The Case Against Denard

The Case Against Denard

September 17, 2009
Need I say more?
People on message boards are clamoring to see Denard Robinson. With Mid-American Conference patsy Eastern Michigan University coming up this Saturday, some fans are dying to see the fleet-footed Floridian start or take the majority of snaps against the Eagles.
Tate Forcier is a true freshman. He won the starting job outright. Practice observers said during fall camp that Denard Robinson was catching up to Forcier, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Forcier has thrown the ball 53 times for five TDs. He’s also run for a little over 100 yards. Meanwhile, Robinson has completed 2/4 passes for 18 yards. He’s just not ready.
If you don’t believe me, review the WMU game. Yes, Denard took his first snap 43 yards for a touchdown, but it was on a broken play on which he fumbled the snap first. That’s great athleticism, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to win games for you. A good punt returner might have done what Denard did on that play. I wouldn’t trust a good punt returner to take snaps for an entire game in an FBS game.
Meanwhile, each of Robinson’s passes was thrown 90 mph. One completion was on a very nice catch by Kelvin Grady; the other was just a solid throw. His two incompletions were darts, one of which probably should have been intercepted by whoever was covering Greg Mathews. The only detail that saved him from throwing his first interception was the fact that Michigan was playing a MAC team.
I don’t know that I’ve seen much of a difference between Denard Robinson 2009 and Justin Feagin 2008. The coaches didn’t trust Feagin to throw the ball against decent competition, and considering that Denard didn’t throw the ball against Notre Dame, that makes me think Rich Rodriguez has approximately the same confidence in Denard’s throwing and decision-making. If Feagin had played against a team like WMU last year, who knows? Maybe we would have seen him throw a couple passes.
Tate Forcier needs to start the game against EMU. He’s only two games into his college career, and he’s thrown a total of 53 passes. He led Michigan in a great comeback win against Notre Dame, but there are still some things he could improve, particularly his reads on the zone read option. Removing Forcier from the EMU game would stunt his growth, if only for a week. He needs to get ready for the Big Ten season. You can bet that EMU will throw some different looks at him, and it’s better for Forcier to get used to reading different alignments and coverages against a less talented team than seeing a certain blitz for the first time against, I don’t know, Iowa or Penn State.
The reason Michigan fans want Denard to play is simple: Denard is very, very fast. Michigan fans never ask to see the backup unless the starter sucks. The starter has been awesome, so what gives? I don’t see OSU fans clamoring for Joe Bauserman or Notre Dame fans begging for Dayne Crist. When the New Orleans Saints played a cupcake Detroit Lions team this past weekend, I didn’t hear any Saints fans asking to see Mark Brunell so Drew Brees wouldn’t get hurt. Denard hasn’t shown that he can do anything with his arm, but Michigan fans want to see him take a shotgun snap and teleport himself into the end zone. That’s all well and good, and I’d like to see teleportation myself. But no matter who you are, if the opposing team knows all you can do is run from the QB position, they’re going to put eight or nine guys in the box.
Forcier should start the game and take the majority of the snaps. Denard should play intermittently and if Michigan gets a big lead, Rodriguez should let Denard loose and see how much of the offense he can run productively. This quarterback situation should be treated like any other. Michigan shouldn’t weaken its starting quarterback just to strengthen its backup. That makes no sense.


  1. Comments: 21386
    Sep 17, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    Thank you for the sanity! I have been shouting at my computer screen at some of these posts wanting Denard to play most of the game this Saturday.

  2. Comments: 21386
    Sep 17, 2009 at 5:14 PM

    I think his talents could be utilized in a number of different places.. I understand the kid wants to play QB, but he's a hell of an athlete. Oh well, I guess we won't see him at WR/PR until what, next year the earliest?

  3. Comments: 21386
    Sep 18, 2009 at 6:02 PM

    of course forcier will start, thats not what people are saying. the point is that if Mich is up big early, then its time to get denard some snaps and let him try to piece together some experience for the rest of the game. He's not a back up in the sense that Bauserman is a backup. Bauserman sucks. We need to get Denard up to speed in case (god forbid) something were to happen to Tate. It's actually not like any other QB situation at all. Both players need to be used, and this is the time to get Denard sharp enough to use in bigger situations

  4. Comments: 21386
    Sep 18, 2009 at 6:06 PM

    JC– This year when we don't have any other good backup QB's you don't want Robinson to get hurt playing WR because if you lose Forcier your screwed and its a guaranteed loss. Next year, when Gardner and Jones are there (and both Red Shirting unless there is an injury) I think Robinson will become a Harvin kind of player. I think he'll take PR/KR, play RB out of the shotgun, run the wildcat, and play a slot WR. I think he would be a great gunner on kickoffs too (he might get to the PR before the ball!).

    Thunder–I don't know if anyone wants Robinson to start but he should come in after halftime. U of M always plays bad against teams they should destroy so telling the first team that they are only playing 1/2 a game might get them going earlier. I want Robinson in there the second the game is out of hand (even mid drive) because 1. I don't want Forcier hurt when we're up 28 points and 2. If Robinson is somewhat ok throwing the ball it will show teams he's not 100% guaranteed to run when he comes in. When we're playing Penn St or tOSU having a 25% chance of a throw when Robinson is at QB will make him much more effective. That team will need to keep their Safties back 2-3 more steps and thats enough for Robinson to break for a T). Also, with a running QB at the helm the clock will move faster because there won't be many incompletions or WR falling out of bounds for a catch.

  5. Comments: 21386
    Sep 19, 2009 at 3:44 AM

    I don't really worry about Robinson's passing game. I'm sure that if he needs to throw, it will better than Sheridan. I just wish he knew how to run the basic plays in the offense. If he could run a good spread option running play, he could be amazingly dangerous. The D would key on him and Minor would go for a 9 yard gain. After they figure that out, DRob keeps it and runs for 36 and a TD.

    Unfortunately, when he has been on the field, other than the reverse to Odoms, he hasn't handed off or done a fake handoff. Everything is snap, run. That isn't going to work forever.

  6. Comments: 21386
    Sep 21, 2009 at 1:31 AM

    @ JC

    I think Denard will be primarily a QB through the 2010 season. If he switches positions, it will probably be for 2011. Gardner's coming in next year, and there's no use having three quarterbacks on the roster who didn't use redshirts (Forcier, Robinson, Gardner). If Robinson moves before 2011, the coaches would have no choice but to burn Gardner's redshirt next year.

  7. Comments: 21386
    Sep 21, 2009 at 1:35 AM

    @ Anonymous

    Both players DON'T need to play. That's the point. Plenty of other backup quarterbacks have been untested if/when the starter goes down. Yeah, it would suck if Forcier got hurt and a completely untested kid had to step in, but if your starting quarterback goes down in college, your season is almost surely going downhill, anyway.

    People WERE saying that Denard should start the game against EMU; if they weren't, I wouldn't have said that.

    Denard should get snaps, but not in crunch time.

  8. Comments: 21386
    Sep 21, 2009 at 1:36 AM

    @ Tar

    I wouldn't be so sure about Robinson being a better passer than Sheridan. Robinson's current passer efficiency rating (after three games) is -6.10.

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