Award More Than A Shoelace Away

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - October 06, 2010
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For everyone jumping on the Shoelace bandwagon, may we suggest a bit of reality.

Shoelace is, of course, the already tired nickname of Michigan sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson, who hasn’t just burst upon the scene but has exploded with a shock wave of hype not felt since a bunch of tightly bound atoms gave birth to the cosmos.

And it’s not all PR. The young man can run.

Oh, my, can he run. Just ask Notre Dame.

On second and 10 on the Michigan 13, Robinson slipped through a hole and ran 87 yards through the Irish secondary, which was spotted the angle, a 10-yard cushion and ended up trailing the Deerfield native by five yards as he crossed the goal line.

It wasn’t his only impressive showing.

Through three and a quarter games (as of Oct. 1, remember, this is a weekly), Robinson leads the nation with 688 yards rushing and 172 per game. He also has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 731 yards.

But before we anoint him as the most likely to pull an Archie Griffin and walk off with Reggie’s Bush’s recycled hardware, it may be prudent to let things play out a bit. Michigan’s offense, or at least Robinson, is explosive, but winning the Heisman on a 7-5 team is nearly impossible. The Wolverines’defense is lousy, the special teams are bad and the senior-laden Big Ten is not going to allow Michigan to win a series of shootouts even if the Wolverines hold to their No. 2 national ranking in offensive production.

A year ago Michigan gave up a school record 393 yards per game. This year they are seven yards a game worse and are counting on a secondary that features a walk on at safety and two corners who were wide receivers when the spring semester began.

Robinson has put up some eye-popping numbers, but he’s also played against some dogs.

OK, he’s played only dogs.

Michigan’s pre-conference schedule featured four schools that have given up a combined 1,655 yards of total offense, including one, U Mass, which is an FCS school.

Robinson’s production will go down, and not just because he will be playing against defenses that actually defend. The dread-locked kinesiology major has accounted for 62.9 percent of Michigan’s offense - that number would be higher if he hadn’t been knocked out with a bruised knee in the first quarter against Bowling Green.

In the first three games, he accounted for 80.4 percent of the offensive yards. Robinson is generously listed at 6 feet, 193 pounds, and that is far too little beef to stand up to a full season of conference pounding. Self-preservation necessitates a less totalitarian style of play, which looks to be less of a problem as coach Rich Rodriguez has found some complementary pieces in receiver Darryl Stonum and running back Michael Shaw.

But beyond the increased competition and physical burden he is being asked to carry, the biggest obstacle standing between Robinson and the Heisman is a conference bloated with quarterback talent, including the award favorite.

Terrelle Pryor is every-one’s top pick for the top award and the Buckeyes could be headed to the national title game, which will just help his chances of being the first Ohio State player to win the award since another scrambling quarterback, Troy Smith, did so in 2006. Pryor doesn’t have Robinson’s speed - who does? - but he is a better passer especially on over-thetop throws, a skill the former Florida high school sprint champion has yet to master. If that’s not enough competition, the Big Ten also boasts Indiana’s Ben Chappel (890 yards, 9 TDs, 0 INTs), Northwestern’s Dan Persa (80.2 percent pass completions and a 186.3 passer rating) and Iowa’s sometime thrilling, sometime frustrating Ricky Stanzi.

Robinson is a physical freak who should turn out even better than the player who spurned Rodriguez’s affection two years ago, the aforementioned Pryor. But the hype has been far too great. Weren’t we just as excited about Tate Forcier a year ago after he led Michigan to a 4-0 start before he started playing like a freshman and the Wolverines lost five straight?

A Heisman victory for Robinson won’t be a complete shock. The voters are as unpredictable as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot-stuffers, but no matter how many time he makes Erin Andrews smile, he’s still just a first-year starter on a mediocre football team.

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