Michigan Football: Offense Begins to Evolve Because of Injuries

By Connor Muldowney
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

It was just four weeks ago when Michigan feared that their season may have been heading in a disastrous direction with the injury of Denard Robinson early in the Nebraska game.

Russell Bellomy, a freshman from Arlington, Tex., took over for Robinson following the injury, and his play worried the Wolverines. Would they be able to compete for the rest of the season with a freshman quarterback whose career stats are now 46 yards passing, four interceptions and just four completions on 21 attempts? The answer seemed to be an overwhelming “no”.

The following week, the Wolverines made a change that no one saw coming but every thought should happen. Recently-converted wide receiver Devin Gardner was named the team’s starting quarterback while Robinson continued to sit out with an elbow injury.

Gardner began the season as the backup quarterback and, knowing that he had immense athletic ability, Brady Hoke converted the junior to a receiver so that a loss of talent and potential would not be apart of the athlete’s career.

Denard Robinson was the obvious favorite to start for the Wolverines, despite his accuracy issues and tendency to confront tacklers instead of sliding to keep himself healthy.

This tendency did him in against Nebraska in week nine when the senior stud left the game, and his return date was unclear. He would miss the next two games against Minnesota and Northwestern and Gardner looked to be a more than sufficient replacement.

Although Gardner’s running ability is not as impressive as Robinson’s, he has still racked up six rushing touchdowns in three games since Denard’s injury, with a little over 100 yards on the ground.

The one weakness that Denard Robinson has been accused of over and over has been his throwing ability. He has a strong arm, but a very inaccurate one.

Gardner has now been looked at to start games even with Denard healthy enough to take snaps. His last game against Iowa was his strongest as a starting quarterback in his college career. The Detroit, Mich., native passed for 314 yards on 18 for 23 passing, with three touchdowns through the air and three rushing touchdowns as well. He accounted for 100 percent of the Wolverines scoring offense against the Hawkeyes– a scary number for opponents trying to shut him down.

Denard Robinson had even lined up as the running back behind Gardner, rushing the ball 13 times for 98 yards following a Fitzgerald Toussaint injury that could change the look of the offense entirely.

Toussaint left the game in the first quarter against Iowa due to a leg injury that immobilized the junior running back. He was carted off the field to a nearby hospital and underwent surgery on the leg. Brady Hoke says he hopes the former-1,000 yard rusher would be back for next year’s season opener.

Denard Robinson may be the team’s new running back for the remainder of the year. He is fourth on Michigan’s career rushing list with 4,273 yards– he is obviously a good choice as a replacement.

This offense has seen a complete transformation in the last three weeks.

The starting quarterback went down with an injury, seemingly ending all hopes for a Big Ten title. Then, the backup quarterback gets benched for the recently converted wide receiver. The starting quarterback is cleared to play, yet lines up as running back to fill in for the injured starting running back.

From quarterback to wide receiver and back to quarterback with a 3-0 record, over 800 passing yards and 13 total scores, Devin Gardner looks to lead this team to a Rose Bowl when all odds seem to be against them.

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