Frankly, however, I think a lot of these problems fall on the coaches, and not necessarily because they didn't improve his skills enough in the short time they've had to work with him. When Denard first showed up on campus, Rodriguez was adamant that Robinson was a quarterback and was going to stay a quarterback; that he would eventually have the full playbook and options that Forcier had. But time and again, when Robinson came onto the field, he took a snap and ran between the tackles. There are a number of problems with this:
Ohio State was the first team to do it, but every single play (with the exception of maybe one) that Robinon was in the game, Ohio State blitzed the cornerback that was over the slot receiver--Jermale Hines, who actually spent much of the day blitzing in an attempt to break up Michigan's rollling pockets. It took Michigan until Denard's 6th or 7th snap to finally throw the ball. It's not that Robinson should be heaving skinny posts over the middle on every play, but when you never throw the ball (even bubble screens, which he can throw well, or at least better than the mess Michigan had in 2008), there are simple things a defense can do to stop it. IMO, it took Rodriguez far too long to put the ball in the air with Robinson.
Further to the point, in no way did Robinson have the full playbook, or even a fraction of it. Where were the zone reads from Robinson? Where was the speed option? Where was that quick pitch to the edge? Robinson never did any of that. In terms of the reads, I can understand if he wasn't making them fast enough and screwing the plays up. Sure. But don't you break some of those out against Delaware State?
I think a lot of the reason that Denard wasn't particularly effective this year is because the coaches made him one dimensional; they turned him into a wildcat quarterback. In all honestly, that's fine. I'd be perfectly happy seeing Denard come in as a wildcat QB from time to time. The problem was, Michigan never lined up as such, instead lining up in their regular formations, which left them open to the kind of edge blitzing that Ohio State brought (frankly, I don't know why more teams didn't do this throughout the year). Chris Brown of Smart Football wrote a good piece for the New York Times' football blog, The Fifth Down, detailing exactly what constitutes the wildcat:
|All too often the term “Wildcat” is synonymous with any set involving a
skill player who takes the snap. It got to where when Michael Vick took
a shotgun snap, announcers and commentators shouted “Wildcat!” This is
incorrect, or at least incomplete. There are three primary facets to
the “Wildcat,” and the mobile quarterback is but the most obvious
element. The three are:|
• The mobile “quarterback.”...
• The jet sweep/jet fake...
• The unbalanced line...
It's a really great piece, and I suggest you read the whole thing, but the long and short of it is that Michigan, when they brought Robinson in, weren't even gaining a tactical advantage in the blocking game by going to a wildcat formation. Instead, they just kept running QB draws. That's fine when you need a quarterback draw, but it doesn't make someone a quarterback--not really, anyway. This falls squarely on the shoulders of Rodriguez, that is unless Robinson was so far behind the curve in terms of reads and passing that he simply couldn't do anything else (if this is the case, though, dude needed to redshirt).
Much of the speculation surrounding Robinson is that when Devin Gardner shows up on campus and sits through his presumed redshirt, Robinson will move to slot receiver/RB/Percy Harvin, which is fine, but someone needs to teach him how to secure the ball. He fumbled again against Ohio State, and I think part of the reason he has trouble holding on is because it's difficult to bring him down. Robinson stays on his feet longer than he probably should he someone has him wrapped up, and teams punch the ball out. Robinson needs to secure the ball with two hands and go to the turf when he's surrounded by six defenders. He's clearly a great talent; I just hope that Rodriguez will figure out how to use him properly.