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September 13, 2012

Denard Robinson finds big targets in Gardner, Funchess

Midway through the second quarter of Michigan's 31-25 win over Air Force, senior quarterback Denard Robinson set up in the pocket and watched excitedly as freshman tight end Devin Funchess streaked across the field, slipping past linebackers and safeties until nothing stood between him and the goal line.

And the Robinson threw - it was an easy six points, and the quarterback is hoping many more plays will shape up similarly this year.

"He's a great athlete" Robinson said. "Sometimes, I wish he'd play wide receiver when I see him out there, because he's so fast. But I love him at tight end, because he'll get on a linebacker or safety and those guys usually can't cover as well as cornerbacks. I enjoy watching him going out there and making those guys look bad and run right past him."

The Wolverines' receiving corps was a major concern heading into this year, but the emergences of Funchess, junior wide receiver Devin Gardner and, to a lesser extent, junior wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, have helped Robinson find targets.

"Devin and Funchess going out there and getting the ball - it's always fun throwing the ball up to those guys," Robinson said. "And you have Roy Roundtree, he's one of the guys who plays big, and Jeremy Gallon, who plays big, and Jeremy Jackson is one of the guys who is taller.

"Devin [Gardner] is a phenomenal athlete, and he learns fast. So once he gets out there into space and he knows how to get out of his breaks, he's going to progress and get better every Saturday.

"I enjoy throwing to those guys, because they can go get the ball. That was a big question coming into this year. Everybody was saying, 'Oh, we don't know about the receivers.' But you guys have seen it. Those guys have potential. We just have to keep working and moving forward."

Although Robinson mentioned Roundtree as a gamebreaker, the fifth-year senior has caught just three passes for 17 yards through Michigan's first two games.

After finishing the 2010 season with 72 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns, Roundtree has totaled just 22 catches for 372 yards and two scores.

But Robinson thinks it's only a matter of time before Roundtree gets going.

"I missed him on a deep pass [against Air Force]," Robinson said. "That was my fault. I overthrew him, and I made a mistake. That was one of the plays we left on the field. That's a play we have to make happen next time."


  • In his weekly press conference, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges lauded Robinson's increased ability to assess game situations on the fly.

    "The one thing about Denard that is amazing is if something goes wrong in front of him, he can identify it quickly," Borges said. "He can tell you, he'll get on the phone and tell you right away, he goes, 'Blah blah blah missed his block right in front of me, I just couldn't see the throw. The safety jumped in front, that's why I backed out and did this.' It's amazing how accurate it is."

    Robinson said that's one thing he worked on very hard coming into this season.

    "Once I get off the field, I go to those headsets and say, 'OK, this is what I saw, and this is what we should probably do,' or something like that," Robinson said. "Sometimes, it's different, because it's year two, and I made a lot of strides in the summer, looking at film and having another year under my belt."

  • Michigan freshman returnman Dennis Norfleet has certainly turned some heads through two games with his explosiveneess.

    "Norfleet is one of the guys that brings energy every day I see him," Robinsons said. "Every time you see him on the football field, you love his vibe and the way he plays. He reminds me of Vincent Smith, because he's one of those guys that has that energy and he's a tough guy. When he goes out there and runs the ball, you can see he's so quick and he runs through the hole, and he hits them with all he has. I enjoy watching him play.

    "He might be a little quicker than me. He's real quick. Every time I see him hit the hole, he's hitting it really quick. He makes a quick juke and it's fun watching him run the ball.

    "He's small but he packs a punch. He's quick on his feet, and he's not scared to take on a block."

  • The Wolverines have played 12 true freshmen so far this season. Robinson said he and the rest of the seniors have taken them under their wings. Robinson mentioned two freshmen - Funchess and safety Jeremy Clark, who has yet to see the field - as two whom he has mentored the most.

    "Jeremy Clark, I always talk to him," Robinson said. "He's one of the guys that I think will have a very bright future. He's on the scout team right now, but I think he has lot of potential.

    "I say, 'Make sure you don't get a big head. Just stay calm and your time will come.' One of the things I always tell them is to never give up on themselves. If you mess up one time, don't beat yourself down. That's something that I used to do as a freshman. You kind of dig yourself in a hole."

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