Denard Robinson sat down to talk about his first game under a new coach, running a new offense, and everything looked the same.
Same hair. Same smile.
But his answers were longer now. He seemed comfortable with himself and the media. All of the Heisman talk of a year ago didn’t build his ego. How he handled it made him a leader.
“I think I’ve grown,” he says. “I’ve matured a little bit more. I’m better at talking to the media. At first I wasn’t used to it, but now I’m loosening up.
“I guess I’ve got to be the guy that speaks for the University of Michigan football team. And I accept that.”
He still doesn’t have cable, so no, he won’t hear the hype, or the questions.
How will Denard handle the new offense? Will he be as good as before?
Some things never change. One reporter asked Robinson, “You’ve said many times you don’t get nervous—”
Robinson cut him off.
“Oh no, never said that,” he said. “That was Tate (Forcier). That was Tate.”
The room burst into laughter.
“Because if I never got nervous before every game, I don’t think I’d be playing football no more. I’m always nervous before every game.”
This one against Western Michigan will be no different.
Since the spring, Robinson said he’s developed into more of a leader. And his footwork has really come along too. But he’s still getting used to “trusting the pocket.” But once it breaks down, that’s when he figures it’ll be just like last year.
“If nobody’s open, then the broken play is probably the hardest play to stop,” Robinson said. “If you’re scrambling around and if everybody’s covered down field, then nobody’s got the quarterback. So we’ll see what happens.”
Remember Robinson’s first snap at quarterback, all the way back in 2009? It was against Western Michigan, with a little more than four minutes left in the first quarter.
Back in shotgun, Robinson dropped the snap, picked it up and immediately ran up field.
Robinson danced around the first defender he met, then side-stepped back towards the middle, out of the way of a gang of defenders.
“Broken plays,” ESPN announcer Mike Patrick paused, his voice rising as Robinson sliced through the Bronco defense. ” … are very dangerous for a kid like this.”
“Look at the speed!” he screamed as Robinson flew by nearly all 11 guys on his way to the endzone.
Denard says now: “I was just thinking, ‘I hope I get another chance to get back in, so I’m just going to grab the ball and try and run.’ ”
That usually works for him, but Saturday will be the unveiling of a new era for the 2010 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year — a marriage of offenses, between the pro-style and shotgun spread that Robinson was built for.
Robinson still surprises his coach.
“There’s been days that we’ve had a pretty good rush on him, or blitzed him, (but) maybe we didn’t contain well enough,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “Maybe it was contained well enough for a guy of normal abilities, let’s put it that way. But with him, he’s got an opportunity to get around it and get some yardage.”
Yet, more questions still persist.
How much spread will there be?
“I can’t really give you a percentage,” Robinson says. “We just go out there and play football.”
Do you have something to prove, you know, with all of the uncertainty surrounding the offensive transition?
“No — I’ve go something to prove to my teammates and that’s it,” he says. “We’re just going to go out there and have fun and try and win the Big Ten.”
What’s it about this team?
“I like being the underdog,” he says. “I guess the whole team likes being the underdog. We’re not going to press it and make it seem like, ‘Oh, we’re the best team in the country.’ We’re just going to show you. We won’t talk about it, but we’ll show you.”
Finally, Robinson will get his true chance to respond to all the questions — on the field, with his play, this Saturday.