Michigan vs. Notre Dame: Denard Robinson & Everett Golson Are Very Different QBs
There are certain stereotypes that persist in college football, even in 2012, and few are as widespread as the stereotypes that surround African-American quarterbacks.
You know the stereotypes, right? Fast, can't throw well, would be better off running the option. Put a black quarterback on the field and then listen in the stands. You can guess pretty easily what you'll hear.
Who would you rather have as a starting quarterback?
And yet, the stereotype is only that: A shallow understanding of the subjects at hand, which rewards dismissiveness and laziness over paying attention.
Because if you actually do pay attention to Denard Robinson and Everett Golson, you would see two very different skill sets on two very different quarterbacks.
Denard Robinson's best strength, the thing that sets him apart from nearly every other player in all of college football, is his athleticism. From a pure speed perspective, Robinson is probably the fastest player in the Big Ten.
You don't need to tell Notre Dame this; Robinson has made a habit of incinerating the Irish defense and is looking for one last monster game against Notre Dame for his career.
In particular, Robinson can hit that top gear on a moment's notice. He patiently lets creases develop, then explodes through the seam and leaves Notre Dame defenders in the dust.
Everett Golson can't do that. He can't even come close. Golson is shifty and mobile in his own right—to call him a "dual-threat" quarterback would be accurate—but the top end speed just isn't there. For the record: That's okay. No other quarterback has that kind of speed either.
Notre Dame does take advantage of Golson's athleticism, but his usage in the ground game is totally different from how you see Michigan use Robinson—both under Rich Rodriguez and under Brady Hoke.
At Notre Dame, Brian Kelly uses Golson's athleticism to move the pocket and keep defenses honest with option read play-action, but rarely in a straightforward running sense.
That's not to say that Golson can't run, mind you; he has two rushing touchdowns already this year, including one against Michigan State, where he flashed some nifty moves and avoided a Johnny Adams hit while tip-toeing into the end zone on a scramble.
Golson also has more than enough athleticism to avoid pressure—his touchdown pass to John Goodman against the Spartans came as a result of rolling out away from heat, and he's been able to evade rushers with relative ease on several occasions this year.
So don't be fooled by the -11 yards rushing that Golson has for the year—he can rush well, that's just not the way Notre Dame uses him. Not yet, anyway.
Notre Dame did mix in some option looks during its spring game, and Golson looked fine but not great in those.
Where Golson is a superior player to Robinson is in the passing game. Golson's technique and accuracy are both remarkably sound, especially for a redshirt freshman. Denard Robinson's technique and accuracy? Those are for the more, shall we say, adventuresome types.
Golson isn't a perfect thrower by any stretch of the imagination—not at this point. He has a tendency to overthrow his deep targets. He doesn't vary the speed or trajectory of his throws very often, so there's not a lot of touch on throws that don't need to be rifled.
But those aren't mechanical issues, those just come down to coaching and development.
So yes, you'll see two six-foot, athletic, African-American quarterbacks on the field on Saturday. But if all you see is the similarities, you're missing a lot of football.
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