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Posted on Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 5:57 a.m.

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson adapting to new offense, expectations

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson has looked solid as he adjusts to a pro-style offense, players and coaches say. Offensive coordinator Al Borges on Robinson: "As long as he uses good judgment and doesn’t try to do more than he’s capable of doing, he’ll be a very, very good player for us."

Angela J. Cesere |

There is a long tradition of pro-style quarterbacks who have starred for the Michigan football team.

Now that Denard Robinson is learning the scheme, after whom is he patterning his game?

“There’s two of them,” Robinson said without hesitation after a recent practice. “Michael Vick and Peyton Manning.”

It’s an odd combination, but what is most striking is who he omitted — particularly since he was standing in the middle of Michigan’s football museum at Schembechler Hall, where’s there’s a photo of that great quarterback.

“And Tom Brady,” Robinson added after a moment, realizing his mistake. “I forgot about Tom Brady. I’m sorry, Tom.”

It’s about the only misstep Robinson’s made this off-season — a remarkable feat, considering the transformation he’s been asked to make.


Age: 20
Hometown: Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Class: Junior
Major: Kinesiology
Size: 6-foot, 195 pounds
Position: Quarterback

2010: 182-for-291 (62.5%), 2,570 yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs
2009: 14-for-31 (45.2 %), 188 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs

2010: 256 att., 1,702 yards, 6.6 avg., 14 TDs
2009: 69 att., 351 yards, 5.1 avg., 5 TDs

Records set in 2010: NCAA single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,702). … School record for single-season touches (547) and total offense (4,272). … School record for total yards in a game, accounting for 502 of Michigan’s 532 against Notre Dame. … School and Big Ten record for single-game rushing yards by a quarterback (258 against Notre Dame).

Other 2010 notables: Completed 62.5 percent of his passes, up from 45.2 in 2009. … Posted Michigan’s five best rushing performances (258, 217, 197, 191, 129). … Finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting. … Became first player to undergo a coaching change a season after being named the Big Ten offensive player of the year. … Named first-team All-Big Ten. … Finished fourth nationally in rushing yards. … Set Michigan record for most rushing yards by a player who returned the next season. … Led Big Ten in total offense (328.6 yards per game) and second nationally. … Set school record for total offense (383 yards) and rushing yards by a quarterback (197) in his first career start against UConn, both of which were eclipsed the next week. … Became ninth player in NCAA history to rush and pass for 200 yards in a game. He did it twice.

The junior is, by all accounts, adapting to the pro-style offense despite being recruited to run the spread-option — a scheme he fit perfectly. He’s lightning fast, with a first step that rivals any quarterback in the history of college football.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Robinson is the fastest player he’s seen on a football field. Mattison, mind you, is a 31-year college assistant who coached the Baltimore Ravens the past three years.

Robinson rushed for an NCAA quarterback-record 1,702 yards last year as a sophomore first-year starter. Now he’s back, becoming Michigan’s first returning starter at quarterback since Chad Henne in 2007.

The biggest leap for college quarterbacks often comes between their first and second years as starters. They have a better feel for protection schemes, where rushers will penetrate the pocket, where receivers will be and so on. It all leads to better vision and anticipation.

Robinson won’t have that luxury. Not at all.

Instead, he has worked assiduously this off-season to learn the new route trees, develop timing with his receivers, sharpen his footwork and forge his pocket presence.

It’s paying off.

“Everyone wants to say he’s a running quarterback, and he’s really been sitting back and reading the defense and timing off the routes,” said junior Roy Roundtree, Robinson’s top target last year.

“He’s getting more comfortable day by day. He’s really spraying it out.”

The fawning over Robinson’s game has come from all directions. Coach Brady Hoke, offensive coordinator Al Borges, the receivers, the cornerbacks ... probably the water boys would too, if they were made available for comment.

They all say the same thing: Robinson’s a solid pro-style quarterback whose passes are crisper than ever. His mechanics are improving daily. He’s bouncing in the pocket less, and making better check-downs.

And, hey, when trouble comes? He can do a little running, too.

“He’s a unique talent,” Borges said. “I’ve said this 1,000 times, and I’ll say it again: As long as he uses good judgment and doesn’t try to do more than he’s capable of doing, he’ll be a very, very good player for us.

“Sometimes, change can be met by resistance — we’re all that way by human nature — but unless I’m naive, and my wife says I am, I don’t see much of that.”

For as much as Robinson is adopting his game to the pro-style offense, Borges is adopting his pro-style offense to Robinson, who is expected to receive about 10 to 15 carries per game.

“This running quarterback thing really poses some interesting options I haven’t had in a while,” Borges said. “The biggest thing about the quarterback, whether it’s Denard or anybody, is you have to, as quick as you possibly can, identify what he can do.

“Now, he can do darn near everything, but find what he can do best and gear your schemes to that.”

Roundtree and Borges both said Michigan’s offense will look familiar at times this year, with Robinson in the shotgun and taking off on designed runs. He’s been seen running such plays during media availability at practices.

As for Robinson, he isn’t divulging much about what the offense will look like Saturday against Western Michigan.

“It’s going to be a surprise,” he said.

His motives, though, are clear.

“He wants to be a great Michigan quarterback,” Hoke said.

He’s off to a good start. He already has his photo displayed at the museum.

Not far from Brady’s.

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



Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

Shoelaces, Don't worry cuz Tommy's old lady, Giselle, will whisper sweet nothings into Brady's ear and before you know it, you will be swapping Maize n Blue stories with Tommy & Giselle at their pool.


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 3:40 a.m.

DR IS GOING TO BE ELECTRIC!!! please, if some one could take the pencil out of corso's hand i think it would silence him! GO BLUE!!!

Chad Williams

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 11:08 p.m.

Denard will be fine if coaches dont get stubborn and tailor the scheme to fit him. One spring isnt enough for a QB still learning to learn a brand new concept. Im not looking to see if he can grasp the offense but can he be successful in it. Will making him take snaps under center be better for him? He is a great kid and a hardworker but no it takes at least a year for a coach to really know what he can do and not do well.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 10:49 p.m.

O Borges, O Borges; The Spread was gorgeous. Run pro set, though, And opposition shall gorge us. This is NOT Michigan. Going for broke (like Bo and Our King), now THAT was Michigan.

1st Down

Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 9:17 a.m.

Yeah Theo...we all miss the old "fun and gun" days of Air Bo....


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 10:12 p.m.

Been reading and hearing good things about Denard's pre season improvements and developments. We all know that Denard is a very hard worker, has a great attitude and is willing to do what ever it takes. He is a true Michigan Man. The key to his success: avoiding injury. Let's all hope he can draw on last seasons experience which includes his success but his failures. I hope the fans will not be too tough on him if throw a long as it isn't against Sparty with the game on the line. Good luck to Denard and the whole Wolverine football team..Go Blue! Show time is September 2nd.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

1st down, I read that article. What's horse crap. I concur, 9 wins if we bmbeat the irish, 8 if not. Go blue


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 8:55 p.m.

[quote]"Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Robinson is the fastest player he's seen on a football field." [quote]"It's going to be a surprise," he, ,said [quote] (from "Sept. 10, Michigan 23, Notre Dame 21: First night game in The Big House. Rich Rodriguez is barely a distant memory. Brady Hoke recognizes the significance of a defense. And Denard Robinson is back to give the Irish fits. Quite a combination for the Maize and Blue." Adding: the ND offense isn't going to be that fast, giving our still-to-be-proven defense some help. ND is ranked 17th?? That's one thing that will change (in Michigan's favor) the night of Sept. 10th. I think the Wolverines will probably shred their way to the conference part of the schedule and do equally well vs Minnesota and Northwestern. By that time, I think they'll be looked at with renewed respect when they meet MSU. Shoelace, better start conditioning your writing hand: you're going to be signing a lot of autographs before long. TiM Go Blue!


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

1st Down I agree. Did you see Lee Corso on College game day yesterday? He said 5 wins for Mich this year. Seriosly? 5 wins? Sometimes I think he is funny, sometimes he says things to stirr things up. Then again, he's probably still smarting from that last second touchdown from Wang to Snake.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

Lee Corso's schtick is to say outrageous things and stir things up. Five wins is ridiculous. And he knows it. The "floor" is worst case 6 wins ... more likely 7 wins. The likely case is either 8 or 9 wins. 10 is a stretch ... 12 would be a miracle.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

Michigan will go udefeated this year. Go Blue!


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

My very strong sense is that Hoke and company have done a great job managing expectations down. "Under commit and over perform." We will see a good Michigan team on September 3rd.

1st Down

Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 12:41 p.m.

well not much new news or quote here...but at least there is not a local yammering imbecile writer saying that our OL is bad and lacks depth and that we will be lucky to get to 6-6, as was said by the former newspaper that conspires against Michigan.... so that said, anyone who believes that the OL is bad, or that the offense will not score points... needs to go hang out with mr dull or lee corso... meanwhile Michigan will win at least 8-9 games this fall...go blue.