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Posted on Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football over-under: Can Denard Robinson improve his interception numbers?

By Nick Baumgardner


Will Denard Robinson be able to get his interceptions under control this season?

Angela J. Cesere |

Michigan football quarterback Denard Robinson is often compared to a video game quarterback.

At times, his shiftiness and pure foot speed make it almost impossible for defenders to corral him, almost like someone's using a joystick to move him from side to side.

Then, at other times, it seems like the owner of that joystick gets too caught up in the superhero moment -- and pushes Robinson to throw balls off his back foot, or try to fit passes into spots that simply don't exist.

At Michigan they take the good and the bad when it comes to Robinson. In 2011, there was plenty of good, and also a whole lot of bad.

The dynamic Wolverine signal-caller had his fair share of lightning in a bottle moments, but he also had his maddening moments.

Robinson accounted for 36 touchdowns last season, but he also threw 15 interceptions -- five more than anyone else in the Big Ten.

At times he was erratic and highly predictable (in a bad way) through the air. He's about to enter year two of Al Borges' offensive scheme, and everyone inside the Michigan program insists his turnover numbers will dip next season.

But will they?

Let the debate begin.

Over/under: Denard Robinson will throw 10 interceptions in 2012

Kyle Meinke: How bad was Robinson at hanging onto the ball last year? Michigan employed an offense that was so run-heavy, two players racked up 1,000-yard rushing seasons for just the second time in school history -- and he still had five more interceptions than any other Big Ten quarterback.

Catch that? He threw 50 percent more picks than any other other player in his league.

Michigan Football Over-Under

This is part of a 14-day series featuring 2012 Michigan football-related debate from sports writers Kyle Meinke and Nick Baumgardner.

Wednesday: Can the Michigan offense maintain its production?

Thursday: Can the Michigan defense be as stout in 2012?

Friday: How many wins will Michigan collect away from home?

Today: Can Denard Robinson reduce his interceptions into single digits?

Sunday: Can Michigan's revamped defensive line keep up its sack production?

Robinson tossed a pick every 17.2 attempts, the steepest rate by a Michigan quarterback in a decade. Only two (bad) quarterbacks were worse last year.

He ended up with 15. Only five quarterbacks were worse.

There is a ray of hope for Robinson: Many of his picks came from bad reads, or from throwing into double-coverage when another target was open. Fix those kinds of mental mistakes, and he has a chance.

Borges says Robinson is well on his way to doing that. But he said the same last year, and Robinson went on to turn over the ball at an alarming rate.

Expect to see Robinson make strides in the passing game now that he's in the second year of Borges' scheme, but that growth will be mitigated by a brutal lineup of defenses that includes four of last year's top-20 units: Alabama (No. 1), Michigan State (No. 6), Illinois (No. 7) and Ohio State (No. 19). He's been at his worst against attacking defenses -- see, Michigan State -- and will see plenty of them next year.

Prediction: At this point, Robinson is what he is: Electric in the running game, clutch in big moments ... but mistake-prone in the passing game. Michigan will take it because he wins games better than nearly anyone in the country, but he's still going to hit double-digits in this category. Take the over.


Nick Baumgardner: The counter argument here starts as a simple one: 15 interceptions is a ton, and it shouldn't be ridiculous to think Robinson can trim that number down.

But to get the number under 10? That's going to take some serious work.

One thing working on his side, though, is the success Al Borges has had with quarterbacks working in the second year of his offensive system.

During his first year at Boise State in 1993, Borges' quarterback Tony Hilde finished the season with five touchdowns and nine interceptions. The next season didn't see a change in Hilde's interceptions, as he still finished with nine. But he did throw 26 touchdown passes and the Broncos played in the 1-AA national championship game.

At UCLA in 1996, Borges quarterback Cade McNown tossed 12 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. The next season, his touchdowns doubled (24) and he threw 10 fewer interceptions (six). At San Diego State in 2009, Aztec quarterback Ryan Lindley tossed 16 picks -- the next season, his interceptions slightly dipped to 14, but he did throw five more touchdowns while amassing nearly 800 more yards.

Last season, nine of Robinson's interceptions came during the first six games. So, sixty percent of his picks game during the early stages of his new-offense growing pains. And, that was the period of the season when he threw some of his more egregious picks -- like the three against Notre Dame and the three against Northwestern.

As the year wore on, he wasn't perfect, but he wasn't always a mess either. His six interceptions in the final seven games seemed to be more due to a lack of focus than an outright failure to compute. And, as Borges got more comfortable with what his quarterback could and could not handle, the opportunity for nightmare situations seemed to dwindle some.

Robinson should no doubt be more comfortable with Borges in 2012, but more importantly, Borges should also have a better grasp of what his quarterback can and cannot do.

Prediction: Robinson will never be a perfect pocket passer. Ever. And whether or not he admits it, it's a safe bet Borges knows that. Michigan now has a foundation running back in Fitz Toussaint to take some pressure off Robinson, and Borges should have a better feel for his quarterback's capabilities. That said, I'll take the under.



Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

Assuming he stays healthy enough to start every game, Denard will throw more passes, score more passing TDs, have a higher completion percentage, and fewer than 10 interceptions (my guess is six or seven).


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

I really think this is a no brainer, I say under. With Denard being a senior, we should see not as many interceptions thrown this year. Year 2 under Borges should bode well for one of the most electrifying QB in the nation. The only reason I see that could destroy his chances could be the play of Ricky Barnum at center or anyone who fills in at that spot. That center position is key for Denard's success. Let's hope Barnum can anchor that spot and become a reliable player at that position.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

I think he throws Less, I think Alabama breaks him and he wont play a full season.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:17 a.m.


Joe Kidd

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

Can he improve? He HAS to improve. Turnovers are one of the worst thing a team can do which is why defense wins ballgames.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 10:34 p.m.

Robinson's theme song for this season should be "No more Mister Nice guy, no more Mister Clean". Unless he learns to be sneaky dirty (like Kurt Cousins), he'll never be a true All American. Denard should tie up his shoelaces, straighten out his hair, and start finding meaner ways to reach the end zone (like throwing hail Mary passes that bounce off of an opposing player's shoulder pad). I hope he gives up the smile and learns to be more like Fran Tarkington (does anybody remember who Fran is)?


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 10:22 a.m.

So the success of Robinson and Michigan hinge upon Denard's tying his shoes and straightening his hair? Might make him more acceptable to you as a date for your daughter, but means nothing with respect to football.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

First step for him is to take after Hardaway on the bball team and try to be more like Kirk Cousins as Hardaway wants to be like Draymond Green.

Joe Kidd

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:45 a.m.

No, no, no. He needs to be more like Tom Brady, Chad Henne, John Navarre, Brian Griese, Rick Leach, etc. I wish Hardaway had never said that.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:41 a.m.

Yeah, and I want to be like Lebron and make 80 million a year. Think that's going to happen?


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

Denard cannot compete as QB in the NFL, but he is the best player Michigan has for that position at the moment. During the spring game there was very little to smile about concerning the two backup QB's who were given the majority of snaps. This year's team may be a train wreck getting ready to happen. It could possibly take two or three more years before Michigan starts to look like a national champion.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Denard Robinson most certainly will reduce his interception numbers. Prediction: Denard will have fewer interceptions than Michigan has wins.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.

So you're predicting no interceptions? I'll be bettting money he doe worse than last yar.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

All Denard needs to do is have the sense in the pocket to know when to tuck and run. I remember the Troy Smith ohio teams. That guy was so frustrating because he knew when to tuck and run. He'd be in the pocket for 3, 4 5 seconds... you think a sack is coming then he runs for 5 - 10 yards. Aaaargh!!! Mentally and physically draining on a defense. If Denard can learn to do the same it will erase a lot of his mistakes and push opposing defenses to their limit.

Terry Star21

Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

Nick has some valid points and the fact 65% of the interceptions occurred in the first six games means help was on it's way - Al Borges. Just as he repaired other QB's percentages, Borges second year will prove it self. I would be really surprised if DRobb threw any interceptions this year, but this scares me -"..... to throw balls off his back foot" ! I say 'UNDER', like way under in China land (sorry Kyle). MgoBlueForTiM.....DRob uses laser tech this year.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

denard and the wolverines are who we thought they are. you wanna crown em? crown their a**es. /denny green voice. anyways, he is who we thought he is, expect some amazing highlights balanced out by some horrible reads, somewhere around 12 ints, and a completion percentage less than 40% in the msu game (for three quarters before he bows out again)


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

It's funny. One one hand fans that post comments say 'I trust this coaching staff' and notice that they did much with talent that did not succeed a couple of years ago. They note that this great coaching staff can 'coach 'em up' and this team will improve.......On the other hand, people keep saying about Denard..' he is what he is', and discount that he is motivated and competitive and will take well to the coaching that started last year and will CHANGE! The defense was able to change in a short time frame, I don't understand why people don't think Denard and this offense will change with a full off-season, spring football and training camp to look at film and practice, practice, practice. I think Denard's game will change, I think he will make better decisions and I think he will be much more efficient. Do people really think he will not change for the better? I wouldn't underestimate him that much. I'd worry more about the D-line this year.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

The kid may have set some sort of record for interceptions but Denart will be loved and remembered at Mich. long after we're all dead.

Tony Novak

Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

Two things must happen for him to cut down on his interceptions. The 0-line needs to give him better protection, and when they can't and rushers do get through, Denard himself needs to tuck the ball and run or take a sack instead of trying to throw off his back foot with rushers in his face.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

" At Michigan they take the good with the bad". That should read they take the great with the bad. We'll likely never have an athlete the like of Denard again. he's a thing of pure beauty. Enjoy every minute before he's gone. I'll take the under.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

Scott, you make a valid point. DR is a beautiful, beautiful man.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

My opinion, we won't have another QB at Mich. like DR in all probability because this type of QB will not fit in Brady"s scheme.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Denard's size and mobility are exactly why Borges wanted to incorporate Denard into the West coast offense. Roll him out and throw short passes. Problem was Denard's accuracy, so Borges had to go back to the Spread. You take away 90% of Denard's skill as a pocket passer. He becomes somewhat easy to defend. Contain him from getting outside with your Defensive ends and pressure him up the middle. Denard is too short and too inacurate to beat that kind of pressure. Whenever the defense did that last year Denard would throw the Hailmary up for grabs. Actually Denard was really lucky he was bailed out by the receiver making lucky jump ball catches. Denard's interceptions should have been in the 20+ range. That's twice as many as any B10 QB.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:17 a.m.

My take is not based on emotion mr buckeye. I wouldn't bet based on my irritation with your general existence. I would bet based on my belief that he's a hard working kid who will graduate.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

That would be like taking candy from a baby. Don't go to Vegas, dude. People bet based on emotion instead of using their brain, always go home broke. UM football team is last in the B10 in graduation rates, APR. How much you got to lose?


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 4:16 a.m.

He will graduate because he shows up and puts in the work. I'll take that bet.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 11:10 p.m.

Because you say so? I would love to know what his grade point average and major is. I am willing to bet money he never graduates.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

Most intelligent people learn from past mistakes. DR is intelligent.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

Most intelligent people predict the future based on their past experience.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

Then again, it's a new year and note that everything you said about DR is past tense. I believe the young man will be improved just how much we won't know untill the 2012 season and that's a fact.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

I think he can but he probably won't. A weak receiving corp and a jerry-rigged offensive line do not bode well. I think Denard will be running for his life most of the year.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

I don't think you can expect a big improvement from Robinson this year. He'll probably reduce his interceptions somewhat, but it will probably come at the cost of throwing fewer touchdowns as well - he had 20 last year. Poor throwing QBs rarely make significant strides their senior year, especially when they've already had as much playing time as Robinson has. If they've got the ability, you would expect they would have shown it by that point. Borge's other QBs were relatively green when he got his hands on them and their records show more of a pattern of continuous development rather than a sharp improvement under the tutelage of a new coach.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

Denard has had to change systems, your point makes sense if he had been in the same system his entire career.

Wally the Wolverine

Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

I think "over" simply because a 50% reduction is a big drop considering DR's best receiving asset (Hemingway) has moved on. That said, getting "under" isn't totally out of the realm of possibility IF the O-line can step up it's pass protection, IF they can execute good run blocking against the better defenses and IF DR can throw the ball away instead of throwing it up for grabs whenever he gets into trouble. Too many IFs.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Denard is an incredibly overrated QB. His mechanics are awful! This will be another year of pre-season hype met with disappointing production. UM football has turned into team characterized by trick plays and embarrassment.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

rnich...he'll throw 10 against Bama :-)


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.



Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

there is so much wrong with your post. . . i will summarize it. . . (2011) 2,173 total YARDS, 20 TD's. (CAREER) 4,931 total yards, 40 TD's!! you should only be embarrassed if you are NOT a UM FAN! GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

As you noted in the article, 6 of his interceptions were in two games early in the season. Two games they won! He only had 9 interceptions in his other 10 games. Most of them were due to poor decision making....throwing into double coverage or throwing balls up for grabs. Even more running nd more quick drop passes to Gallon in the slot will help. You can probably look for him to be instructed to use his feet more to scramble to get out of trouble if receivers are not open. I actually look for him to get more rushing yards with scrambles this year. For some reason he appeared to rather 'chuck it up there' instead of tucking and running -- which he should excel at. I'm taking the under.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

Seems you are the only one who notice this.

Ron Granger

Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

Love the Denard. If he was taller, he could see over the talls guys on the line and he would throw fewer INTS and be far more effective as a QB in general. I think that surgery to increase your height takes quite a while and probably doesn't leave the bones strong enough.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

I think Denard will be improved and more comfortable in Borges' offense so I think his efficiency will go up. However, most of his interceptions tend to come when he is under pressure or trying to force a pass to a receiver who is not open, so I'll have to go with the 'over' especially against this brutal schedule. I hope he has learned when to scramble like Michael Vick to buy time for someone to free up or to break open a busted play with his legs. When he is on his game, he is electric and very hard to stop. Hwever, when he is off, he can look very bad to the point where you wonder whether he should even be playing QB in the first place. When he becomes a pro, I doubt it will be as a QB but he will make an impact as a punt returner or slot back or something like Antwaan Randle El did, although I personally think Denard is better than Randle El at this stage in his career. .