Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson took snaps in practice Tuesday and is expected to play Saturday at Minnesota, head coach Brady Hoke said, though it will be a game time decision. The battle for back-up snaps, however, has become more heated.
Junior Devin Gardner and redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy have both been taking reps in case Robinson's right arm injury flares up, preventing him from playing.
"Devin took a lot of snaps and then Russell took a couple," Hoke said, noting Robinson didn't take as many snaps as usual. "Part of that was to get a few more snaps for Devin. He hasn't taken a ton of snaps throughout the process. We wanted to get him back a little fresher … he looked all right to me."
The week of practice will determine who would play if Robinson couldn't go. They're planning on having the senior, Hoke reiterated, though Robinson isn't 100 percent.
"He's better. It's not all the way cleared up yet, but it's better," Hoke said. "He threw it, took snaps under center and from a gun."
Though the injury only seems to be aggravated when Robinson lands on his arm the wrong way, the coaches won't game plan to protect him. Robinson would want to be turned loose, Hoke said, due to his competitive nature.
Though it's a little tougher to game plan given the uncertainty, Hoke doesn't expect it to be an issue come Saturday.
"It changes a little bit, but there's always a little bit of a plan which we do weekly," he said. "We do full line against each other twice a week. Most of those plays are I-back, two-back set, two tight end, hard-hitting stuff we like to do. We've been doing it the whole season."
Gardner took a few reps at wide receiver in practice and will continue to play there should Robinson be good to go Saturday. Freshman Amara Darboh and former walk-on Joe Reynolds will also get more snaps this week, Hoke said.
"Devin's far enough within what route combinations and those things that he'd be okay," he said.
Red zone offense remains an emphasis in practice, but they won't alter the playbook, Hoke said.
"You emphasize a little more, but I don't know if we've put more plays on a script," he said. "We do a pretty good job of getting the looks and what we feel the red zone defense is going to be, all those things."
Redshirt junior kicker Brendan Gibbons provides a nice security blanket for the times they can't punch it in the end zone. He was perfect on three kicks Saturday.
"He's so steady from a mental point," Hoke said. "His confidence level, all that stuff, you see it in him, practice and games. When he does miskick, he self evaluates pretty well and knows what he did wrong."
Sophomore Matt Wile could still get opportunities on long field goals, Hoke added.
Michigan's defensive line continues to improve. Junior Jibreel Black and redshirt junior Quinton Washington, in particular are two who have responded to coaching.
"Jibreel's improved," Hoke said. "I judge a lot by practice, work with him and grade him every night. He's really playing a little more vertical, using his strengths, fundamentals and technique but his quickness he has. He's got some quick twitch to him. We express that to him, to use your strengths. His brother Larry at Indiana is 300 some pounds. Jibreel doesn't have that, but what he does have is quick twitch to him and explosiveness. If he can fundamentally be sound with it, he'll be really good.
"Q is a pretty strong man. His confidence level has grown unbelievably. I think he's really just finding out what he can do. It's fun to see the development. It takes some confidence, especially with guys who haven't played many snaps, and now you're the starting nose tackle at Michigan replacing Mike Martin. There's a confidence level there."
Special teams have been more consistent than a year ago, Hoke said.
"We're better in kick return, better in punt return, statistically," he said. "We've got to be a little more consistent in punting the football, pooch and regular punts. Kickoff coverage is the thing where we've been a little hot and cold. That's one of the places we need to be better.
"We've got all defensive guys but two on that team. The understanding we are trying to convey to them is you're helping your defense. I think we've gotten a lot of guys a lot of snaps on special teams, which is a plus because they're a lot of young guys."
Hoke was impressed with the intensity of Tuesday's practice.
"We came out yesterday and really had a good practice," he said. "That's good to see. We didn't play as well as we'd like to against Nebraska. I think everybody understands that, but I think we've moved forward.
"We did a lot of things very well as a team, competed very well, were physical with each other, which is always a good thing. We don't have guys feeling sorry for themselves, so the intensity was good."
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