How the Michigan Wolverines Should Utilize Denard Robinson in the Outback Bowl
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No matter what happens in the 2013 Outback Bowl, Denard Robinson will be remembered as one of the greatest players in the history of the Michigan Wolverines' storied football program. But how should offensive coordinator Al Borges utilize the Maize and Blue's most dynamic offensive weapon on Jan. 1st?
Now that junior dual-threat Devin Gardner has established himself as Michigan's starting quarterback over the last four games, Borges should keep the Inkster High School product and Robinson on the field at the same time for the entire game against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
More specifically, the Wolverines should give Robinson significantly less plays at the quarterback position and several more at running back and wide receiver.
Basically, Borges and the rest of the Michigan coaches should look back at what the Wolverines did well against the Iowa Hawkeyes in their home finale and implement a similar game plan.
In the first 40 seconds of the video below, Robinson did not take a single snap directly, yet the offense functioned better than it has all season long. The senior signal-caller finished the game with 122 total yards on 15 touches.
Robinson runs a stretch out of the offset I-formation, catches a pass out of the backfield and essentially runs an option play out of a three-back set after taking a handoff from Gardner. None of these plays were utilized against the Ohio State Buckeyes, which is the main reason the Wolverines were dominated in the second half of The Game.
Michigan chose to line Robinson up at quarterback and let him run the read-option or designed quarterback draws until the Buckeyes found a way to slow the Deerfield Beach, FL native down.
"I think getting an extra guy in the box helped," Ohio State safety C.J. Barnett said after the intense rivalry game, according to John Borton of TheWolverine.com. "I thought the second half we came out and we were playing two games, one against Gardner, one against Denard."
Robinson carried the ball six times for 124 yards and one touchdown in the first half, but lost two yards on four carries in the final 30 minutes of the game.
Ohio State snuffed out Michigan's scheme and loaded the box up with Robinson in the game at quarterback, because the Buckeyes knew the 6'0", 197-pounder would not throw the ball. See the video below, specifically the final 1:57, to witness how inept Robinson became in the second half.
In a couple of the short yardage situations, Robinson is not even on the field as a decoy, which takes a lot of pressure off of Ohio State's defense.
The Wolverines cannot repeat those mistakes if they hope to topple head coach Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks on New Year's Day.
Borges needs to realize Robinson attracts a significant amount of attention even if he does not touch the ball.
Given Robinson's elite speed, simply lining him up as a receiver and having him run a go-route will force a safety to play toward his side of the field, which will open up a lot of space for veteran wideouts Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon.
Putting Robinson in the backfield with multiple running backs opens up stretch plays, draws and options.
One thing Michigan needs to avoid is coming out in the I-formation and trying to run it right at the nation's No. 15 ranked rushing defense. After all, the Wolverines have already proven how ineffective that is in their loss to the Buckeyes.
Head coach Brady Hoke and Borges are transitioning to the pro-style offense, and rightfully so, but for one more game the Wolverines need to keep their two best athletes on the field together at all times and force the Gamecocks to pick their poison on every snap.
There has been ample time during the bowl preparation for Michigan to put this all into motion, and hopefully the staff has learned from the Wolverines' shortcomings against the Buckeyes.
Follow me on Twitter @ZachDirlam_SSN.
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