Scouting report: Denard Robinson

Scouting report: Denard Robinson

September 24, 2010
Denard Robinson had 502 total yards vs. Notre Dame in 2010

Denard Robinson, Michigan’s early season Heisman hopeful, has exploded onto the national scene in 2010.  Robinson showed flashes of his running skill as a freshman backup quarterback in 2009, running for 351 yards on 69 carries (5.1 ypc) and 5 touchdowns.  But his passing was less than stellar.  That combination of skills led many to believe that he would move to running back or receiver in the new season, but that obviously isn’t the case.  Here I’ll offer some thoughts on Robinson’s play so far, the things he does well, and the areas he can improve.

2009 Passing: 14-for-31, 45.2%, 188 yards, 2 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
2010 Passing (through 3 games): 53-for-76, 69.7%, 671 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception

2009 Rushing: 69 carries, 351 yards, 5.1 average (long of 43), 5 touchdowns
2010 Rushing (through 3 games): 74 carries, 559 yards, 7.6 average (long of 87), 4 touchdowns

Extremely fast . . . Great acceleration . . . Elite top-end speed . . . Keeps shoulders square to line of scrimmage when running ball . . . Moves well laterally without losing balance or forward momentum . . . Above average arm strength . . . Improving accuracy on both short and long throws . . . Flashes occasional soft touch on deep balls . . . Quick decision maker . . . Rarely holds the ball too long . . . Large hands allow for good ball security on pump fakes . . . Shows poise in pocket and will take contact to make a solid throw . . . Throws ball accurately and with velocity on the run

Desire to get upfield sometimes limits vision of lateral running lanes . . . Tendency to hold ball in left (non-dominant) hand when running . . . Questionable ball security when rushing, especially with ball in left hand . . . Carries ball low and loose at times . . . Carrying ball in left hand sometimes prevents use of bubble screen on zone read option play . . . Doesn’t show consistent touch on intermediate and deep throws . . . Lacks great height for seeing downfield . . . Scrambles quickly without going through entire progression, although athleticism makes up for happy feet . . . Throws many balls low and hard . . . Has 3/4 arm delivery, which makes release point low . . . Questionable mechanics often point toe to left of target instead of straight at target . . . At times will throw off back foot to get rid of ball

1. Force Robinson to give up the ball on the zone read option.  Ends and linebackers should stay home and make Robinson hand off the ball to the running back.
2. Strip ball when he scrambles.  His ball security is questionable, and he will put it on the ground in traffic.
3. Play zone coverage.  Don’t turn your back to the quarterback.  He will underthrow the ball at times and open himself up to interceptions.
4. Force Robinson to run/scramble left.  He has more ball security issues and hasn’t shown the ability to throw the ball when rolling left.  Most of his big runs have come to the offense’s right.


  1. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    Action plan:

    Continue to enjoy watching the most exciting, explosive and likeable player Michigan has had in perhaps the history of its program despite the supposed "warts" people are determined to find in his game.

  2. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    @ Anonymous 8:47 a.m.

    Just because he's exciting doesn't mean there aren't weaknesses.

  3. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Improving accuracy on both short and long throws.

    This seems to downplay just how accurate he's been through three games. He's completing 70% of his passes! It should read, "after only three starts, already an incredibly accurate passer." Woot!

  4. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 3:03 PM


    Solid scouting report. You typically make statements I agree with and that I believe are perfectly reasonable, yet it seems that a good portion of the time these statements are met with disagreements, which I don't understand. People love to argue with you. Back in the haloscan days I though you were just a dick always trying to play devil's advocate, but now it seems to me that you have some weird ass elixir that makes a lot of people (although most of these people seem dumb as a bag of rocks) disagree with you even though you have an adequate argument. It seriously mystifies me sometimes, with people on this blog and mgoblog calling out your comments.

    For instance, take your scouting report above. Its a scouting report. Scouting reports have positives and negatives, unless maybe you are scouting Jesus himself. And then anonymous (8:47 AM) makes a slight at the post because you are being negative. ITS A FUCKING SCOUTING REPORT, ASSHOLE. That is the goddamn point of the post. If anyone thinks Denard is flawless, then you probably only watch sportscenter on repeat.

    Anyway, all I'm trying to say is, good blog, keep up the good work.

  5. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    @ bada bing 11:03 a.m.

    I think the problem is that I don't sugarcoat things. I don't hop on the bandwagon, whether it's a good bandwagon (Denard Robinson is Jesus) or a bad one (Morgan Trent is Satan).

    Another part of the problem is that I respond to virtually every comment. If I ignored a lot of the vitriol pointed in my direction, people probably wouldn't try to argue as much.

    But anyway…thanks for the compliments and for reading.

  6. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    @ bada bing 11:03 a.m.

    Jesus needs to play with lower pad level.

  7. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 3:58 PM

    @Bada Bing –

    I left the comment at 8:47am. First off, LOL profanity. Second off, tell me the last time you were this excited to watch a Michigan football player, a QB in particular. Henson? Harbaugh? This guy has been a breath of fresh air for this team. I'm thoroughly enjoying watching him play – I could give half a crap how he moves laterally, or how he points his toe, or if he throws off his back foot while completing a 47-yard bomb in stride to Kevin Grady last week.

    The tendency way too often, whether in sports, politics, whatever, is to try and look like you're being objective by pointing out the good and the bad in everything.

    I say, the heck with that. I love Michigan football. I watch it for enjoyment, not to feel bad about it. Denard's performances this year have been unbelievable and enjoyable. I have no idea why people feel the need to try and bring realism into what has so far been magic. Enjoy the ride – how many fans of other teams get to root for a player like this?

  8. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    @ Anonymous 11:58 a.m.

    It's great if you want to enjoy the magic. That's not what my blog is about. I attempt to stand back, look at things objectively, and offer my viewpoint of both positive and negative things. As I'm sure you can see, I said many positive things about Denard, too.

    But complaining about me pointing out the warts is just kind of silly. Every player has "warts." Barry Sanders was probably the greatest running back in history (in my opinion), but he still danced too much in the backfield. Denard Robinson is still going to be awesome, whether or not I point out that he carries the ball in his left hand too much.

  9. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Hey Thunder,

    Do you still believe that Tate will end up being the #1 starter once we get into the thick of Big 10 play? In retrospect, would you have ranked Denard even higher than you did in your preseason countdown?

    Thanks for the objective analysis. Glad that we can all love Michigan football and still be objective and honest when it comes to analysis of the team.

  10. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    @ Anonymous 12:35 p.m.

    At this point, I think Denard is the starter until he gets injured or really goes into freefall. He's much better than I expected. I would have ranked Denard higher if I had known, but that's the way it goes. They were both high on the list, anyway, so there wouldn't have been much room for Denard to move up.

  11. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    Nice write-up. I agree with most of your strengths and weaknesses.

    Which weaknesses do you expect him to iron over the most as the season goes on? Seems like his deep balls took a significant step forward against UMass (except his first pass).

    Also, the game plan pretty much says get the ball out of his hands and force him into situations where he may make some mistakes. This is obviously good for M fans to see right? If he can limit his mistakes and the coaches find ways to give him running room and open receivers isn't it going to be hard to gameplan against him?

  12. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    @ Alex

    Like you said, I think his deep ball has improved and will continue to improve. The thing is, he hasn't taken a shot downfield when he shouldn't have. It's not like there's been a safety there waiting to pick it off. He's just made bad throws, so I think that's a relatively easy fix. He just needs to learn to put some air under the ball, and you don't need an entire offseason to iron that out.

    I'd like to say that carrying the ball in his left hand will be fixed, but I don't know if the coaches are telling him that or not. I mean, I'm POSITIVE the coaches have told him to put more air under the deep ball. But he's been running the ball so well and making such good decisions that I'm not sure my problems with Denard's frequent use of his left hand are shared by everyone.

    Other than that, I think throwing off his back foot MIGHT get fixed this year. But that's a big fix, because during the season, there's not much time to work on mechanics. If I had to bet, I'd say that problem won't disappear until he gets a full offseason to work on it.

    Yes, the game plan is a good one for Michigan coaches/fans. It says that opposing teams need to get the ball out of his hands, which is hard since he's a QB, not a WR or TE. Hopefully Michigan has enough athletes elsewhere (Stonum, Shaw, Odoms, Terrence Robinson, Grady, Roundtree) to make things happen if Denard's options get limited.

    If Michigan can find a consistent running back, this offense is very close to being unstoppable.

  13. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 6:27 PM


    Denard is the most exciting player I have seen in a long time. Although, at the time, I was more excited to see Henson play than Denard before they hit the field because of the hype surrounding Henson (second coming of Jesus but with better pad level). However, when it comes to watching Denard on the field, there isn't anybody more exciting than I can think of.

    I think you are completely missing the point of my post. At no point did I say anything negative about Denard; the ride thus far has been awesome. The dude is the frontrunner for the Heisman right now, and he really hasn't done anything wrong this year.

    I just think that information is more useful when an objective viewpoint is applied, as opposed to 'OMG DENARD SO FAST SO STRONG TD.' Magnus was simply evaluating a player – take it for what it is.

  14. Comments: 21381
    Blue in South Bend
    Sep 24, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    "If Michigan can find a consistent running back, this offense is very close to being unstoppable."

    Paging Mr. Toussaint…paging Mr. Toussaint… Mr. Toussaint to the front desk…

  15. Comments: 21381
    Sep 24, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    "Paging Mr. Toussaint… Mr. Toussaint to the front desk…"

    Unfortunately, Mr. Toussaint sprained his knee getting out of the elevator.


  16. Comments: 21381
    Sep 25, 2010 at 12:25 AM

    Hey, MichFan1997 here.

    Are you trying to tell me Denard is going to get BETTER in the next 2 3/4 years? Oh dear sweet Mother of everything……

  17. Comments: 21381
    Sep 25, 2010 at 6:21 AM

    i <3 context. a 70% passer looks great on paper. look at the difficulty of denards throws. lots and lots of screens to the WRs that go for big yards. hes got(no offense at all, this player is my automatic comparison for this type of stat line) tebow stats. shovel pass for 24 yards looks the same on paper as a 24 yard strike in a tight window between double coverage.

    that was @ the dude who commented earlier @10:11

    oh and the whole "tebow stats" thing is about his passing, denards a friggin freak in the running game.


  18. Comments: 21381
    Sep 30, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    Denard is a running back that can also throw the ball when needed. He will have to beat OSU and continue to dominate to have any chance at the Heisman. His skills translate on the next level the way Eric Crouch's did.

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