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Posted on Sun, Apr 10, 2011 : 10:29 p.m.

Your Michigan football primer heading into this week's spring game

By Pete Bigelow


Denard Robinson lines up under center during a Michigan football practice last Tuesday at the Al Glick Field House.

Melanie Maxwell |

The hockey team played for its first national championship since 1998. Michael Phelps swam at Canham Natatorium. Lion Kim became the first Michigan golfer to play in the Masters while still in school.

It was a marquee weekend for Michigan’s non-revenue sports.

This week, order returns for the Wolverines. The Michigan football team completes its final slate of spring practices, culminating with the spring football game Saturday (Noon, Michigan Stadium).

Gates open at 9 a.m. for a pre-game show that kicks off with an alumni game at 10 a.m. When the actual game starts at noon, here’s your sneak preview of five things to keep an eye on:

The obvious

The question has dominated the offseason. How does Denard Robinson fit into the pro-style offense run by Brady Hoke?

Saturday provides the first glimpse at an answer. Every big play No. 16 makes will be heralded as a sure sign of symmetry; every mistake scrutinized more often than the Zapruder film.

Revolution this is not - Robinson played under center in high school, and Michigan will meld the shotgun into its playbook to accommodate Robinson’s strengths.

If you want to gauge how Robinson is adjusting, watch his footwork. That’s the advice of offensive coordinator Al Borges, who said, “The footwork issues - that’s the biggest change - and he has grasped the concept well.”

Relief role

Borges was incredulous Tuesday when he noted Robinson missed time in 10 of 13 games last season because of an assortment of bruises and bumps, mainly on his knee, shoulder and head. By comparison, Ryan Lindley, Borges’ QB at San Diego State, didn’t miss any time at all.

Robison will be less-disposed to injury in the new offense, receiving fewer runs by design. But he’ll still need a reliable backup now that Tate Forcier has transferred to Miami.

Sophomore Devin Gardner steps into that role. He impressed in limited action last year, namely a 7-for-10 passing performance in Michigan’s biggest rout of the season against Bowling Green.

“Devin can work in the pocket because of his profile,” Borges said about the 6-foor-4, 210-pound Inkster native.

Now that he’s longer vying for backup snaps with Forcier, Gardner has a chance to show he’s not only the quarterback of Michigan’s future, but an able backup in the present.

The forgotten

Michigan’s fullbacks and tight ends should have been featured on milk cartons the past three years - they’ve been largely missing from the offensive game plan.

That’s not the case anymore. Saturday presents the first opportunity to see how they’ll been woven back into the offense and who is capitalizing on newfound opportunities.

At fullback, Borges has raved about the spring of John McColgan (remember him?) and Stephen Hopkins, last year’s promising freshman, who could find himself in a hybrid role that includes fullback duties.

At tight end, Kevin Koger (14 catches for 199 yards in 2010) figures to receive the biggest influx in featured playing time. But in an offense that will feature multiple tight ends, Brandon Moore and Steve Watson could also play key roles.

(Not to mention true freshman Chris Barnett, but he won’t arrive until the summer).

The sleepers

Coaches have praised vagabond Cam Gordon for his work at linebacker this spring. Ditto for LB Mike Jones, who they’ve said has made dramatic improvement and DE Jibreel Black, who seems poised to flourish as a pass-rusher this season.

Want one or two names that haven’t been mentioned yet?

Marvin Robinson is a hard-hitting safety with an on-field nasty streak. He should be ready for more playing time as a sophomore, especially with DT Mike Martin’s “if you can’t be physical, you can’t play football” mantra.

Another second-year player: Defensive tackle Richard Ash. Last year’s coaching staff was so high on the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Florida native that they managed to redshirt him when seven other true freshmen were forced into defensive action.

He could provide a physical presence on a defensive line that was undersized last season.

The Enigmas

Defensive tackle Will Campbell could also provide that presence along the defensive line. At 6-foot-5, 333 pounds, he’s got all the raw tools. With a return to his original position this spring after a flirtation with the offensive line, could this be the time he finally delivers on his potential?

Will slot receivers Jeremy Gallon, Martavious Odoms, Terrence Robinson and Drew Dileo really have a home in this offense? Coaches have said they’ll use three, four, hey, maybe even five-receiver sets more often than in the past. Let’s see how it works on the field.

“Problematic” would be a polite way to describe Michigan’s kicking struggles last year. Brendan Gibbons and Seth Broekhuizen combined to go 4-for-14 on field-goal attempts. The holdovers have this spring to impress the new coaching staff before highly touted freshman Matt Wile arrives later this summer. Can one of them show signs of improvement?

Pete Bigelow covers Michigan football for He can be reached at (734) 623-2556, via email at and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.



Tue, Apr 12, 2011 : 7:49 a.m.

Will anyone take my Noon to Eight-Thirty PM shift this Saturday? Please!! ;-) Looking back and looking again at now: With all those short comings we saw last season left to correct, if even half the improvements Hoke & Company are attempting turn out right, we can expect BIG improvements in Michigan Football this season. Choice of music for Michigan Stadium: Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" - because that's what's coming back, Michigan fans.

Terry Star21

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

"Kicking struggles last year".....not to worry with the Mighty Hoke in charge, he will instill the proper mentality for these kickers to have at game time. Theo mentioned the missing scoreboards - my worry is that Michigan field goal kickers will be booting them out on Stadium Blvd. and cause traffic problems. But then double check, maybe we score so much, Michigan field goals become obsolete. As I said earlier, you will be amazed at the improvement of Gardner Saturday....also pay attention to Roh and Hopkins, and others. Hoke Football, not to miss ! MgoBlue...........


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

The WOLVERINES will still suck next year. Period.

Terry Star21

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

Wondering where all the msu and osu fans were this spring, guess they start with the Spring Game......


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

Good morning one, Good Morning all It's time for Meeeeeanchigan spring football, New scoreboards and higher ticket prices, has catapulted Theo into a serious crisis But never fear my friends, with a little luck Meeeeeanchigan football will return from the muck! Hope everyone has a happy Meanday and a great week. TiM!! Go Blue!

Terry Star21

Wed, Apr 13, 2011 : 12:58 a.m.

Thank you - I remember the it !


Tue, Apr 12, 2011 : 2:37 a.m.

Terry.. This Is Michigan! Quote from coach Hoke

Terry Star21

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

Keep up the good spirit. Probably a dumb question but - what does TIM stand for ?

Blu n Tpa

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 12:02 p.m.

I liked Drew Dileo on returns the last couple of games of the 2010 season. First he got the ball and then he ran it toward the other team's goal line. It was a fundamental breakthrough for special teams. As far as defensive decisions are concerned hidding one DT on the OLine and another 320 pound prospect behind the redshirt, well, just add them to the list of boneheaded moves. This Saturday should be fun and educational. Expectations meet reality. TiM Go Blue! (How many posts will be on subject)


Tue, Apr 12, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

Never a dull moment with ol Tp, go get em Tiger.

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Apr 12, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

Hindsight is an interesting choice of word. Coaches use it all the time to improve their team's performance. Maybe you have heard of it. Game film? Charting plays for down and distance? High angle photos to see what alignment the defense was in during the previous drive? Hindsight or track record or history or...well maybe you get the picture. Coaching is ALL about hindsight. The team, and coaches, that can figure out what the other guy is going to do in any given situation has the advantage. You still have to stop it, but does help win games. That something last year's staff was chronically unable, or unwilling, to do. "Those who refuse to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it." Turns out David Brandon learned. TiM Go Blue!

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Apr 12, 2011 : 12:02 p.m.

Dusty, the man who begged me to leave him alone just a couple of days ago, is now back with a snappy retort. Unlike some who just post so they can feel good about themselves, I tend to write what I think, with a few facts thrown in to support my views. I don't pretend to be someone I'm not, if you know what I mean. My "hindsight" was dead on during last season when it was obvious that there was no direction being given by that staff to fixing the weekly miscues on special teams. So, did you notice that Drew Dileo was even in the return game at the end of the year? Oh, wait, you thought everything was fine last year and wanted to continue down the same path this year. Well, my "hindsight" was fairly right about that too. TiM Go Blue!

Terry Star21

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

Commenter from up North or down South for sure .


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

I'm shocked you don't have a coaching job somewhere, Blu. Your hindsight is so much clearer than everyone else's.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

Tp, when you explain everything in such simple terms so we can all understand, it just opens a whole new world of football for the rest of us, thank you Tp. and Go Blue!


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 11:27 a.m.

A giant dollar sign will be hung where the scoreboards once stood. Didn't need new scoreboards, and DEFINITELY didn't need a price hike for tickets. For the most part, change is bad.

Terry Star21

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

Theo my friend, the new ones are gonna be great - with my eyesight a needed welcome. We need to put someone out on Stadium Blvd. to catch our field goals, with the boards gone !


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

Are you kidding me Theo212? The scoreboards were out of date. In this technology of HD televisions we badly needed new scoreboards at Michigan Stadium. The old scoreboards had paint chipping off the sides and just looked old and pre-historic.