Thanks for the blog, which I enjoy. As you are clearly knowledgeable about football, I was surprised by the following comment:
"My initial reaction is to expect that Robinson will transfer, perhaps to Pitt, where former Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee has alighted. He could go to Pittsburgh, sit out 2011, and have two years of eligibility to play quarterback. In my opinion, the best chance Hoke has to retain Robinson is to make a pitch for Robinson to become a running back or wide receiver."It seems to me that if Robinson stays, he simply must be a quarterback. Otherwise, with Forcier gone, Michigan would be down to one scholarship quarterback, which is clearly unacceptable.
As of now, there are no QB commits in the 2011 class, and at this late date, I suspect the best Hoke could get is a mid-range three-star who will show up in August unprepared for Division I football. If Robinson transfers, we will have to live with that. But if Robinson stays, I cannot imagine that the coaches would choose to hand the job to Gardner, with an anonymous true-freshman three-star kid as his backup.
Let’s assume that Gardner would beat out Robinson in an open competition (not at all obvious to me, but I’ll run with it). You still need two guys ready to play the position. QB is hard enough to learn when you practice it full-time. I can’t imagine that Robinson would have be able to learn a new playbook, get fully prepared to back up Gardner, and have any significant amount of time left to practice other another position that he has never played before.
On top of all that, Robinson seems to want to play QB. I doubt that he would survive a whole season at running back, given his propensity for injury, and he has no history catching the ball. But even if Robinson wanted and were suited to another position, the lack of depth at QB pretty much precludes that idea.
Again: love the blog. I just wonder what on earth you were thinking when you suggested a position switch for Denard. It seems to me the world’s most impractical idea.
Best regards, Marc
Here's my thought process on the matter...
Denard is an excellent runner. He's a mediocre thrower and I'm not sure he has the ability to play quarterback in an offense that's something other than an option offense where he's a frequent running threat. His mechanics are iffy, his decision making is iffy, and his 62.5% completion percentage belies his scattershot arm. There's a frustrating lack of accuracy on short throws from Robinson that often prevents his receivers from doing much with the ball once it hits their hands - and that's to say One could point to Roy Roundtree's frustrating drops - especially in the second half of the season - as a reason that Robinson's completion percentage should be higher, but I would argue that Robinson's running ability created a significant amount of wide open, easy catches (see Terrence Robinson's catch against UConn, Roundtree's touchdown against Mississippi State, and Roundtree's long touchdown against Illinois for just a few examples).
I don't think I said this in the other day's post, but I expect that Brady Hoke will recruit one or more quarterbacks in the Class of 2011. They probably won't be top-tier guys, but they'll be quarterbacks nonetheless. That would leave Devin Gardner, perhaps Tate Forcier (if he's reinstated), and a freshman or two.
I believe Gardner is a better fit for a pro-style offense than Rodriguez's zone read option. Gardner isn't a great runner. I think he's a pocket guy who can scramble. He would be great out of the shotgun, but he's not going to break big runs like Denard, Pat White, etc. I won't say that Rodriguez and Gardner were a mismatch, but I think Gardner would be more effective when deployed like Ohio State's Jim Tressel uses perennial bonehead Terrelle Pryor. So here are the steps I was suggesting Michigan should take:
1. Prepare Gardner to be the starter.I don't think Denard is as injury-prone as you suggested, although I do think he's injury-prone for a quarterback and was asked to run too much. He got his shoulder dinged up, but the main reason that mattered was because he was playing quarterback. A minor shoulder injury isn't a big deal for a RB because he doesn't have to throw. And Denard did bang up his hip and knee, but I would guess a majority of running backs get dinged up throughout the year. They were all pretty minor injuries, and I don't think they would have been as big of a deal if Denard wasn't a QB and touching the ball on 100% of the plays.
2. Bring in a freshman or two and see if they can handle being the backup.
3. Move Denard to RB or WR. Create a package for him to be the "Wildcat QB" or just let him get a few reps at QB in case of an emergency. And if people get hurt ahead of him, he could always move back to QB in a Paul Thompson (ex-Oklahoma QB/WR) or Justin Siller (Purdue QB/RB) type of way.
It's unclear whether Robinson has the ability to play wide receiver, which requires precise route-running and good hand-eye coordinator. Quarterbacks usually have pretty good hands, and with Robinson's speed, I don't doubt that he could play receiver, at least the college level. And he's already essentially a running back at times; we've seen his patience in waiting for blocks to develop, his ability to outrun or outmaneuver defenders, and his ability to accelerate through the hole. Receiver might be a huge question mark, but I have no doubt that Robinson could be an outstanding running back at the college level. I see no discernible difference between Robinson and Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson - one is listed at 6'0", 193 lbs. and the other is 5'11", 191 lbs. - who seems to be doing rather well for himself.
Like I said, it's partially dependent on whom Hoke can recruit to play QB. If he can't recruit someone for the class of 2011 and Tate Forcier doesn't return, then Denard surely has to stay at quarterback. But I agree that Denard does want to play quarterback, and there's something to be said for that. I just also think that Denard's NFL future depends on his versatility, and playing RB or WR might prepare him more for his future. Guys who convert from QB in college to another position in the NFL generally aren't anything more than role players in the NFL, although there are a few exceptions (Josh Cribbs, Antwaan Randle-El, etc.). There are guys out there like Julian Edelman, Brad Smith, and Bert Emanuel, but I don't think many superstar college players want to be the next Bert Emanuel.
None of this is to say that I dislike Denard Robinson or that I want him to transfer. His leadership, on-field demeanor, effort, and talent are unquestionable. I hope he remains at Michigan for two more years, Brady Hoke can use him effectively, and Robinson goes on to a long and illustrious football career. If his goal is to be an outstanding college quarterback, win a lot of games, and re-insert himself into the Heisman race, then it might be in Robinson's best interest to play at a different school. But if his goal is to maximize his effectiveness and begin a transition to a position that is more likely to get him to the NFL, it wouldn't be a bad idea for him to become a running back.