Michigan fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
Two days after he said that he thought senior quarterback Denard Robinson should recover from his nerve injury in time for this Saturday’s game at Minnesota, Michigan coach Brady Hoke reiterated that prognosis on Monday, saying Robinson “should be good to go” against the Golden Gophers.
That one piece of news does much to alleviate concerns about the Wolverines rebounding from Saturday’s 23-9 loss to Nebraska, when the offense imploded after Robinson injured himself.
The nation got a look at what the Michigan attack minus Robinson looks like for an extended period of time, and it wasn’t very pretty.
Backup quarterback Russell Bellomy struggled in the most significant playing time of his career, completing just 3-of-16 passes and tallying three interceptions over two-plus quarters. Bellomy also faced constant pressure and was sacked twice.
“I think number one we’ve got to do a better job of picking up a couple blitzes that we are able to do,” Hoke said. “It wasn’t like it was a plus-one, one more guy coming that you couldn’t block … I think the experience that (Bellomy) gained going into that environment is a major help to anybody.
“I think it’s a great learning (experience) for him.”
But Bellomy, nor the other presumptive option, junior quarterback-turned-receiver Devin Gardner, shouldn’t have to worry about going through such a rough game again this week given the news about Robinson.
There’s still some doubt as to Robinson’s status — Hoke said that Robinson would only be “close” if he had to play today. But he also said the senior can grip a ball now, which he was unable to do on Saturday. Hoke added that he expects Robinson to practice this week. (Hoke’s policy is players won’t appear in a game if they can’t practice in the days leading up to it.)
Still, Hoke plans to alter his practice schedule to allocate more snaps for Bellomy and Gardner. The biggest change will come for Gardner, who has been practicing almost exclusively at wide receiver since fall camp. Hoke said the two will compete for the No. 2 spot should Robinson be unable to play — a job which had previously belonged only to Bellomy.
“We will do that as a precautionary thing, giving (Gardner) some more snaps,” Hoke said. “Him and Russell both, which means we’ll add a couple more plays to your script that you’re working off of for practice.”
Both quarterbacks have received practice reps all season long. But based on this change and how Bellomy looked on Saturday, it perhaps hasn’t been enough to adequately prepare them for extended game action.
While Robinson’s teammates will doubtless be happy to see their starting quarterback return, the typical mantra for the Wolverines is that any player on the team is expected to perform if his number is called. That naturally leads to starters having confidence in backups and supporting them too, even though they may not have ideal experience.
Redshirt junior offensive lineman Taylor Lewan gave voice to those sentiments on Monday, responding to criticism he had heard of Bellomy’s play.
“Nothing changes at all for me,” Lewan said of the difference in the offense when Robinson isn’t under center. “I think — I have 100 percent faith in Russell. I think it was a tough situation to go in.
“Any person that thinks, ‘Well, I could’ve done a better job,’ no, you couldn’t have. Ninety-thousand screaming fans in red shirts, screaming at you, you’re a redshirt freshman, that’s a tough situation for anybody to be in.”
Though most would agree that the offense should see a boost if Robinson is back under center, Lewan doesn’t see it that way — he’s focused simply on getting better production, no matter who’s leading the attack.
“We just got to finish the game. Got to put the ball in the end zone, especially when we’re in the red zone,” he said.