2011 Countdown: #2 Denard Robinson

2011 Countdown: #2 Denard Robinson

August 29, 2011
Denard Robinson (#16) targets Roy Roundtree

Name: Denard Robinson
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 193 lbs.
High school: Deerfield Beach High School in Deerfield Beach, FL
Position: Quarterback
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #16
Last year: I ranked Robinson #5, said he would be the backup quarterback, and pegged him for 800 yards rushing, 900 yards passing, and 18 total touchdowns.  Boy, was I wrong.  He started every game, went 182/291 passing for 2,570 yards, and had 18 passing touchdowns with 11 interceptions.  He also rushed for 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Name a record and he set it, name an award committee and they voted him the winner.  Robinson set multiple Michigan records, including total yardage, and rushed for more yards than any quarterback in NCAA history.  He also was named team MVP, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Big Ten MVP, All-American, my high school’s homecoming king, American Idol, and America’s Next Top Model.  It was a pretty good year.

Rather than trying to summarize what he did in words, just take a look at Robinson’s weekly box scores:

UConn: 19/22 passing, 186 yards, 1 touchdown; 29 carries, 197 yards, 1 touchdown
Notre Dame: 24/40 passing, 244 yards, 1 touchdown; 28 carries, 258 yards, 2 touchdowns
UMass: 10/14 passing, 241 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; 17 carries, 104 yards, 1 touchdown
BGSU: 4/4 passing, 60 yards; 5 carries, 129 yards, 2 touchdowns
Indiana: 10/16 passing, 277 yards, 3 touchdowns; 19 carries, 217 yards, 2 touchdowns
MSU: 17/29 passing, 215 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions; 21 carries, 86 yards, 1 touchdown
Iowa: 13/18 passing, 96 yards, 1 touchdowns, 1 interception; 18 carries, 105 yards
PSU: 11/23 passing, 190 yards, 1 touchdown; 27 carries, 191 yards, 3 touchdowns
Illinois: 10/20 passing, 305 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; 19 carries, 62 yards
Purdue: 13/21 passing, 176 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions; 22 carries, 68 yards
Wisconsin: 16/25 passing, 239 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; 22 carries, 121 yards, 2 touchdowns
Ohio State: 8/18 passing, 87 yards; 18 carries, 105 yards
Mississippi State: 27/41 passing, 254 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; 11 carries, 59 yards

He had nine 100-yard rushing games and seven 200-yard passing games.  He averaged 6.6 yards per carry, which is an outstanding average when one considers that Michigan’s running backs were mostly average and rarely a threat to do anything but get injured.

The coaching change is bound to take away some of Robinson’s impressive stats.  Including yours truly, many people were concerned that giving that ball to a 6’0″, 190 lb. kid twenty times a game was a bad idea . . . especially when the season’s outcome not only relies on that kid’s legs, but also his shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers.  Robinson missed time in several games last season due to injury, and the new coaching staff won’t put him at risk that often.  That also means cutting into his rushing statistics, but with an improved defensive philosophy and – hopefully – a new commitment to getting production from the running backs, Robinson should be a little healthier throughout the year.

When Brady Hoke was hired back in January, he emphasized a commitment to the “power run” which is a play usually designed to be run from the I-formation.  I expect Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges to run a good deal of power from the I-formation, and that means a handful of other plays out of the “I” as well.  However, I think Hoke and Borges will realize that Robinson works best from the shotgun, where he can see the field a little more clearly and read running and passing lanes a little more easily.  After the first few games, the coaches ought to be able to figure out their “bread and butter” plays and adjust their offensive philosophy from there.  I expect to see several designed quarterback runs each game, along with a light dose of zone read option plays, bootlegs, and bubble screens.

Not to be Debbie Downer, but I doubt that the country will see such an explosive offense as last season.  Robinson will make his fair share of nice runs – designed or not – and his running ability will open up some big plays in the passing game, too.  But I still have my doubts about Robinson as a passer.  He’s not extremely accurate and he won’t be able to rely on coaches making playcall adjustments from the sideline in the same no-huddle manner as we’ve seen from Michigan, Northwestern, and Oregon in recent years.  Last season Robinson struggled to throw an accurate deep ball consistently, and even some of his short throws (bubble screens, hitches, etc.) were inaccurate.  There were several instances where guys like Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway openly showed their frustration when short passes were thrown at their feet and they couldn’t do what that pass aims to do, which is allow for yards after the catch.  It will no doubt be an exciting season for Robinson and Michigan fans, but I’m not expecting another Heisman campaign.

Prediction: 2,700 yards passing and 900 yards rushing, 28 total touchdowns; First Team All-Big Ten


  1. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    Denard at number 2!?!?!? Magnus you trollin…

  2. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    @ Anonymous 8:17 a.m.

    Defense wins championships.

  3. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    I understand where you're coming from here putting Martin at #1, but I respectfully disagree with your ranking. You made it clear earlier that "Value over replacement player" is an important criterion in your ranking, and since Gardner seems close to ready to take over if/when Denard gets bruised up, then sure, you can make a case for Martin.

    However, as I argued before, "Does he live up to our expectations" will be an important criterion for many compiling a list of the most important players. When your two best players are a QB and a DT, the DT has to be Suh-level awesome for him to be more important to the team. Martin will draw extra attention from the offense and they will gameplan against him, sure. He is the best player on the defense, sure. He'll probably be the highest draft pick from the junior and senior classes, sure. It'll be a disaster if we lose him as the Q. Washingtons, W. Heinigers and R. Ashes on our team are inadequate replacements, sure.

    But in the end, I suspect you've made your #1 decision as much for provocation value as for a genuine belief that Martin will be more important to the team's success this year than Denard. It seems mr Anonymous agrees with me.

  4. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    @ Rikard 8:45 a.m.

    On the contrary, we all saw last year what a bad defense can do even when you have a good offense. If Martin gets hurt or has a bad season, this defense will go down the tubes. Our defensive line is average to below average without him, and he doesn't have a backup who scares anyone except us. The linebackers are unproven outside of Demens, and the secondary is average.

    Martin needs to be a huge playmaker not only fron the NT position, but from the DE and LB positions when they move him around. Is Denard Robinson more exciting? Yes. Will he rack up more impressive stats? Most likely.

    But everyone says that games are won in the trenches and defense wins championships…and now that I've picked a trench player on defense as the #1 most important player, you people seem upset.

  5. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    Good Pick Magnus. Not like we lose anything here by having Denard at #2 and Martin at #1. We will cause we actually have both players on the same team.

    I agree that Defense wins championships. Who better to start with than a monster of a guy who has the motor to get it done and take of huge amounts of space.

    I agree that our offense will be different this year, but I really do not expect Denard to have a huge drop off in numbers. His ability to run will still be a major part of this offense. I can see the offense being more consistent. After the first 4-5 games of the season Denard was our only obvious option, so teams just keyed in on him. This year I see more plays being run with a number of other players seeing the ball, this will open up Denard for better runs rather than him forcing a run into unknown territory. He doesn't necessarily have to throw the long ball to keep the opposing defenses honest, but he needs to throw the 15-20 yard ball consistently.

    Good Pick again…….many of my friends thought Devin looked sharp at times and could legitimately challenge Denard this year as the number 1.

  6. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    These rankings are not about who is the best player in an absolute sense. It's about value to the team. Without Denard, Devin Gardner steps in and we still get a solid game of football and an offense that can make plays, although he may not be as good with his legs, he can actually still run the ball a bit. While his arm is every big as good as Denard's with possibly even more arm strength.

    Without Mike Martin, teams will pound the rock all day and pick up easy yards on the ground at will. We'd have to cheat up LB's and you know where this is going… This is also why it was so important that we gained the commitment of PeeWee as the NT position cannot be over-stated.

  7. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Denard Robinson was the best prediction I've ever made in sports period. His freshmen season when he got in for a snap, we all saw what he could do with his feet and I turned to the person next to me in the student section and said "If that guy learns the offense and can get his passing to be even just average, he will be absolutely deadly and ill definitely be the starter next year."

  8. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    I definitely like your ranking Magnus. I thought and was hoping that you would have Martin as #1. Defense does win champinoships and without Martin i say we have no chance to win even half the games. For Denard we at least have e more than capable backup but behind Martin there is no one!

  9. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    Anonymous 10:13 AM,

    I don't remember you starting any games at QB.

  10. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    @ Nick and Paul

    I'm glad you guys are pickin' up what I'm puttin' down.

  11. Comments: 21385
    Aug 29, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    So…he's not moving to WR then?

    Good list. I agree with Martin at #1, and I don't even think it's close. I may have shuffled the order in some places here or there but you nailed the top 10 guys perfectly IMO.

    Love the series – a great way to build towards the season's kickoff.

  12. Comments: 21385
    Painter Smurf
    Aug 30, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    Good write up. I am hopeful that Denard's passing improves based on him carrying less of a rushing burden. It floored me last season when he basically alternated between rushing himself and passing on every down. He'd be visibly gassed and banged up after a couple runs and then have to throw downfield on the next play. I'm amazed he was able to do it as well as he did.

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