Sep 12, 2010

Denard Robinson: An Early Assessment

Denard Robinson stiff arms a Notre Dame defender; Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Like all Michigan fans, I was wowed by the superhuman performance yesterday of Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson. The sophomore rolled up 258 rushing yards and 502 yards of total offense against Notre Dame, rushing for two TDs and passing for another score.

While Robinson's season is only two games old (and these are the only two games in his career that Robinson has started at quarterback for Michigan), I think a few observations are in order.

1. Robinson reads defenses well. I was impressed with the way the young quarterback changed plays several times after getting a look at the defensive packages shown by both Connecticut and Notre Dame. Robinson also made adjustments after the snap, and he has excellent vision of the field for such an untested player.

2. Robinson has a stronger arm than we were led to believe. The passes that were most off the mark in the first few games tended to be those beyond the reach of receivers on deep patterns, and if I were a football coach, I would much rather have a quarterback overthrow a receiver than to loft up an underthrown, easy-to-intercept pigskin, like a dieter choosing a thick juicy steak instead of the best OTC appetite suppressant.

3. Robinson has confidence. Tons of it. What most impressed me about Denard Robinson in these first two games was how self-assured and poised this kid looked. After most plays he had a smile on his face, and on the game-winning TD drive Robinson looked positively unflappable.

4. As good as he has looked, Robinson can play better. While Robinson has a solid grasp of the offensive system, he will begin to better finesse the possibilities. This is especially true at the tight end position, as Robinson has yet to fully exploit starting tight end Kevin Koger and his running backs.

5. Robinson needs to temper his killer instinct. While I liked his aggressive decision making, there were several third down short-yardage situations yesterday when Robinson should have focused on getting the first down instead of taking shots downfield. This is especially critical in closer games, and one might argue that several offensive drives were stalled by Robinson's eagerness to target an open receiver deep downfield.

6. Robinson has displayed remarkable accuracy. The statistics tell a considerable part of the story: 69.4 percent completion rate, 138.3 passer rating, and zero interceptions in the first two games. Yet even some of Robinson's incompletions were remarkable, including a beautiful pass in the corner of the end zone that was dropped by the wide receiver.

7. Robinson should be a surprise early favorite for the Heisman Trophy. Yes, it is only the second week, and we really do not know the true quality levels of opponents Notre Dame and Conneticut, but the numbers Robinson has posted in two weeks are jaw-dropping. The second half of Michigan's season is brutal, though at least the Wolverines get to play Iowa and Wisconsin at the Big House. Still, even Heisman frontrunner Terelle Pryor cannot match the yardage totals Robinson has accumulated thus far. Landry Jones, the Oklahoma QB, has been impressive (albeit while throwing a few picks), while Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder probably torched his Heisman chances in an ugly loss to the Sooners yesterday. Boise State's Kellen Moore has been consistently strong, but the Broncos never seem to get enough love from experts and voters. At this point I see Robinson and Pryor as the top two Heisman candidates.


Anonymous said...

Well put Mike. CNNSI actually has Robinson 1 and Pryor 2 and Mallett 3 in there current Heisman rankings!!

Jim Jacob

poker affiliate said...

Denard has turned an average Michigan team into a top team in the Big 10 and put him as the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy. The guy is putting up amazing stats this season already.