April 25, 2012

Borton's Blog: QB of note

Last summer's message board pastime involved identifying just how far into the season Denard Robinson would get eased out of the quarterback job and into a more suitable locale. This summer, the mutterers are muzzled.

Some 3,349 total yards and 36 touchdowns by Michigan's junior quarterback in 2011 - along with an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl championship - put the "Devin Gardner or Bust" crowd in remission. They'll remain there, presumably, at least until the next three-and-out.

Robinson wasn't perfect last season. Far from it. His total of 15 interceptions has been identified as Schembechler Hall Enemy No. 1, at least from the offensive side of the whiteboard. His ability to effectively throw downfield and hit receivers in stride, stretching the defense sans Junior Hemingway's jump ball skills, will be closely monitored.

And bottom line, Michigan didn't win the Big Ten championship. It's why Brady Hoke cautioned the Wolverines at the start of this year that, despite all the strides forward in 2011, they'd collectively failed at the No. 1 goal.

The high standard and stark assessment provides room for improvement and endless summertime motivation. Robinson has embraced the challenge, pursuing a step forward in his own leadership efforts.

"It's always going to be high," he acknowledged, regarding the standard at Michigan. "Everybody has to hold each other accountable. Coaches have to hold us accountable."

Along the way, others are doing some accounting as well. When they do, it should serve as a reminder to not take No. 16 and his senior season for granted.

Sporting News has just come out with its list of the nation's top 25 college football players. For a guy some figured should be fighting for QB employment last year, Robinson didn't do too poorly.

He's No. 10 on the list, behind only the following: USC quarterback Matt Barkley, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, Georgia defensive end Jarvis Jones, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and USC wide receiver Robert Woods.

The publication's breakdown on Robinson noted: "His throwing ability is suspect [hello, jump balls], but you can't argue his impact on a game. A formidable, dangerous player."

That's despite playing more beaten up than anyone outside of Schembechler Hall knew, especially in the middle portion of the 2011 season. Robinson is working relentlessly on the throwing game, and the pursuit of a Big Ten title burns more deeply in him now than it has at any point since he made his way north out of Deerfield Beach, Fla.

On personality and highlight-reel presence alone, he'll go down as one of the more beloved standouts in Michigan football history. His rise to the top of the charts in a host of statistical categories won't go unnoticed, either.

He's a Big Ten championship away from genuine winged helmeted royalty, and then…

Well, here's what Sporting News quoted an anonymous NFL scout as saying about Robinson at the next level: "He won't have a problem finding a place to play. He could develop into a third receiver, and a big-time returner."

Robinson won't listen to that talk until he has to do so. He wants to play quarterback, and has at least eight months in that job, with a lot on the line.

While he drives the bus, Michigan fans ought to enjoy and fully appreciate the ride.

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