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Posted on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Denard Robinson cuts down turnovers, grows passing game 'immeasurably' in Michigan spring camp

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson completed 2 of 3 passes for 13 yards in a limited spring game appearance.

Melanie Maxwell |

Ask quarterback Denard Robinson how he's doing, and he'll say he feels more comfortable than ever in the passing game.

Ask offensive coordinator Al Borges, and he'll say Robinson has made drastic strides in his decision making and mechanics.

Ask coach Brady Hoke, and he'll say the senior has curtailed his turnovers in a big way.

It appears Robinson, already a dynamic runner, has made significant progress in the passing game after turning over the ball at an alarming rate last season. But for now, that's as good as we can do.


Because, for the first time in Robinson's career, he had little to prove during the spring. Michigan took advantage of that stability and sat the dual-threat quarterback for most of its public scrimmage last weekend.

"It was swell watching the guys play," Robinson said.


Denard Robinson’s one interception per every 17.2 pass attempts last season was the worst ratio for a Michigan quarterback since 2001.

2011: Denard Robinson 17.2

2010: Denard Robinson 26.5

2009: Tate Forcier 28.1

2008: Steven Threet 28.6, Nick Sheridan 27.4

2007: Chad Henne 30.9, Ryan Mallet 28.2

2006: Chad Henne 41.0

2005: Chad Henne 27.9

2004: Chad Henne 20.0

2003: John Navarre 27.0

2002: John Navarre 35.4

2001: John Navarre 15.9

Despite the mystery surrounding Robinson's passing, he didn't equivocate when asked why, exactly, he thinks he made so much progress this spring.

"Lack of interceptions, because as a quarterback, you have to (have) no turnovers," he said. "You have to be the No. 1 person that tells the team there’s no turnovers, and we have to keep the team going.

"Turnovers were a big factor last year that kept a lot of teams in games. We hope to decrease the turnovers.”

Robinson threw 15 interceptions last year, sixth most in the country. That's a high turnover rate for any quarterback, and especially for one who operates in a run-heavy scheme such as Michigan's.

That equates to one turnover every 17.2 throws, the worst rate by a Michigan quarterback since John Navarre threw one every 15.9 passes in 2001 (minimum 100 attempts).

It tied for the third-highest clip in the country last year (minimum 100 attempts). Only South Carolina's Stephen Garcia (13.1 passes) and Ole Miss' Zack Stoudt (15.0) were worse, and their teams went a combined 5-5 in games played by them.

The other teams with a quarterback who threw at least 15 interceptions went a combined 50-62.

The Wolverines went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl.

They also managed to field the 26th-best scoring offense in the country at 33.4 points per game.

Now, imagine if they didn't give away 15 possessions -- and valuable field position -- via interceptions?


Offensive coordinator Al Borges says Denard Robinson has limited his interceptions this spring by avoiding throwing off his back foot, recognizing coverages and stepping into the pocket.

Melanie Maxwell |

Robinson intensified his film study in the offseason, trying to identify what precipitated his turnover woes. He found two things: He wasn't recognizing coverages quickly enough, and he threw off his back foot on many of his interceptions.

He's worked to correct those issues. In fact, Robinson said after the spring game he threw off his back foot only one time all of camp, and that was because of a blitz.

The result: Borges said Robinson threw one-fourth the interceptions this spring that he had in last year's camp.

“The two things that have gone away in Denard’s game is falling off throws, or throwing off your back foot, as you say, and No. 2 is indiscriminate decision making," Borges said. "He had very, very few interceptions this spring. Very few.

"That’s not unusual, now, for a guy that didn’t understand the offense. I said that, last year, our passing game was a drastic disparity from what they had done in years past, and there’s going to be some growing pains."

Robinson said he's made other strides as well, including with "getting into the fight," which basically means stepping up in the pocket.

It seems counter-intuitive because of his athleticism, but Robinson actually is a more effective quarterback in the pocket. His passing was much sharper there last year, as opposed to when he bounced outside.

Robinson also evolved off the field, where he has shed his soft-spoken persona as he takes on a senior leadership role. That becomes of increasing importance now, as the Wolverines enter the summer period.

Coaches can't organize or supervise workouts until the start of fall camp in August, which means the responsibility falls on players such as Robinson to expand on what was gained during spring camp.

"We have to take the step into the fall, because it’s all irrelevant if you don’t," Borges said. "But our passing game has enhanced immeasurably.”

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



Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

Last year at this time Hoke was telling everybody that Denard was completeing 70% of his passes in practise, then he went on to a stellar 50% completion and 15 interceptions for the season. Hoke blows smoke. I will believe it when I see it.


Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

I think I've figured it out! You have a crush on Michigan but cant admit it. It reminds me of elementary kids being mean to one another because of a crush. You know as much or more about this program as the average Michigan fan does. A closet Wolverine fan disguised as a buckeye. Well done bud, well done.


Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 8:47 a.m.

The problem is Denard has good games, but he hasn't shown consistency yet. I'm hoping for the best, do not want to see the old Denard throwing ever again.

Steve McQueen

Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 6:23 a.m.

So, you did not see Denard account for 5TDs vs. Ohio last year...including 3 passing? Care to see it again? You will son. Careful what you wish for.


Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

That has got to be one of the stupidest headlines I have seen. The guy played one series against a defense without any d-line and weren't aloud to tackle the qb. Whatever it takes I guess.

Steve McQueen

Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

Denard looks sharp and is FINALLY getting proper coaching at QB. He is now stepping in to his throws and as a result is more accurate and has more velocity on the ball. This will be a big year for Denard.

Scott Laux

Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

When Denard thrws five touchdowns for every interception and wins the Heisman- than all those who wanted him benched must come forward and say "mea culpa". Other wise you get your "Michgan man" card revoked for one year.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 10:51 p.m.

When, better happen soon Scott. I really do want to see Denard improve and he will shortly have that opportunity during a rather brutal schedule ahead.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

I like Denard and find his game exciting but I think our coaches are looking ahead to Shane. Prove me wrong with an improved interception to passing ratio Denard.


Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 7 p.m.

Oh, the coaches are not overlooking Denard contrary to that the coaches are just looking forward to getting their system with their type of QB in play hence, Shane.


Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 3:33 a.m.

If our coaches would forsake a senior who has not only worked as hard as Denard has over the course of his career but has had flawless character, because they're more worried about a kid WHO HASN'T EVEN SIGNED YET... well, they aren't a very good coaching staff. But I doubt that's the case.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

What DR is going through is no different than any other QB...working on his weaknesses, all QBs ( players ) have them, maybe different weaknesses, but weaknesses non-the-less. All QBs will make mistakes throughout the course of the game, you just do not want them to cost the game, 11-2, I'd say DR's mistake didn't cost to many games. Iowa: high % of low % passes ( long route ), low % of high % passes ( short ), no running game ( about 10 carries for the RBs ), and DR not running when the Rs were covered down field for whatever reason. MSU: AB continued to force feed the long pass while being blitzed. Snap count and formations predictable, 8-in-the-box and bring the pressure = loss. ( when DG had come into the game, same result ) Yes, DR needs work, but after the work, he needs be put in a situation ( game plan ) to succeed for UM to succeed.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

"It was swell watching the guys play," Robinson said. Swell? When someone says "swell" it makes me think of Leave It To Beaver or some other show from that era. Swell.

Scott Laux

Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

It's refreshing.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

I trust Denard will be better as much as I trust Al Borges and his staff working with Denard for this improvement to be for real. The O-line will need to protect Denard. They will need to stop blitz packages as much as possible. The combination of better decision making by Denard and the O-line improving will enable the offense to be more consistent. Denard will look more like an experienced Senior QB at the helm of the Michigan offense.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Another thing , while scouting our opponents I watched an interview with Coach Urban Meyer. During the interview, when reffering to the uniqueness of the team he coached, he said "This IS Ohio State". It occurred to me that the meaningful "This is" mantra is now associated with the school in Columbus rather than the one that resides in Ann Arbor.

Steve McQueen

Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

lol least you are no longer pretending ted...


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

ted. . . the only thing associated with the school in c-bus is you!!! GO BLUE!!!!!!

Terry Star21

Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

Did he also say "I haven't ever beat Michigan' in my three tries...and unfortunately I never will " that's believable....


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

This IS O-Lie-O State. Not too much to proud of the past 10 seasons. At least John Copper ran a clean program, there. Urban would be better saying...we're Ohio Sate. Either way, a poor legacy post John Cooper.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

Maybe you, not being much of a Michigan fan are unfamiliar with Coach Hoke using his famous phrase " THIS IS....MICHIGAN ". My point is that now, sadly it is associated with Ohio St.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

To say that the mantra "This is" is meaningful means as much as your opinion, which means it doesn't. Have fun watching your team lose for a 2nd time in a row to my team and Urban Meyer showing he can't turn the Michigan tide. GO BLUE!!!


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Good to hear he is getting better. However, on the recruiting front I do bring some bad news my fellow Michigan Men . It appears that Ohio State, led by their mastermind head coach, has signed another four star . This time a qb that fits his unstoppable and exiting offensive machine. I fear the dry spell we have come upon is because of the great surge from Culumbus.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

Ted, Ted get some better material, that last comment was boring stuff. I always tune into the Ted rhetoric show for a laugh not to be bored.

Terry Star21

Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

You are right about that 'exiting' offensive machine though....easy to tell where you went to school......

Terry Star21

Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

Ha,ha.....this is good stuff, funny - got tears coming out of my

Nic schweigert

Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Yes his exiting machine will be gone in a year or two. Not exciting. You'll see. Oh ya and what's you dudes record against Michigan? Even when he had superman tebow? Oh ya 0-3 and a loss to michigan in the bowl game with tebow. Don't be Suprised to find out he has "health" issues after this years but kicking by michigan, be nice welcome for another snake in the big ten. Go blue


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

i thought there might be hope for you? but sadley the only bad news here is you will always be an o$u slappy!! the good news as always. . . GO BLUE!!!!!!


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

Since tends to write a story on every arrest or judicial incident for former and current Michigan and Michigan State football and basketball players I was wondering where the story has been about David Terrell


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

I think there will be a pretty big improvement. If that holds true, then UM's offense is going to gash some defenses. If Denard can become a legit threat in the passing game good things will happen this year.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

What Denard has been asked to do since he got to Michigan is unbelievable. The fact that he is still here is a testament to his character. To learn the spread option as a Freshman, then flourish in it as a Sophomore, then get a new coach and system. Then learn a whole new offense that is much different from the first, and still be doing what he is doing is remarkable. His parents should be commended for raising a man with such good work ethic and positive attitude. This kid is going to be a super star in the NFL. It may or may not be at the QB position, but he will be a super star.


Fri, Apr 20, 2012 : 3:28 a.m.

Denard is almost exactly the same size as Chris Johnson. He might be small for the position, but not too small.

Matt Patercsak

Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

I don't think Denard will succeed in the NFL. his physique is not specific to any one position. He'd be a small receiver/running back. I can't see him returning kickoffs. He can't handle gentle snaps, how could he handle a 100ft high kick/punt? And who knows how his route running/catching abilities are.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

I really hope his passing game improves for this coming season. We had news that he improved last year too, and we all saw what happened this season. I'm banking on Denard being improved for us this coming season. All these games Denard has logged, please, just... get better!


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

Kyle: Interesting stats. Do you have stats from the 1970s where the QBs threw the ball 5 times per game? I think teams will have their template--blitz DR and make him throw off his back foot. Especially with an inexperienced OL. Hopefully, DR can find a rhythm this year not to mention running lanes and screen passes.