However, Michigan has several highly capable backups that may see some playing time next season. Denard often has to sit out a play or two, which leaves an opportunity for another play. Along with this, Michigan has a couple weaker opponents on the schedule that may leave some "garbage" time where others players can see the field. Here's a breakdown of the primary players at the position:
Denard Robinson (Senior)
There is no quarterback competition at Michigan. Denard Robinson is looked at as the on-field reason the Wolverines are starting to find success again, and he has worked extremely hard to put himself into that position. Not only was he the Big Ten Offensive Player in 2011, but he followed it up with a very solid performance in 2011, including some key game winning drives that pushed the Wolverines over the top of their opponents. The best example of his amazing abilities was his recent game against Notre Dame, where he led a drive with just over 30 seconds remaining to win the game for Michigan.
Here are the basic stats for Robinson:
All of those numbers are down for Robinson from the previous year, except for TDs and INTs. However, that should not be a reason for concern as we move on into the 2012 season. The biggest reason the rest of those numbers were down was because Fitzgerald Toussaint stepped into the scene and took a lot of the load off the shoulders of Robinson. Plus, that was Robinson's first year adjusting to new offensive coordinator Al Borges.
Robinson's biggest flaw last year was turnovers, especially the INTs. Putting the ball on the ground wasn't as big as problem last year as it has been in the past, but 15 INTs was the highest among all Big Ten quarterbacks, a mark Robinson was obviously not proud of.
The biggest reason for the high number of turnovers, according to most, was Robinson's decision making. The mechanics and accuracy are still not perfect, but the bigger impact was made by poor decisions from number 16. The game I really noticed this was against Notre Dame. Especially late in the game, Robinson seemed to be just throwing the ball up for grabs for his WRs, sometimes into double and triple coverage. It worked then, but that isn't a trend that continued throughout the season.
It looked like Robinson was depending too much on his WRs like Hemmingway and Roundtree to go up and make the play, basically bailing out a poor throw. That is what led to 15 INTs. Now that Junior Hemmingway is in the NFL, it's hard to say his ability and presence will be replaced. It is extremely important that Robinson makes better judgments this season.
The other part of Robinson's game that will be drawing a lot of attention is rushing. Heading into this season, it was expected that he wouldn't be doing as much running the ball with Toussaint in the backfield. However, with the indefinite suspension of Toussaint, the Wolverines will be heavily relying on another back to take that load off of Robinson. If that can't happen, expect to see Denard's number called a lot more on the ground, something Brady Hoke and Al Borges really wants to stay away from.
Usually, when the backup quarterback draws as much attention as Devin Gardner has this off season, it's because of a battle for the starting position behind center. However, Gardner is getting the media's attention because of the news that he will be seeing some action at WR this year, too. Still, Gardner is expected to be the primary backup behind Robinson this year.
Here are the basic stats for Gardner:
Gardner saw most of his action in a special package that allowed Robinson and himself to be on the field at the same time, creating multiple threat opportunities. Other than that, Gardner saw nothing close to consistent action on the field.
Although he doesn't possess the same athleticism or speed as Denard Robinson, Devin Gardner is a bigger quarterback, standing 6-feet-4-inches from the ground at 205 pounds. First contact will not usually bring him down.
I would expect to see the same dose of Borges's special offensive package with Gardner and Robinson in at the same time, as they have both developed into better players this off season. Other than that, the only thing Gardner can do is make the most of his opportunities at WR and remain a reliable backup for Denard Robinson.
The final player that really deserves some acknowledgement is Russell Bellomy. Although it's not likely that he will see any serious playing time, he did play significantly in the Spring Game and we highlighted him as one of the biggest performers of the afternoon. He seems capable of running the offense, but he is nowhere near as explosive as either Robinson or Gardner.
His primary limits are his throwing strength and lack of mobility. Now, neither of these are terrible, but Robinson and Gardner both have better arms and legs right now. Bellomy should be better by time 2013 or 2014 rolls around, but he's just not quite ready for 2012. I do think he has great decision making and solid accuracy, but it's just going to be a challenge to see playing time because of these limitations.
Another note to mention. Walk-on quarterback Jack Kennedy is back again and is a fourth option. I highly, highly doubt he will see the field unless Michigan has another Delaware State type game, but he does have a little game experience, experience in the spring, and some decent talents. The story of the quarterback position will still be Denard Robinson, but the depth for the position will continue to be intriguing, especially in 2013 when Shane Morris arrives.