ANN ARBOR - Greg Robinson marched up and down the University of Michigan practice field yesterday, his yellow shirt tucked into blue athletic shorts, a whistle around his neck, barking out orders.
This is a week UM players want to listen to their defensive coordinator.
As Syracuse's head coach last year, Robinson did something he hopes to do Saturday - beat Notre Dame. Considering at the time of the game the Orange had only won twice and that Robinson's firing had been announced, a win over the bowl-bound Irish was no small feat.
"He has different athletes now, but I'm sure he'll look at that game in addition to looking at the last bunch of games last year and see what hurt us, what didn't hurt us," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said.
"I have to watch both Michigan and Syracuse tapes from last year and he's just watching us."
In last year's game, Robinson orchestrated a defense that permitted just 41 rushing yards. But on the flip side, ND's Jimmy Clausen nearly did enough by himself to secure victory, throwing for 291 yards and mixing in two touchdown passes.
Keeping Clausen in check will be a priority for the Wolverines, who will try to apply similar amounts of pressure on him as they did to Western Michigan's Tim Hiller in last week's 31-7 romp. Clausen was brilliant in the Irish's 35-0 season-opening win over Nevada, hitting 15 of 18 targets for 315 yards and four touchdowns.
A former top overall recruit from California, Clausen began his college career uneven but played his finest game in last year's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, throwing for 401 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Hawaii. In an early season win over UM last year, he threw two touchdowns, two interceptions, and completed fewer than half of his attempts.
"I thought he looked pretty good last year but certainly the last couple of games he's had, he's been extremely sharp," UM coach Rich Rodriguez said.
There is no denying Clausen will stretch the field to receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate, a thought that leaves Rodriguez conscious of focusing on deep coverage this week in practice. Floyd, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound sophomore produced 189 yards on four catches against Nevada. Tate, a 5-11 junior, was the team's leading receiver a year ago.
"They like to play action, go over the top and go deep," UM corner Donovan Warren said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of going up against those two guys. Any time you're an athlete at the Division I level you want to face what's supposed to be the best."
It remains to be seen whether UM corner Boubacar Cissoko, who was limited in yesterday's practice because of a shoulder injury, will be able to go Saturday. The same can be said about Brandon Minor (ankle), Mark Moundros (undisclosed) and Junior Hemingway (ankle). Hemingway, who scored two touchdowns against WMU, did not practice at all yesterday but said Monday he anticipates playing.
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