Denard Robinson's legacy stretches beyond Wolverines football
He's been endlessly celebrated, yet he's also been the subject of drilling criticism.
He never really fit the mold of a Big Ten quarterback, yet he quickly became a fan favorite and University of Michigan legend after turning his first play with the Wolverines into a 43-yard rushing touchdown against Western Michigan in 2009.
And it'll be difficult imagining Shoelace-less college football after he makes his grand finale appearance New Year's Day in the Outback Bowl against the 10th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Wolverines senior was meant for another type of offense, something strikingly different from the traditional power style made famous by programs like Michigan. Robinson was supposed to be something like former West Virginia star Pat White, a one-time spread offense master under coach Rich Rodriguez, who ended up coaching Robinson at Michigan for three years.
Well, Robinson was like White. And, in many ways, he evolved into an even more exciting spectacle than what White was with the Mountaineers -- and guys like White are hard to find.
“He’s a beast. He’s just doing amazing things out there,” White said in 2010, according to USA Today (via Pro Football Talk). ”He obviously knows the position and looks like a hard runner and a good leader. He doesn’t look afraid to run the ball or stick his nose in there.”
White set the quarterback rushing record with 4,480 yards. Robinson needs 84 to surpass him.
Do players like Robinson attract you to college football?
A worthy captain, Robinson was a player who epitomized the true work ethic that any coach could appreciate. Through it all, Robinson was the glue that held Michigan together during the turbulent Rich Rod Era.
He's what Michigan needed as the face of the program, and he certainly set the bar high for future leaders of the football team.
College football will miss one of its good guys after Jan. 1. Robinson wasn't only a favorite in Michigan, but he had a nationwide (maybe worldwide) following.
The Curtain Call
What should we expect from Robinson against the Gamecocks?
Well, that depends on the health of his right elbow, of course. If the nerves in his right elbow behave themselves, Jan. 1 could end up being Robinson's most exciting act.
Imagine a senior whose will won't allow failure.
Imagine Robinson prepared and determined to deliver what he's delivered so many times before.
If his arm is ready, Michigan could dig deep with double- and triple-reverse plays. The ability to have two arms in the backfield would only increase Michigan's chances of beating the Gamecocks, who finished third in the SEC East this year.
Going out with a bang would only make sense. He entered college football in grand fashion; he's more than capable of exiting the same way.
Will upcoming NFL draft hopes cause Michigan to limit Robinson?
It's a logical question to ask.
Depending on the pace of the game, Michigan may choose to lightly use Robinson, who has a future in the NFL as a return man, slot receiver or complementing piece to Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins' pistol package.
OK. That last part is actually more of a dream scenario than likelihood, but it's all but certain that more than a few teams are interested in Robinson's rare athleticism.
So, if the Wolverines have a comfortable lead, or they're trailing miserably, Robinson could be shelved in order to avoid injury. Why put him at risk?
If the game is give-and-go and back-and-forth, that'll be a different story. The Wolverines will need all the help they can get, and believe that they'll call upon their leader to swing the tempo in favor of the Maize and Blue.
Don't blink, or you might miss the show
Robinson's career at Michigan is comparable to a single play from the Wolverines' 31-25 win this season over the Air Force Falcons at The Big House.
The designed run was meant to go left, but as that quickly became less likely, Robinson darted right, weaving through the middle and taking off like a rocket—wearing just one show at that point—for a gem of a highlight run.
Where an opportunity closed, Robinson found another. That's how he operated at Michigan -- he just made do, and did quite well improvising.
Part of the allure of Michigan football was the anticipation.
It was bound to happen, so you dare not leave the room. Robinson was combustible, and he turned dozens and dozens of broken plays or should-have-been sacks/tackles for loss into positive yardage.
And he did it so quickly that a simple turn of the head would cause spectators to miss out on one of his trademark "did you see that?!" moments.
Keep your eyes glued on No. 16 on New Year's Day.
Robinson was great for the game
Players like Robinson make college football, well, college football. The types of exploits put on by Robinson aren't very common in the pro game. Sure, the NFL has the best of the best, but let's face it: the appeal of college ball is because of crazy fast and uber-talented freaks of nature like Robinson.
Robinson was never perceived as a pure quarterback. He wasn't durable enough to be a running back, but he could beat most of them in a race. The same was true at receiver, a position he was too small to play in the Big Ten (on a regular basis).
Those in-between guys are always a joy to watch. They may never really make it as a pro, but they'll always be celebrated for what they did in college.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81