The use of Denard Robinson in Michigan’s 26-21 loss at Ohio State Saturday left fans feeling a little empty inside. After the Wolverines whipped out several formations, plays and even decoys showcasing Robinson’s skillset in a home win over Iowa a week prior, much of the same was expected in Columbus—if not more—since Michigan’s all-time yards leader hadn’t even attempted a pass against the Hawkeyes.
Regardless of the formations and substitution patterns with Robinson and Gardner against the Buckeyes, there’s no doubt U-M fans sat on the edge of their seat anticipating the one play—Robinson dropping back and catching the defense peeking into the backfield for a throw over the top. According to Brady Hoke, that just wasn’t a possibility.
“If he couldn’t be successful and he doesn’t have that confidence, why put him in a situation that’s not fair to him?” said Hoke.
For all of the flack the coaching staff has received in recent days after the disappointing second half performance at Ohio State, we should at least give Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges credit for being more concerned about the health of their senior captain than a deceptive trick play that could have turned the game on its head.
With that being said, attention was then turned to Robinson the wide receiver. If he couldn’t throw the passes Saturday, he certainly could have caught them, right?
Again, not very fair to judge.
“We had a couple routes in there for him,” said Hoke. “It’s pretty obvious that they paid attention to where he was, and you can do that. Has he had a whole lot of route running and that stuff? No. Maybe if he would have had a little more, but that wasn’t the plan.”
The middle of a season isn’t exactly the perfect time to learn the art of route running and timing that comes with being a wide receiver.
Some will say Robinson should have been practicing, preparing and learning the “Percy Harvin” role since Hoke and company arrived in Ann Arbor. That’s fine, if fans were open to the possibility of sacrificing a win or two from the 11-2 mark in 2011.
Fortunately for Michigan, with the regular season over, time is available. Most importantly, a second viable option at quarterback has emerged as well in Devin Gardner. As the Wolverines rest up and play the waiting game looking to hear where and when their ticket will be punched for bowl season, Hoke isn’t committing to one quarterback. Instead, this could be the time for more experimentation with Robinson, whose NFL draft stock could receive a major boost as an effective multi-purpose performer in whichever bowl Michigan ends up in.
“I would think he’d play quarterback, maybe wide out, maybe running back,” said Hoke, who even mentioned the possibility of Robinson returning kicks.
“I think at the same time there’s an opportunity to expand more, maybe, on some of the two quarterback things.”
Gardner the starter in ’13 and beyond?
Given the staggering numbers Gardner put up in his four starts to end the 2012 season, as well as leading Michigan to a 3-1 record during that time, it appears once spring football comes around, the first team reps will be his to lose. With Russell Bellomy still around and five-star quarterback Shane Morris set to arrive on campus next June, Hoke believes Gardner will still have some competition.
“He’s going to have to compete and earn it, but he’s done a good job of what we’ve asked him to do to this point,” said Hoke.
As of now, Michigan is unaware whether Gardner will enter the 2013 campaign as a senior in his final year of eligibility or be granted a fifth-year based on a medical redshirt dating back to his four game stint in 2010 that was cut short due to a lingering back issue. Hoke doesn’t have a definitive answer yet, but hinted Christmas could come early for the Wolverines.
“I would expect that would go through,” said Hoke. “I think all of the documentation and everything is being sent to the Big Ten. And I think there is some momentum.”
“Just a gut feeling.”