December 30, 2012
Borton's Blog: Shoelace show
It's no given that a player's NFL dreams and college team needs match up perfectly. In some cases, it's just the opposite - but not in this one.
Senior Denard Robinson won't talk about the NFL right now, two days before he takes the field for his final game in a Michigan uniform. But as sure as his shoes are untied, he's harboring future visions of performing at football's highest level.
He's increasingly cognizant of the fact that when he gets there, he won't be playing quarterback. Not that he wouldn't compete at QB if given a shot, but considering his stature and ability to contribute in other positions, it's not happening.
That's what renders the Outback Bowl a perfect opportunity for the already iconic Michigan senior. He can try out for the NFL and help his team beat South Carolina, all in the same afternoon. In this instance, Robinson's future and Michigan's present dovetail perfectly.
Most scouts, draft analysts and close NFL observers project the dynamic performer out of Deerfield Beach, Fla., as a kick returner/receiver/scatback runner at the professional level. Michigan needs all of that, and more, to knock off the Gamecocks on New Year's Day.
Robinson certainly could play some quarterback in the game, and head coach Brady Hoke says the senior can throw. So can Hoke, with either arm
just not effectively enough to give the Wolverines an edge against Steve Spurrier's crew on Jan. 1.
If Robinson can, by all means, let him. Let him sling it all over the yard, in tandem with junior quarterback Devin Gardner.
But Hoke also finally confirmed the bowl-week buzz about Robinson going beyond what he's done on a regular basis for the Wolverines. The head coach mentioned he's been working in Michigan's return game.
Perfect. Let him bring back kickoffs, automatically putting him with the football, in space, a scary prospect for any coverage team. Let him handle punts, allowing him to potentially provide the type of Desmond Howard/Charles Woodson moment that can tip the scales in a close game.
The drawback, some say, involves a mishandled kick, by someone who hasn't been there before. Hoke countered that suggestion by noting Robinson's history as a high school centerfielder, and those who have seen him catch the ball say No. 16 can handle himself - and the football - just fine.
Let him slip in as a running back or slot receiver, sliding out for screens and swing passes that could give South Carolina's hard-charging defensive line something to think about before heading pell-mell toward the quarterback. Let Robinson provide the rushing attack that only he has for most of the season.
Robinson ran the ball for 1,166 yards this season, despite missing two full games and half of another with the elbow injury that doomed Michigan's Big Ten title chances. No one else available for the Outback Bowl managed 250.
Gardner can certainly throw the football, if given time. His ability to get it downfield and over a ferocious front seven is certainly a key to Michigan's success.
But if Robinson doesn't give the Wolverines one more afternoon of highlight-reel thrills, they won't win. They need his explosiveness, in any fashion he can light the fuse, for producing enough points to shut the SEC up for an afternoon.
Will the scouts be watching? No doubt. Will Michigan fans? Absolutely. In this instance, they'll all be looking for the same attributes.
And if Robinson can somehow feature the sort of all-around, heart-stopping, bring-you-to-your-feet effort of which he's capable, everyone this side of Columbia, S.C., could start the New Year out with a Shoelace-worthy smile.
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