Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Robinson progressing well with new system


Denard Robinson


ANN ARBOR -- Denard Robinson didn't spend much time thinking before he responded to a question about which quarterbacks he tries to pattern his game after.

"There's two of them," the Michigan quarterback said Thursday. "Michael Vick and Peyton Manning. I love watching those guys."

Robinson paused, realizing he omitted someone important.

"And Tom Brady. I forgot about Tom Brady. Sorry guys."

Nearly excluding Brady, a fellow Michigan Man, is one of the only mistakes Robinson has made in fall camp. By all accounts, he has been brilliant these past two weeks despite being strapped with the burden of learning a new offense dissimilar to the one he operated during a record-breaking 2010 season.

Coaches are charting every pass Robinson and the other quarterbacks throw, and his completion percentage of more than 70 percent, by any measure, is excellent.

"He wants to be one of the great Michigan quarterbacks," coach Brady Hoke said.

Robinson's biggest improvement has centered on his footwork. Specifically, he has applied the advice given to him by offensive coordinator Al Borges and began stepping into his passes rather than falling back or "popping up."

"I think I'm doing better, but I always have time for improvement," Robinson said.

Hoke and Borges have continually raved about Robinson's talent and his willingness to improve upon a sophomore season in which he became the all-time leading rusher for a quarterback in NCAA history.

"I think the ball's coming off quicker," Hoke said. "His timing's better, and you have to give the guys catching the ball credit because I think their route running is better."

Hoke said sophomore backup Devin Gardner has completed between 59 and 62 percent of passes this camp.

STILL BATTLING: None of the team's running backs emerged in the spring as the best of the bunch, and that remains the case now, a little more than two weeks before the season begins. Hoke admits he's concerned.

"I'm probably not being truthful if I said no," he said. "You'd like to see a guy take the lead and take hold of it."

Veterans Michael Shaw, Vincent Smith, and Stephen Hopkins appear to be the frontrunners to win the job, but freshman Thomas Rawls might be closing the gap.

DEFENSE STRUGGLING: Compared to on offense, where only the running back spot doesn't have a cemented starter, only three defensive players have earned starting jobs, Hoke said.

Hoke said tackle Mike Martin, cornerback Troy Woolfolk, and safety Jordan Kovacs all have had "a nice camp."

Hoke was asked if anyone on defense has emerged as a playmaker.

"You have to understand, I'm real hard on the defense," Hoke said. "I'd say no."

SPECIALISTS: It sounds like true freshman Matt Wile will handle double duty when the season starts, as punter and kicking off.

"I imagine he'll be our kickoff guy for sure," Hoke said of the San Diego native. "I think he's punting pretty daggone well."

Sophomore punter Will Hagerup is suspended for the first four games for violating a team rule.

Wile potentially could add place kicking to his list of jobs, which would make him a three-way specialist -- something Hoke is not opposed to doing, even with a freshman. For that to happen, Wile will have to beat out sophomores Brendan Gibbons and Seth Broekhuizen, who were ineffective in 2010.

"I think it's still a great competition," Hoke said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.

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