Denard Robinson Is Working Overtime: Can Michigan Star Keep Up This Torrid Pace?

Keegan FergusonCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2010

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines dives into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown as Harrison Smith #22 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish brings him down while Manti Te'o #5 tries to grab the ball at Notre Dame Stadium on September 11, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Michigan defeated Notre Dame 28-24. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After two tough years in Ann Arbor, Rich Rod has finally found Pat White 2.0 and the Wolverines savior, Denard Robinson

Everyone thought the same thing last year, as Tate Forcier beat Notre Dame on a late drive en route to a 4-0 start, but this Michigan team looks considerably more explosive on offense with Robinson at the helm.  His accurate passing and, more importantly, game-breaking speed, make him a serious upgrade over Forcier. 

But, as we all know, Rodriguez isn't opposed to working his player’s overtime, and he may be doing that with Robinson.

Right now Denard carries nearly the entire offensive burden for Michigan.  He is currently the nation's leading rusher, with 559 yards and four TDs, as well as a prolific passer, with 671 and another four TDs. 

While he is very productive with every attempt (7.6 yards per carry and 8.83 yards per attempt), he can’t be expected to produce at this clip all season.  Right now he is on pace to carry the ball a staggering 250 times and pass the ball 304 times.  During his Heisman season, Tim Tebow had 210 rushes and 350 passing attempts.  Though Tebow proved to be an incredibly durable guy, it’s unlikely that the 6’, 193 lb. Denard Robinson will be able to withstand the punishment he will endure for the rest of the season.

Last year, a similarly sized Forcier battled injury for must of the season because of the physical burden that Rich Rod’s offense placed on him. Now, Robinson is quite a bit more agile, and less likely to take on linebackers than either Tebow or Forcier, but he certainly hasn’t shied away from hits. 

Unfortunately, for the Wolverines, unless a viable second offensive option materializes, Rich Rod and the Wolverines will have to rely on Robinson to provide offensive production.  Unfortunately for Robinson, he has to face some of the more physical defenses in college football in the coming weeks.  Corn fed, Big Ten defenses are certainly designing their defensive game plans around hitting and rattling Robinson. He needs a safety valve.

If Robinson does manage to stay healthy throughout the season, Michigan’s offense is likely to be relatively prolific.  However, his future may be jeopardized by exposing himself to so many hits.  NFL running backs (like Michael Turner or Larry Johnson) often have precipitous drops in productivity after seasons where they are forced to carry well over 300 times. Now Robinson won’t carry the ball that much (or face hits from NFL players), but he is certainly going to be hard pressed to avoid injury this year or he will face a productivity drop next year.