April 19, 2010
Michigan fans will remember Denard Robinson as the high school track star who tantalized the Big House thusly on his first snap from scrimmage as a true freshman last September:
They will also recall Robinson's failure to overtake fellow freshman Tate Forcier, despite Forcier's injury and consistency issues, because of his total inability to complete a downfield pass against teams that weren't Delaware State. Despite some vague buzz about Robinson's progress toward the starting job this spring, those assumptions — too dangerous to keep off the field, too raw as a passer to stay on it — still reigned going into Saturday's spring game, which made Robinson's turn with the first offense all the more enticing:
Besides the fact that it was only the spring game, the format seemed designed to forestall any definitive conclusions, no matter what happened on the field: Robinson was leading first-stringers against the backup defense, while Forcier was saddled with the second-team offense against the starting D. But Robinson, just by looking like a complete quarterback throughout the afternoon instead of a "Wildcat" option destined to be moved to receiver as soon as up-and-coming freshman Devin Gardner is able to handle the backup/running QB duties, served notice that he isn't going anywhere.
Even coach Rich Rodriguez couldn't ignore the long-simmering Pat White comparisons, though he did specifically discourage them because "it's not fair" to expect a raw sophomore with zero career starts to measure up to the most prolific running quarterback the spread era has yet to produce. That's undeniably true. But to paraphrase Clint Eastwood and Felicia Pearson, at this point, "fair" has nothing to do with it. Off two losing seasons, Michigan — and Rodriguez most of all — desperately needs an answer. Even stoic Wolverine fans crave a basis for some kind of optimism. As of Saturday, whether or not he actually pulled ahead of Forcier for the full-time role in any meaningful way, Robinson is it. You may now get carried away.