Can Michigan Win With Robinson at QB?

Denard Robinson is potentially one hit away from being Michigan's full-time quarterback.

Denard Robinson is potentially one hit away from being Michigan's full-time quarterback.

I’ll get this out of the way: this post is entirely based on a hypothetical situation in which Tate Forcier is either (a) more seriously hurt than is currently thought or (b) he reaggravates his injury against MSU and is unable to return to the game, and (c) Rich Rodriguez decides to go with Denard Robinson as his full-time quarterback as a result. I fully expect Forcier to play Saturday, but the news that his arm is currently in a sling (I’m among the probably thousands of people who know somebody who has seen Forcier on campus today with one) is cause for a some concern; the injury is obviously causing him pain, and who knows how well he’ll be able to take a hit come Saturday.

I do not even want to entertain the thought of Nick Sheridan taking the reigns in Forcier’s (again, hypothetical) absence — we’ve seen what Sheridan can (and cannot) do in a full-time role. But what about Denard Robinson, who thus far has seen sporadic action that mostly involves taking the snap and running as fast as he can downfield? Using a combination MGoBlog’s incomparable Upon Further Review and ESPN.com’s play-by-play feature, I have done my best to chart every drive where Robinson is the only QB in the game (excluding plays where both he and Forcier are on the field, since obviously that can’t happen in this scenario, as well as the drive against Indiana when Moosman snapped the ball 20 yards backwards since it really skews the numbers and please don’t let that happen again please):

Drive One (Western): 1 play, 48 yards, TD by Robinson
Drive Two (Western): 6 plays, 21 yards (cedes to Forcier)
Drive Three (Western): 3 plays, 6 yards (ditto)
Drive Four (Western): 5 plays, 13 yards (Punt)
Drive Five (Western): 3 plays, 0 yards (Punt)

Drive One (Notre Dame): 1 play, 15 yards (cedes to Forcier)
Drive Two (Notre Dame): 1 play, 5 yards (ditto)
Drive Three (Notre Dame): 1 play, 1 yard (ditto)

Drive One (EMU): 5 plays, 10 yards, INT
Drive Two (EMU): 2 plays, 21 yards, TD by Robinson
Drive Three (EMU): 2 plays, 46 yards, TD by Robinson
Drive Four (EMU): 2 plays, 0 yards, INT

Drive One (Indiana): 7 plays, 65 yards, TD by Minor
Drive Two (Indiana): 3 plays, 4 yards, Fumble by Robinson
Not Counting 3 play appearance with bad snap (if you’re curious — 3 plays, -13 yards, punt)
Drive Three (Indiana): 4 plays, 16 yards (cedes to Forcier)

TOTAL: 46 plays, 271 yards, 4 TD, 3TO, 5.9 yards per play
Denard Robinson’s Season Statistics: 4-11, 57 yards, 5.2 yards/attempt, 0 TD, 2 INT, 29 rushes, 179 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, 3 TD

I was surprised to find that Michigan’s offense performs nearly as well with Robinson (5.9 yards per play) as they do normally (6.05, according to the NCAA). However, there are three big concerns if Denard takes over as QB full-time:

  1. Turnovers — With Michigan’s defense, you can’t turn the ball over nearly as many times as you score. If that happens, Michigan will lose, barring a complete implosion by State’s quarterbacks.
  2. Consistency — Robinson has only put together one drive where Michigan marched down the field with some consistency (his first drive against Indiana). Other than that, it’s been either boom (usually in the form of a long TD run by Robinson himself) or bust.
  3. Predictability — We all know what Robinson brings to the offense: a lot of running, with passing usually a last resort on third down and long. Will defenses be able to adjust to Robinson while seeing him for a large chunk of playing time?

My guess is all three of those issues would again rise to the surface (if not become magnified) if Robinson is called upon to relieve Forcier. Yes, we’d probably see a few tremendous runs that would hopefully result in points, but the chances of the offense getting bogged down under Robinson are much greater than with Forcier taking snaps. So I’ll state the blindingly obvious: we should all hope that Forcier really will be ready to play against Michigan State. The game likely depends on it.

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4 comments
  1. Marc Shepherd said:

    It’s hard to argue with your analysis, though there are a few wild cards. Robinson might get into a rhythm if he is left in there for a while, and the coaches might call a different game if they know that he’s in there to stay. Also, Robinson is likely to get a lot more practice this week, and because he is so young, his upward progress from game to game is likely to be more pronounced.

    Obviously, based on the actual data available, you have to assume that the Michigan offense will be a lot less effective if it has to rely on him for the entire game.

  2. Tapin said:

    My only quibble would be that 46 plays seems like an awfully small sample size. That’s less than a full game, on average, and probably around half a game given 100% no-huddle (“probably around” == “I haven’t looked up the number and am therefore pulling it out of my…”).

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Robinson isn’t as good of a field-general as Forcier when given the starting spot, but at the same time I would be equally unsurprised to find that, once he knows the team is his, he plays like an above-average true freshman QB.

  3. Shane said:

    I think he can. Michigan may have to adjust his style of play, which could danger the team. I can recall that his arm (via HS stats) were not that good at throwing the ball. I think he had something like a 45% completion rating at least for one season. I think Denard could manage the game and get a W if Michigan can run the ball well with the Runningbacks and the occasional nice scramble from Denard himself. IDK though, I don’t see a whole lot of Michigan ball out here is So Cal. But what i have seen is that Michigan is really effective and that although Forcier would be missed, I have faith that Denard could squeak it out.

  4. Pingback: Slings and Ruses

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