Last year was a grand coming out party for quarterback Denard Robinson of the University of Michigan. He started off the year doing things that college football had never seen. Injuries and a struggling Wolverine team iced his Heisman bid last year. This year will be a different story however.
As the most prestigious individual trophy in sports is in sight, this will be the year that Denard Robinson takes it to the next level. Michigan will be better and consequently so will their talented quarterback. While he may not be the preseason favorite, Robinson, in my opinion is the clear cut top candidate to win the Heisman Trophy.
Denard Robinson opened the season in the most unbelievable way possible. When he was named the surprise starter, people started to rally behind the idea of a running quarterback. They had no idea what they were in for.
His start was absolutely phenomenal. Seven 100+ rushing yard games in his first eight, including a 258 rushing yard performance against Notre Dame week 2 got him off and running. He ended the year with nine games of 100 rushing yards or more.
Robinson ended the year second in the nation in rushing yards and sixth in yards per attempt. These numbers would be impressive if he were a running back. The fact that he added in almost 200 yards per game through the air was outstanding.
Those numbers will have him firmly in the minds of many voters entering the year. As he navigates this year's schedule, he should only build on his impressive feats.
The word out of Ann Arbor this fall is that Robinson is night and day better than he was last year. Although he posted respectable numbers through the air, he clearly was no Dan Marino. The buzz is that he has greatly improved his accuracy.
Robinson's footwork was much maligned last year as he would, on more than one occasion, let an arrant throw go because of poor balance. Those issues seem to be, at least for the most part, worked out for the electrifying signal caller. Extensive offseason work can be credited for what should be a much improved ability to deliver the ball.
On the surface, one may think that the change to a pro style offense would be a bad thing for Robinson's Heisman chances.
I would argue that it is quite the contrary. The fact of the matter is that he is going to rack up far more passing yards this year than he would have ever dreamed of last year.
Outside of the game versus Notre Dame, Robinson attempted no more than 29 passes in any game; frequently he threw it less than 20 times. This more than likely will change. He is going to have the chance to throw the ball down the field more and should have more home run type plays this year, through the air, that stick in voters minds.
The weapons are there. Hemingway is quietly one of the best receivers in the country and he leads a talented and experienced group of receivers. Denard will rack up a lot of yards simply by throwing outs to his shifty receivers and letting them shake tackles.
Brady Hoke has already stated that Vincent Smith and other backs are going to get more carries this year. He will look to keep Denard in the pocket as much as possible to limit the contact that he will have to absorb.
This will help Robinson infinitely. He will be able to end all the games that he starts, which is important as voters remember fourth quarter performances. Although his amount of carries will drop, they will be much higher quality.
Robinson will still gets his carries. He is as dangerous as anyone in the open field and though Hoke is committed to to a pro style offense, there is no way that his best gun will go unfired.
The word out of Ann Arbor is that Robinson has bulked up this year as well. He was too slight and took way too many blows last year. At this new size he should be able to take a hit better and will be able to go deeper into ball games.
Looking at the offensive line this season, one can see a deep unit filled with upperclassmen. The unit has started a combined 61 games in their career. Having experience and leadership up front could be enormous for Denard's Heisman chances.The line is big and also athletic.
The Michigan offensive line should be deep and talented, obviously helping out Denard Robinson. If the line affords him more time to throw, he should have success. His decision making will be tested less with less pressure, something we can all agree is a good thing.
The improved offensive line should also help him on the ground. Denard needed little in the way of blocks to rip off long runs last year. Imagine how good he will be this year as the offensive line has had another year to mature and improve.
Everyone is assuming that Andrew Luck is going to walk away with the award from day one. History however, shows us that the favorite rarely takes home the top prize. For that reason, I think we can, hypothetically, count Luck out.
After Luck, the pool of hopefuls is pretty thin. You've got Kellen Moore and Landry Jones who are both talented but have questions surrounding them this year. LaMichael James and Trent Richardson is also on the radar but both have the potential to be overshadowed on their great teams.
These guys could all muddy the waters for Denard, but really, with numbers like he put up to start the year last year, there is nobody in the country that can match him.
In America we love comeback stories. Michigan was down but it was never out. This will be the year that they return to national prominence and take their rightful place next to the Alabama's and LSU's of the world. I am not insinuating that they will win a national championship this year, but a top 15 finish is not out of the realm of possibility.
Being the leader of a comeback story will do wonders for his stock. The more times he is seen doing a post game press conference after a thrilling win, the more likely voters will be to put his name on the ballot.
Of course, with winning comes notoriety, something Robinson will need plenty of if he wants to win the Heisman. It is a lot easier to win an award like that when your team is successful. If Michigan gets off to a good start and can beat the Buckeyes, Robinson may just be hoisting that trophy when its all said and done.