In his first year as head coach, Brady Hoke exceeded expectations by resurrecting the Michigan Wolverines to a 10-2 record and a victory in the Sugar Bowl. The only thing they did not do was play for the Big 10 title.
In 2012, Hoke will aim to win the Big 10 title prior to facing one of college football’s best in a BCS bowl game.
After the defense drastically improved in 2011, Michigan’s fate rests solely in Denard Robinson’s hands or feet. Where they end up depends on how far he takes them.
If he always performs like he did against Ohio State last season (337 total yards and five total touchdowns), he is a Heisman Trophy winner. The fact that he can either hit the open receiver down field or scramble for a highlight worthy touchdown makes him the quarterback threat college teams covet.
Unfortunately, his 26 interceptions in the last two seasons have tarnished his elite reputation.
What is even more troubling is that Robinson’s production dropped between his breakout 2010 season and 2011. Despite the fact that he threw and ran for more touchdowns, his yards per carry and completion percentage both decreased.
In 2012 Robinson will be without his top receiving target Junior Hemingway. Also gone from last year’s receiving corp are Kelvin Grady and Kevin Koger. With that said, the probability of him improving is minimal.
The Wolverines will need wide receivers Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon to step up next season so that Robinson can put up solid numbers as a senior. The two receivers had a combined 50 catches last season, not the most compelling statistic.
To make things worse, Michigan’s schedule is far from easy. Hoke will have his hands full figuring out ways to go up against Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State among others.
Denard will have to be in top shape heading into the season. A bad opening day performance against Alabama could shake his confidence for the rest of the season. The last thing the Wolverines need is for Desmond Howard to be on ESPN creating a quarterback controversy in Ann Arbor.
Hoke and staff must come up with a strategy to maximize Robinson’s potential. Design the playbook around his strengths: simplify the reads and have him run the ball more.
If this does not happen, Robinson is destined to disappoint.
His decrease in production last season (both on the ground and through the air) suggests that he has already reached his peak. That after his sophomore year opponents figured out how to nullify him. A scary thought, I know.
Simply put, Michigan will not make it through their tough schedule in good enough condition to win a Big 10 title if Robinson plays like he did in 2011.