April 25, 2013
Michigan to miss a chains-mover
Michigan will be seeking a go-to third-down runner for converting on crucial opportunities in the fall. There isn't any question, it just said goodbye to one of the best.
It seemed like every time Michigan faced third-and-five, or fewer, Denard Robinson would simply take a shotgun snap, pick a hole and go. And it always seemed like he got there.
Last season, Robinson almost did.
The senior quarterback went an amazing 17-for-18 in precisely those situations a year ago. He remained perfect all the way until late in the third quarter of the Outback Bowl against South Carolina.
Here's a breakdown of Robinson's run conversions on third-and-five or fewer yards:
Air Force: 2-for-2
Notre Dame: 4-for-4
Michigan State: 1-for-1
Ohio State: 0-for-0
South Carolina: 1-for-2
It should be noted that while picking up one of his first downs at Notre Dame, Robinson fumbled, adding one more critical turnover to a game that turned on them. But with that exception and the bowl aberration, Robinson proved to be money on the ground when it was chains-moving time.
The Gamecocks' defense bottled Robinson up on a third-and-2 situation late in the third quarter. They rose up to stop the senior for one yard, but they didn't halt the Wolverines.
Michigan went for it on fourth down, junior quarterback Devin Gardner bursting free for 19 yards and demonstrating the Wolverines' quarterback-conversion capabilities didn't all run out the door with Robinson. U-M cashed in a touchdown moments later, taking a 22-21 lead.
It didn't hold, of course, and Robinson won't be there for the shotgun sprints come fall. But Gardner proved himself capable, both on the ground and in the air, during a number of clutch situations. His job will be to keep the chains moving at a level as high or higher than Michigan did last year.
It won't be easy. The Wolverines' 50.29 mark cited by the NCAA proved better than all but those of a handful of teams in the nation: Texas A&M (54.87), Marshall (54.59), Nevada (52.85), Oklahoma (52.17) and Clemson (51.46).
With the running backs the Wolverines are adding, and Gardner's own run-pass potential, Brady Hoke's crew will look to build on significant success in the conversions area.
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