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Published: Monday, 8/24/2009

'Shoelace' tied in UM race for quarterback

ANN ARBOR - It is a three-man race for quarterback at the University of Michigan. Well, maybe we should call it a competition. If it was truly a race, Denard Robinson would win by way more than a shoelace.

The true freshman from Deerfield Beach, Fla., has been timed in 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash. In real life, that's fast. In football, it's world-class speed.

At present, it figures Robinson is running third in this, um, competition behind the 1-2 punch, in whatever order you like, of veteran Nick Sheridan and another freshman, Tate Forcier.

But UM running backs coach Fred Jackson has an interesting way of describing what he has seen unfold during preseason camp.

Jackson, who started his college coaching career at Toledo three decades ago, said yesterday that Robinson is as fast, maybe faster, than any collegian he's ever seen.

"When Denard breaks free, they can strike up the band," Jackson said.

Imagine how fast Robinson might be if he actually tied his shoelaces.

True story. Robinson started playing football when he was 7 and his little league coach would tie his shoes for him. Within minutes they'd come untied and after this had happened about a dozen times they both gave up. Robinson hasn't tied his shoes since.

Well, that's not exactly true. He ties his dress shoes for church. But that's about it.

"It's the darndest thing I ever saw," UM quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. "I saw him run 100 meters in 10.44 [seconds] with his shoes untied. His coach called him over to talk and said, 'Hey, Shoelace, come here.' That's what they all call him. As fast as he is, I'm not going to say or change anything. I don't want to blow him up, but he's fast. Man, he's fast."

Smith came with head coach Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia where he was Pat White's position coach in 2007.

"I love Pat to death, but between the two of them well, I'd better not go there. Let's say they're close," Smith said, referring to quickness.

Robinson said his little league coach nicknamed him Shoelace.

"Nobody else at the field knew my name, so they all started calling me that," he said. "I still don't bother to tie them. Have [my shoes] ever come off? Maybe a couple times in little league, but not since.

"I love running. When I get the ball I don't feel like I should be caught. I don't think anybody can catch me from behind. I can make a mistake and have a play break down and get away with it because of my speed. I know everybody says I can't throw, but I'll show them differently."

Rodriguez said the quarterback position is still wide open

"and may remain so until we see them in a game. We're still two weeks out, so in what order and for how many plays, I couldn't say. But I imagine all three will play [on Sept. 5] against Western Michigan. All three have taken reps with the first team, all have made explosive plays, and all have made mistakes."

Sheridan is believed to have a slight edge because of his experience with Rodriguez's spread-option offense - he started four times and played in eight games last season - and Forcier, who was on campus for spring drills, supposedly has the best arm. But Robinson has that game-altering speed.

"I've never seen anyone as fast as Denard," Forcier said. "I don't know how his shoes stay on. He's just gifted."

So, the competition will continue.

Two weeks to go; lots of time to lace 'em up.

Or not.

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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