Michigan Football: Outback Bowl Is Sad Finish to Denard Robinson's Career

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Michigan Football: Outback Bowl Is Sad Finish to Denard Robinson's Career
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Expectations have always been high for Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines, but without ever reaching those expectations, the Outback Bowl will be a sad conclusion to Robinson's Wolverine career.

Some might say that Robinson's career wasn't a disappointment at Michigan, but without a Heisman Trophy or a national title to speak of, that couldn't be further from the truth.

In three years as the Wolverines' starter, Robinson has proven to be one of the finest athletes in the nation.

While that is a great accomplishment, being a great athlete doesn't make Robinson a great quarterback. He never truly developed the rest of his game behind center and was never considered an elite passer in the college game.

That fact no doubt made it tougher for Michigan to be successful on a championship level, but in no way is Robinson the sole cause of Michigan's struggles over the past three years.

Now comes the Outback Bowl as the Wolverines prepare to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in what will be Robinson's last game with the team.

But it won't be a glorious finish for Robinson by any means, and Michigan fans won't have to wait until next season for Robinson to be succeeded by Devin Gardner.

According to Andy Staples of SportsIllustrated.com, head coach Brady Hoke will use Gardner behind center, whether or not Robinson is healthy enough to throw the ball.

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Hoke has said he intends to use Devin Gardner at quarterback some even if Robinson can throw, so Robinson could play some or all of the game at tailback or receiver.

Robinson suffered an elbow injury back in late October and hasn't thrown a pass in a game since. No matter what his current health situation is, it looks like Hoke will go with Gardner behind center, and that could leave Robinson playing a different position altogether.

Per the same report from Staples, Robinson could be utilized as a tailback or wide receiver against the Gamecocks. While he is certainly skilled enough to play either of those positions, Robinson has always been a quarterback for the Wolverines, and it would be nice to see him go out as one.

But that appears not to be the case, and it looks like Gardner is taking over for Robinson sooner rather than later.

Zach Helfand of MichiganDaily.com is reporting that Hoke could also use Robinson as a kick or punt returner, adding another bizarre element to the last game of Robinson's Michigan career.

But that includes returning kicks and punts, an area where, Hoke said, “we might” use him in the Outback Bowl against No. 11 South Carolina on New Year’s Day. Robinson has lined up just once as a returner in his collegiate career, on Oct. 20 against Michigan State, for a kickoff that was not returned.

That move would be just another form of disrespect towards Robinson. Once the hope of Michigan fans everywhere, how terrible would it be to see Robinson reduced to a return role?

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It doesn't get any worse than that.

While it's understandable that Hoke wants to make the move now in order to give his newest quarterback some experience for next season, it's unimaginable that Robinson will finish his Michigan career playing anywhere but behind center.

Granted, Robinson didn't take Michigan all the way during his time with the program, but he did give the Wolverines every single piece of himself trying to get there. At the very least, the Wolverines owe it to Robinson to be the team's primary quarterback as long as he is healthy.

It remains to be seen who gives the Wolverines the best chance to win, but with nothing on the line against South Carolina, Michigan should give the nod to Robinson as his college career comes to an end.

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