Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson threw and ran for touchdowns yesterday before 35,000 fans at the annual spring game.
TONY DING / AP Enlarge
ANN ARBOR - Even before Denard Robinson played in his first game, two camps of University of Michigan football fans debated which path he should navigate his career toward.
He was either going to transfer and play quarterback elsewhere, or he'd find his niche at receiver, or maybe even on defense.
Robinson of course did none of that and instead became a better quarterback. How much better? Apparently a lot.
Showing marked improvement as a thrower, the sophomore-to-be solidified himself as a quarterback this spring, and after yesterday's spring game at the Big House, he may have solidified himself as the quarterback.
Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez no doubt has little to gain by anointing Robinson as the starter in April, but it certainly appears that Robinson, and not incumbent starter Tate Forcier, will open fall camp positioned atop the depth chart.
Robinson sizzled in yesterday's scrimmage, connecting with receivers for long plays and getting loose several times for large chunks of yards on the ground in the Blue team's 49-37 win over Maize before about 35,000 bundled up fans. Trying to decipher how and why points were scored for each team in this controlled scrimmaged is a bit mind numbing - it was often unclear which players were playing for which team - but in terms of the quarterback position, Robinson definitely outscored Forcier and freshman Devin Gardner. Robinson totaled three touchdowns - two passing, one rushing - before adding two more scores in a mock overtime period to end the scrimmage.
"This year he's really improved on his throwing," said Roy Roundtree, who hauled in two touchdowns from Robinson, including a 97-yarder to open a series. "He's not throwing it as hard as his freshman year. We'd have to tell him, hey, you need to lighten up [on the velocity of his throws]."
Because he was the most consistent quarterback throughout camp - something Rodriguez revealed to the media yesterday - Robinson opened the scrimmage operating the first team offense, which opposed the No. 2 defense. Forcier got a few reps with the top offense but was mostly relegated to working with the second team. Rodriguez emphasized there was "no particular order" to the rotation at quarterback and maintains that the competition is still ongoing and may not be resolved until after UM plays its first game against Connecticut.
Per Rodriguez's orders, all three quarterbacks were made unavailable to the media.
"Denard's a lot more confident now," guard Steve Schilling said. "I think he knows what he's doing more now and he's making better decisions. It seems like he's doing things quicker."
Gardner received a loud ovation upon entering the game only to fumble on his first play. The rookie from Detroit later threw an interception to Obi Ezeh but mixed in a number of nice passes and runs along the way. Forcier fumbled once but also operated the offense with some success.
"I think we've practiced better at quarterback at some of the earlier practices," Rodriguez said. "I didn't think we were particularly sharp. They made a few mistakes but they have played better."
Defenders were not permitted to make contact with the quarterbacks.
Overall for the spring,
Rodriguez said he learned "more positives than negatives" about his team. His defense played solidly at times, but because of the scrimmage's format - no tackling the quarterback and no punting to gain a field position edge - it's unreasonable to make any ironclad assessments.
Rodriguez complimented the play this spring of cornerbacks Troy Woolfolk, who sat out yesterday with a hand injury, and J.T. Floyd.
Freshman safety Cam Gordon has also been lauded by the coaching staff for his seamless transition from receiver. A physical individual, Gordon dealt a few solid hits yesterday playing with the first team opposite returning starter Jordan Kovacs.
"I wasn't expecting much out of a receiver," defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen said. "I was expecting a lot of missed assignments, but he's a quick learner and looks like a starter."
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