the program, and a leader of it, also means greater expectations for Robinson. He understands that's the deal.

Robinson has worked hard in the offseason to make better reads, which would improve his accuracy and cut down on his turnovers, two problems that periodically plagued him last year. He completed only 55 percent of his passes, a 7.5-percent dip from 2010, and threw 15 interceptions, sixth most in the country.

"I’m going to tell you this: I play quarterback, and the No. 1 thing about a quarterback is always take care of the ball," Robinson said. "I had 15 interceptions. That’s not acceptable as a quarterback, and is something I need to work on."

Robinson identified a technical flaw in his game, noticing that many of his errant passes came when he threw off his back foot. He's working to right that.

He also has immersed himself in film study, and already is making quicker decisions. Coach Brady Hoke said the quarterback's greatest area of growth through four spring practices has been his decisiveness in the passing game.

"All offseason, I’ve been watching film, seeing the reads I should have made and how many touchdowns I missed," Robinson said. "So this year, hopefully, I won’t have that many mistakes."

It appears he's already learning from the ones he made, and that's as good a start as any.

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



Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

Good for him. A positive attitude can make lots of things happen. Nobody excepts him to play mistake-free, but if he can reduce mistakes, it's possible to do even better than an 11-2 season. P.S. I'm trying to ignore the tougher schedule, though!


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

Expects, not excepts!


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

What is his win/loss record?

Terry Star21

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 3:12 a.m.

Last season 11-2, BCS Sugar Bowl win, despite having a noodle for an arm...


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

I gotta agree w/ DB. Exaggerating Denard's weakness does no one any good. How about we concentrate on what the man has brought to the program instead?


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 9:19 a.m.

I see something is seriously wrong with your arm as well Albee... You lack the ability to write something that makes sense. But oh well, noodle recognizes noodle, right...? Hatin' is not an occupation. Get a job. GO BLUE!!!


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

he had a job at walmart but he lost it. . . seems he spends to much time on his computer worrying about MICHIGAN!! GO BLUE!!!!!!


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 9:13 a.m.

Absolutely love that piece Terry! I couldn't agree wit u more. GO BLUE!!!

Albee Macaw

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 6:20 a.m.

Kid is a great athlete but his arm is a noodle. He could not throw a football into the ocean and hit it even if he was standing in the surf.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 5:15 a.m.

Terry, if you remember the ND game, you'd know that wasn't a 45 yard pass to Roundtree in the endzone for the win. He threw the ball from the 29. And he wasn't falling backwards. He had time to set his feet.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 5:13 a.m.

Again with the "Denard can't throw" garbage. Denard is 7th all time in passing yardage at Michigan and will likely finish the season 3rd all-time behind only Chad Henne and John Navarre, who both started 4 years. Denard is 6th all time in passing touchdowns at Michigan, and will likely finish 4th for his career. Oh... and his career passer rating, as of right now, is higher than Henne's, Navarre's, and Brady's...

Terry Star21

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 3:09 a.m.

Yep Albee...I remember the ND game, falling backwards and a 45 yard strike to Roundtree just in bounds for the win....the ocean got a lot smaller that day.....


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 7:15 p.m.

well let's see. . . go deep, about 100 yds off shore and splash a lot! if he can't hit you i'am sure something else WILL!! GO BLUE!!!!!!

Steve McQueen

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 3:41 a.m.

No matter what position Denard ends up playing in the NFL, he is going to be a huge star with multiple endorsements. Mark it down. He is a marketing dream with his speed on the field and demeanor off the field.

Terry Star21

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

I see him smiling when JR Ewing congratulates him on winning the opener.....I see him smiling and singing to the student section after he smokes msu..... I see him smiling, dodging the beer cans, spit, fingers and verbal abuse at the horseshoe in triumph..... I see him smiling in the end zone doing the Heisman stance, then winning it......I see him smiling getting MVP after Michigan's BCS National Championship.....but mostly I see him smiling for himself, for he is an American hero.... MgoBlueForTiM.....DRob smiles as he runs the table.