Denard Robinson has been brilliant and flirted with disaster, but the Wolverines are glad he's on their side
Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson is, and will continue to be, one of college football's most electrifying players.
Through six games this season, he's also been one of the game's most polarizing.
Robinson spotted Northwestern 14 points on three dreadful first-half interceptions Saturday, but found his Superman cape in time for a second half where he ran for two scores and went 7-of-8 through the air for 149 yards in a 42-24 win.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
As a quarterback, the man they call Shoelace has walked a line between brilliance and catastrophe at times this season. But how concerned is Michigan coach Brady Hoke about Robinson's penchant for playing with fire?
"I like him," he said Monday. "I'm glad he's our quarterback."
Following the win Saturday, Robinson said his first-half woes might have been a result of him playing in too much of a hurry, causing his technique to suffer.
He over-shot three balls that resulted in interceptions, each one looking worse than the previous.
On Monday, Hoke continued to defend Robinson's quarterbacking progression, but did admit his early-game struggles were likely a result of forced play.
"He's excitable," Hoke said. "The big thing is that he's got to let the game come to him, sometimes."
Michigan center David Molk agreed, saying Robinson has a tendency to get overly wound up throughout portions of a game. With Robinson, Molk says there is no middle ground emotionally.
He explained how the junior signal caller doesn't beat himself up over mistakes, but does need to be reminded to take a breath from time to time.
"Most football players need to be put back into that state of mind about being hyped up, but Denard's a different player," Molk said. "Every time I see Denard on the sideline, especially after the type of first half that he had (Saturday), I just go up and say, 'Hey, Shoeskie, come on, we have to have some fun this half.'
"And he just smiles, and then we go out and play."
At the halfway point of the regular season, Robinson is the Big Ten's leading rusher with 720 yards and eight touchdowns. His standing in most passing categories are less spectacular.
He's thrown 10 touchdowns, but he has a Big Ten-worst nine interceptions. His completion percentage has risen over the past two weeks, but still sits at less than 60 percent (57). And though he's fifth in the Big Ten in passing yards with 1,130, he's only completed 11.2 passes per contest.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges has applauded Robinson's progression as a passer to this point, and Hoke explained Monday that all six of Michigan's opponents this season have given Robinson markedly different defensive looks.
He's put Michigan in a few pickles with moments of frustration but, in every instance, he's responded with performances befitting his star status.
"I like how he's handled the offense and he's improved every week," Hoke said. "There's always some additions or tweaks that he has to manage.
"I thought from spring to fall until now, his growth has been very good."
It hasn't always been pretty, but Michigan is 6-0. Robinson's had more than a few questionable decisions with his arm, but the Wolverines don't seem anywhere near the point of drastic measures (like turning him into a kick returner/wide receiver).
Michigan's played a game of 'Denard giveth, and Denard taketh away' at times this season. But no one seems overly concerned. Because, as Molk puts it, when he's giving, there's no one in the country that can match him.
"When he's having fun," Molk says, "he's unstoppable."