Michigan football coach Brady Hoke says Denard Robinson has 'gotten better every week' despite struggles
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
Michigan football coach Brady Hoke continues to stand behind Denard Robinson, despite the quarterback's mounting struggles.
Robinson still is among the Big Ten's leaders in several categories, including total offense (second), rushing (fifth) and scoring (fourth). But in his past five games, Robinson has struggled to pass or run consistently, has become turnover prone and has growing health concerns.
The junior has averaged 3.7 yards per carry in his past five games. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes twice in that stretch and threw seven interceptions, including at least one in each game. He has 13 on the season, fourth most in the country,
Robinson also fumbled three times in his past two games.
Hoke, though, said he sees improvement in Robinson.
"I think he’s gotten better every week, within the offense," Hoke said Tuesday during his weekly conference call with reporters. "I think the way he goes out every day, and his work ethic every day, his leadership and his real attention to detail, whether it be in the pro-game or carrying it, (helps him adjust).
"We’re glad he’s here at Michigan."
The No. 20 Wolverines (8-2, 4-2) return home this weekend after a two-game road swing. They play No. 17 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) at noon Saturday on ESPN.
Robinson, who has left four of the past five games due to injury (he also left the fifth because it was a blowout) is expected to play against the Cornhuskers, despite getting knocked out of last week's win against Illinois with a sprained wrist.
However, he may play a reduced role in the running game.
Sophomore tailback Fitz Toussaint has emerged the past three weeks as Michigan's most consistent rushing threat and is beginning to shoulder more of the load. In his past two healthy games, Toussaint averaged 23.5 carries for 181 yards.
Robinson, meantime, has received only 12 carries in each of his past two games after dipping below 16 just once in his first six. He averages 96.0 yards per game, but hasn't topped 63 in four weeks.
Toussaint is beginning to receive carries that, in the past, have gone to Robinson.
"I think (offensive coordinaor) Al Borges has done a tremendous job of understanding we have a pretty special guy (in Robinson) who athletically can do some things other guys can’t do," Hoke said. "We’ve also tried to limit his touches to where it’s never a one-man offense. The development of Fitz has progressed and our backs are doing a better job.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini likes what he's seen on tape of Toussaint.
"He’s a good football player," Pelini said. "He’s a kid that does a lot of good things, and they’ve been doing a good job of getting him the football.
"He puts a lot of stress on the defense with that great speed, and then they’re blocking real well for him up front. That’s kind of the trademark of an Al Borges offense. They’ve done a nice job of blocking and giving their running backs some room to run."
Toussaint's increasing workload has him shooting up the Big Ten's rushing leaderboard. He now checks in at sixth at 83.7 yards per game.