There's no shortage of mystery surrounding the fate of Denard Robinson for the Outback Bowl against South Carolina on New Year's Day. He's obviously going to play, since he's Denard Robinson, but where he lines up is still a mystery. And if there's one thing Brady Hoke enjoys, it's springing mysteries on people.
Michigan is having significant issues at cornerback, however, with J.T. Floyd suspended for the game and Blake Countess still out after his season-opening ACL injury. As such, the Associated Press (via ESPN.com) floated the idea of sending Denard Robinson out at a brand-new position:
Some project Robinson as a receiver in the pros.
NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys general manager Gil Brandt has another idea.
"I'd draft him to be a cornerback," Brandt said. "A quarterback never wants to be told he's going to have to play another position, but I don't think he can play quarterback in the NFL. I do know teams are always looking for cornerbacks, and I think Robinson could do it because of his quickness and speed."
B/R featured columnist Jeremy Fuchs thinks it's the right move. And we agree on most aspects of the argument. Denard Robinson is not going to be a quarterback in the NFL. He has the athleticism to be a cornerback in the NFL, and if he can learn to be a quarterback, he can absolutely learn to be a cornerback. It's up to Robinson, of course, and he's not saying what position he wants to play either in January or at the next level, but cornerback is a viable option.
On all that, we agree.
What would be a disastrous move, however, would be for Brady Hoke to make that move happen in the Outback Bowl—or to spend any bowl practice time helping Robinson get prepared for such a move.
Even as a wide receiver or running back, Denard Robinson is a major asset for the Michigan offense, one the Wolverines can't really replace and one the South Carolina defense can only do so much to stop. He is a weapon on offense, and he's been honing those ball-carrying skills for basically four years.
Robinson, meanwhile, has never been a cornerback at Michigan, and unless he can pick the position up in the course of a month enough to be a starting-quality defensive back, he's got to stay on the offensive side of the ball where he'll actually, you know, play.
Do you have any confidence in Denard Robinson's tackling ability? He spent his whole career in one of the most contact-averse positions in all of college football, and when he was tasked with making a tackle on his first interception of the night against Alabama in the season opener, he nearly took himself out of the game with a shoulder injury.
Sure, you can spend a month teaching Robinson how to tackle properly. But when you also spend four years prior to that teaching Robinson how to avoid heavy contact, you can probably guess where his instincts are going to go come game time.
Michigan needs Robinson on the field, first and foremost. He's got demonstrated ability to be a weapon on offense. He has not demonstrated that ability as a defensive back. If Robinson wants to be a defensive back at the next level, that's great; he can just start the transition process on January 2.