What could you do with an entire summer?
It only took one summer for Denard Robinson to pass Tate Forcier on the depth chart. And in that same summer, Robinson poured sweat into seven-on-seven drills and voluntary workouts to develop as a passer to the point where defenses had to pick their poison defending him — guard the air or the ground.
Robinson continued to learn the offense last summer, completing 63 percent of his passes in 2010.
After the Spring Game on April 16, Robinson sounded focused, with a few goals in mind heading into this summer.
“I have to show them that I’m ready to work and I’m hungry to play for them,” Robinson said. “I’m ready to play with the guys and lead them. That’s the biggest thing I have to do this year.
“I still got learning to do in the summer. I got to always improve.”
This spring, Robinson has been a student of the pro-style offense — with an increased emphasis with him under center — and has adapted to new route-trees and plays for him and the receivers. And he has done it without so much as a hiccup.
Robinson played under center in high school — that’s been Michigan coach Brady Hoke’s response when prodded about Robinson’s progress.
Hoke thinks the biggest thing his quarterbacks can continue to work on this summer is their footwork, especially with play-action passes. Footwork was also a concern for Robinson as he reverted to his high school playing days.
“It’s been a learning experience the whole time,” Robinson said. “I’m just learning how to be back under center again.
“Just sometimes when I get to dropping back, I need to slow down my feet, need to be under control and throw the ball on point.”
At the beginning of the spring, Robinson was thinking too much, he said. Now, things are slowing down for him.
Michigan coaches tracked every single pass Robinson threw this spring, and during Hoke’s weekly radio show on April 11, Borges said that Robinson had completed more than 65 percent of his passes through the Wolverines’ first 12 spring practices.
“It’s just the route combinations and route packages that we run that allows us to get open in spaces and give him easy targets to throw to,” senior wide receiver Darryl Stonum said. “But when he has needed to throw zip or put touch on the ball, he can do all of those things as well as step up in the pocket and deliver passes.”
Robinson hardly dazzled Michigan fans at the Spring Game, as he unofficially threw for 70 yards on 5-of-11 passing and rushed for 60 yards on five carries. But he also had to deal with Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s complicated blitz schemes, which curtailed a few potential improvisations.
“I think I had a couple of mistake and some things I have to work on,” Robinson said after the Spring Game. “I was a little off today. I think I made a couple of bad throws, but we’re going to be back and focused come summer camp.”
Hoke said a few dropped balls and inexperienced center play were to blame for why Robinson didn’t look better and why there were two mishandled snaps with him under center.
The extra work that Robinson put in last summer would do him well this year as he enters his junior campaign with a deep set of veteran receivers, including fifth-year senior Junior Hemingway, Stonum and redshirt junior Roy Roundtree.
Borges has said the offense will get vertical — San Diego State had the nation’s 12th-best passing attack last year.
“Intermediate routes, deep routes, short routes — we have it all,” Stonum said. “Most of the offense is intermediate to deep throws, but I think we have a grasp of it pretty well. And this season should be pretty interesting.”
With a new emphasis on running the ball with the running backs and using Robinson’s arm more than his legs, it will be interesting to see how Robinson adjusts to his new role after a summer of sweat and hard work with his teammates. He sounds like he likes the pro-style offense already.
“I like throwing touchdowns,” said Robinson, who threw 18 of them in 2010. “I think I like throwing touchdowns more than me scoring. I’m alright with that.”