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Posted on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke says Denard Robinson has 'gotten better every week' despite struggles

By Kyle Meinke


Denard Robinson runs for a touchdown against Illinois last Saturday, but the junior quarterback has taken on less of the Michigan rushing attack in recent weeks.

Melanie Maxwell I

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.

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



Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.

Denard would be much better if our offensive coordinator would let him throw when the down and distance is in his favor; 2nd and 3, 2nd and 1, etc. The only time Borges lets him throw in these favorable positions is when they are in the two minute offense. In my opinion if you are looking to calm a guy down and give him some favorable situations to throw these are those situations and its not being done. Not impressed with Borges since the MSU game.

Matt Patercsak

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:41 a.m.

Nebraska will not find much daylight running up the middle on us, so a brunt push by our front four may not be necessary, what we do need however, is sound gap responsibility and discipline in the C gap (Between the tight end and tackle) where I think we are most susceptible, Nebraska's power option attack will be looking for a cutback lane there, but we have improved since the last time we were pounded there (MSU) and I think this overachieving attitude by our defense, if it remains in the air, will be a factor. formula: we put Kovacs in the box to the high play tendency side, and put gordon and woolfolk into coverage roles. we force them to throw the ball downfield. there is but one thing that scares me, a rex burkhead swing/screen pass. defending the lateral passing game may be a challenge. i feel like they will rinky dink us in the flats (JT Floyd's side) to get us spread out, THEN pound it up the middle. It's what I would do against our defense. but it all comes down to responsibility and technique, if we can be sound, strong and secure on a few points of the defense, we stop Nebraska's bread and butter and force Martinez to create using his arm. and he has some of the worst mechanics i have ever seen. we can win this game.

Lorain Steelmen

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:24 a.m.

At the end of theday, Nebraska must commit bodies to shut down Rob's and Toussaint's running threat. The game will turn on DRob 's ability to get the ball to our recievers, NOT the long throws, but the 10 to 20 yarders. If DRob can do that, the Huskers are toast. If he can NOT do that, then the Wolverines, are toast.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

That's good coach speak. Just stop the INTs and fumbles, oh, and increase the completion percentage to 60% and we win both the remaining games.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 10:48 p.m.

In order for Denard to improve he must: 1) Read the Defense. - Better... 2) Quit throwing off his back foot. 3) Make better descisions in the pocket. All of these things can be taught. Remember Denard as a Freshman. Look at him his 2nd year same offense..Hmmm..... Now hes in a new offense...Has one more year! History repeats itself.. Go Blue!!!


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

@Keith, I agree wholeheartedly. Unless Hoke is fired, UM is committed long term to a pro-style offense. I think it would be a big mistake to delay implementation of this offense any more than they already have by "hybridizing." It is important for the other 10 offensive positions to practice and develop the skills needed for the pro-style schemes. Some of these players will be here long after Denard is gone. It is up to Denard to meet the coaches half way and learn to adapt to the new system. It's only fair to the rest of THE TEAM. And I further agree with you that it is possible we will see an improved "pro-style Denard" next year.

Riley Campbell

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 10:45 p.m.

President Coleman reaches out to students &amp; faculty: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 10:04 p.m.

&quot;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,&quot; Really? I actually think Borges has done a horrible job of using Denard. He MAY understand the special player he has, but we sure aren't exploiting it. All of Denard's injuries this year have resulted from sitting in the pocket, trying to throw downfield. Hand, elbow, wrist, all the results of sacks. Defense looks great and keeps improving. Tough and physical. Should be a good game this weekend. I don't buy into &quot;Denard plays better at home&quot; excuse either. He played fine at NW. Overall I'm really happy where we are at, I would just really appreciate some honesty on the offensive side of the ball. Coaching has made our defense so much better this year but the respective drop off on offense is concerning. I love winning games by 10 points, but I'd much rather win them by 20 when we've got the talent to run the score up.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

Perhaps you could jump over to this site and read what Space Coyote has to say. You can read his entire entry or scroll down to the comments. I encourage you to read the first two comments. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Matt Patercsak

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

I just sat back, relaxed, and thought about our team being 8-2. in this transitional year, thats pretty good. I also thought about the incoming recruits, which made me happier. and I thought about the toughness and physicality of our young defense. I sat and focused on all the positives this team and this coaching staff have accomplished in their first year. 8-2. I suggest everyone do the same :) sure we have problems, what football team doesn't. but you can NOT ask for a better reaction from our players, buying in, trusting each other and the coaches, to get them where they are now. kudos to them. everyone should stop being critical, just for a second, and appreciate what these kids are doing and smile ...then go back to being critical, cause this is Michigan! the leaders and the best!


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

It sounds like Coach Hoke gave honest answers regarding how Denard has progressed. Denard has been a much better player at home in the Big House. The big drop in four of the last five games are a result of playing on the road. It is unfortunate that Denard did not play well on the road. That has been the case not only this year, but last year as well. Now that we have the last two games at home, Denard should be much more effective. The offsetting factor will be the tougher defenses of NE and OSU. If, Denard is indeed improving as Coach Hoke states, then we should expect a more balanced offense. Playing QB at Michigan has been under the micoscope wrt the fan base since Tom Brady. I remember hearing boos in the stands at the Big House when Chad Henne played against Oregon in 2007. They cheered when he got injured and Ryan Mallet was put in. Good luck to Denard and Go Blue!


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

Agreed, thx


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

A minor quibble. The QB position has been under the fan's microscope as far back as Scott Driesbach/Brian Griese. Their tenure at Michigan coincided with the explosion of the internet and a HC in every house. You may not remember, you may not have known, but the question of who was going to be the starting QB for 1997 was on everyone's keyboard. And it wasn't answered until the Monday or Tuesday before game day (the romantic in me says when Griese took the field against Colorado) that the question was answered.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

So I have been very tough on Denard this year (not that he reads these posts or mlive!) and I agree that he has improved in a couple of area's and I think that is why he has suffered in others. He is getting better at the footwork that it takes to be a good passer. He focuses so much on it that he does not look when he throws. He also is not good at stepping into the pocket because he is to short to at 5'11'' (maybe 6' on cleats!). I get frustrated watching incompletions that I have seen other Michigan QBs make through out the years but those incompletions dont mean much. It is the horrible turnovers that we continue to see from him. It is the 2-3 times in a game where he does not use good footwork that he throws picks off of his back foot or while running backwards and spinning and jumping while being tackled. He will learn I hope to just eat the ball of throw it away! The turnovers lose games the incomplete passes lose field position. It is really odd how Denard gets injured when he is not throwing the ball well and is turning it over. If Denard has ZERO turnovers michigan will win this game big. I see michigan being 9-2 going into the ohio game and having a good chance of shutting ohio out! Go Blue!


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

I have to hand it to Hoke. Michigan is 8-2 and the team is talking about struggling. Much different than last year.