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Published: Sunday, 12/30/2012

OUTBACK BOWL NOTES

Michigan coaches not giving away much on game plan in Denard Robinson's final game

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

In regards to Denard Robinson, Brady Hoke continues to dodge the most obvious question:

How will the senior be utilized in his final game with the Michigan football team?

Hoke said during a press conference Saturday at the Wyndham Westshore Hotel that the senior quarterback has been throwing well. He added that Robinson could be used in the return game, and referenced Robinson’s speed and catching abilities, citing the senior’s background as a center fielder in baseball.

“There’s certain things guys do really well,” said Hoke, the second-year Michigan coach. “Denard has a pretty good instinct of running with the football.

“If you look at the punt game or the kicking game, he’s got that skill level to field balls.”

Michigan’s coaches won’t give away their whole game plan as it relates to Robinson, nor as it relates to its starting tailback — which could be Thomas Rawls, Vincent Smith, or Justice Hayes. Or even Robinson.

“He could do about anything,” Hoke said, when asked about Robinson’s ability to throw the ball in a game. “He doesn’t punt real well, but he can do a lot of things.”

Finally, after a long-winded question in regards to Robinson’s throwing, Hoke relented, though possibly tongue-in-cheek.

“He’s doing a great job,” Hoke said. “He’s throwing the ball well.”

ROBINSON ON FUTURE: Robinson said that in regards to his professional future, it wasn’t on his mind during Outback Bowl preparations.

“Right now I’m focusing on this last game and finishing with my team,” Robinson said. “This team is my family. After this, I’ll probably start thinking about that.”

RELOCATED: Because of storms that hit the Tampa-St. Petersburg area Saturday morning, Michigan moved its practice indoors to St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. Michigan practiced before a scheduled team outing to Busch Gardens.

MOSTLY HEALTHY: Hoke said that the health of his team is good, though Hoke maintained his typical explanation of player injuries when asked about the cast that offensive lineman Patrick Omameh wore on his left hand.

“It’s a boo-boo,” Hoke said.

THE HEAT WAS ON: Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs said the Wolverines had seven practices in Ann Arbor before departing for Tampa on Dec. 26 — and all of them were indoors.

“They heated that thing up as much as they could, to simulate the temperature in Tampa,” the Clay graduate said. “That’s probably part of the reason we came down here early, to get adjusted to the environment.”

The environment isn’t just about the sun and warm weather. Taking part in a bowl game also brings about a hectic schedule outside of football preparation.

“Bowl weeks are fun because you have so many events going on,” Kovacs said. “It’s fun but at the same time you’re torn because you want to have fun and obviously, it’s important to have fun but you want to stay focused on the game.

“That’s where bowl games get difficult. But I think for the most part, the main thing stays the main thing and that’s the football game. And that will be fun.”

ON “OHIO”: Nearly 1,200 miles from Ann Arbor, the Wolverines can’t escape mention of their top rival. South Carolina tight end Justice Cunningham mentioned that he grew up an Ohio State fan.

“Beating a team like Michigan is a great way to go out,” said Cunningham, who hails from South Carolina.



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