Through the non-conference schedule two seasons ago, Denard Robinson wasn't the leading Heisman Trophy candidate; he was the only Heisman Trophy candidate. There wasn't a soul on Earth capable of stopping "Shoelace", and the hype getting built back up in Ann Arbor made for perfect winning conditions. Of course, Robinson did not go on to win the Heisman that year with heavy struggles in conference play, but he set the tone for what would become one of the most exciting careers of a football player in Michigan's extensive history.
As Denard Robinson prepares to strap up for his final season as a Wolverine, I wanted to take some time to look at some Heisman hopes for Shoelace. There's no doubt in anybody's mind it will be a very exciting season, but that could finally translate to some personal hardware for #16.
At the start of last season, the biggest talk surrounding Robinson was whether or not he would be fully adapted to the new offense under offensive coordinator Al Borges. Nobody was really considering him to be a Heisman candidate, and, honestly, neither was I. Fortunately, Robinson set his mind on developing into a better quarterback to help his team, instead of worrying about all the buzz. That translated into an okay season. Turnovers were a problem, but he was as electrifying as ever.
So, the question is: does Denard Robinson have Heisman hopes for 2012?
There is not a doubt in my mind we will once again hear about Denard and a push for the Heisman Trophy. He has become a much better quarterback over the course of this off-season and really has put himself back into the national spotlight.
The biggest obstacle standing in front of Robinson at this point is turnovers. They have haunted Robinson ever since he became the star of the offense, and he led all Big Ten quarterbacks with 15 INTs last season. Coming anywhere close to that number again will almost guarantee getting kicked off the Heisman waggon.
Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree could go up and get it. It worked early in the season, but there wasn't so much success by the time the conference season rolled around. Still, there was too much "jump ball" happening. Denard has to learn how to evaluate the situation quicker and make the throw that will most help his team.
The other major factor for Denard and his final stride for the Heisman is staying healthy. It wasn't near the problem last season that it was in his time under Rich Rodriguez, but it is still something that a lot of Wolverine fans fear. Robinson is obviously not the biggest of quarterbacks, and he loves to create with his legs. Al Borges is doing a fine job of protecting his star, but some of it also falls into the hands of Robinson.
It is vitally important that he minimizes the hard hits he takes. It's no secret that linebackers on the opposing defense will get their money's worth when taking a crack at Denard Robinson. I'd love to either see him simply slide down or get out of bounds, depending on where he finds himself on the field. I don't mind him trying to create more than what appears to be likely; after all, this is Denard Robinson. But, especially if he passes the first down marker, he needs to minimize the hits he takes by being smart and making a quick decision.
So, how likely is it Denard Robinson gets an invite to New York and wins the Heisman Trophy?
We will obviously know much more once the season finally gets going, but, as of right now, I would say it is likely he at least gets an invite. Robinson has worked very hard to get himself into this position. If he can take away those haunting turnovers and keep himself healthy, we could see our own Denard Robinson hoisting the Heisman Trophy in New York at the end of this season.