Denard Robinson's path on Michigan football team mirrors Pat White's at West Virginia
The comparisons started before Denard Robinson took his first snap for the Michigan football team. They intensified after he looked like a dual-threat against Connecticut in the season opener.
When Robinson became the ninth quarterback in NCAA history to rush and pass for more than 200 yards in a game against Notre Dame, there was no avoiding it. Robinson looks like a Pat White clone.
“It’s dÃ©jÃ vu all over again,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said, comparing Michigan’s current quarterback to the one who beat him four times at West Virginia.
“There are a lot of similarities,” said Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, who coached White three of his four years with the Mountaineers. Both held the same role as the nerve center of Rodriguez’s spread offense, responsible for throwing the football as well as they run it, but their similarities go beyond the balance of speed and accuracy.
They start with the premise that they are athletes first, quarterbacks second.
Most schools recruited White out of Daphne, Ala., to play receiver or cornerback, the same way most recruited Robinson, now a sophomore, to play the same positions out of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
To some extent, that made sense. Robinson grew up mimicking the moves of Florida State receiver Peter Warrick, and White liked following Michigan’s Charles Woodson.
But like Robinson, he had only one intention.
“I wanted to play quarterback,” White said Wednesday. “I was determined to give it a shot and see how far I could go with it.”
For White, that meant foregoing a six-figure signing bonus from the Anaheim Angels, who had drafted White as an outfield prospect.
One of the few coaches willing to give White a shot to play quarterback was Rodriguez, then coaching at West Virginia.
“He gave me an opportunity not many people were looking to give me,” White said.
By the mid-point of his freshman season, White looked ready to play. He made his first start against UConn - same as Robinson - and threw for 106 yards and a touchdown while running for 63 and two more scores.
Over the course of his career, he started 40 games, ran for 4,480 yards, a record for a Football Bowl Division quarterback, and threw for 6,049 yards. He scored 47 rushing touchdowns and threw for 56.
In two games, Robinson has done his best impersonation of White, who rushed for 220 yards and passed for 204 against Pitt in 2006.
“This is what Rich did when he played him at West Virginia with Pat White,” Edsall said. “I’m not saying that he’s Pat White, because Pat was pretty good. But with time, I think this young man will have a chance to become a very good quarterback.”
Against UConn, Robinson ran for 197 and passed for 186. Against Notre Dame, he joined White in the 200-200 club, rushing for 258 and throwing for 244. Saturday, Michigan (2-0) plays host to Massachusetts (2-0) at noon (Big Ten Network).
“It’s exciting to see the offense I ran successful after I’m out of it,” White said. On Robinson, White said, “He is a beast. I mean, that’s all you can say. He’s doing amazing things up there.”
While Robinson’s career is on the upswing, White is, at the very least, currently taking a break.
At the same time Robinson ripped apart UConn in the season opener, the Miami Dolphins released White, their second-round draft pick in 2009. And at the same time Robinson faced Notre Dame, White signed a contract to play baseball with the Kansas City Royals.
He’ll report to the minors and play in the Arizona fall league. It’s the first time he’s played baseball since high school in 2004.
“I enjoy competing and love both games,” White said. “Right now, I’m excited about being able to swing the bat, hitting live balls and competing in baseball for a while.”
Given all their similarities, it would be fair if White’s short stint in the NFL as a wildcat quarterback made Robinson skeptical of his long-term chances at quarterback.
But the Michigan quarterback isn’t fazed by the comparisons. “You could say he is the same thing they listed me as,” Robinson said Monday. “An athlete.”
Pete Bigelow can be reached at (734) 623-2556 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.