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Wednesday, October 6, 2010
A front-row view of 'The Denard Show'

By Adam Rittenberg

To date, the principal image of the 2010 college football season has been a dreadlocked quarterback wearing unlaced cleats and a No. 16 jersey outrunning defenders to the end zone.

If you haven't seen Denard Robinson do his thing, you're not paying attention.

Robinson
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has put up special numbers this season.
Robinson can't be caught on the field, and he can't be missed on the highlight reel. The Michigan sophomore has 27 runs of 10 yards or more and 11 of 20 yards or more this season, including touchdown dashes of 87 yards against Notre Dame and 72 yards against Indiana.

Robinson has put on a show for the nation to see, but 10 of his teammates have the best seats in the (big) house.

"My view is HD," Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree said with a laugh.

"Most of the time," Wolverines guard Stephen Schilling said, "I'm looking at his back when he's running down the field."

Roundtree and Schilling had seen Robinson break off big runs in practice, but they've gained new appreciation for what he has done in games.

Robinson's instructions for Schilling and Michigan's other offensive linemen are simple: be decisive when blocking. The quarterback doesn't care which direction the linemen direct defenders, as long as he gets a good read and enough room for cutbacks.

He takes care of the rest.

"They’re making some big holes," Robinson said of his linemen. "Any back could run through them."

Schilling typically follows orders, but he slipped up on Michigan's second play from scrimmage against Indiana.

"I was blocking the 3-technique and I thought maybe I missed my block a little bit," he said. "By the time I turned around, hoping that [Robinson] wasn't getting tackled by the guy, he was already 15, 20 yards down the field.

"And then I saw him break away and I knew he was gone."

Roundtree was lined up in the slot when Robinson shot through the line and raced 72 yards.

"I saw him running past the other defenders and I was like 'Man, he is rolling,'" Roundtree said. "I'm like, 'OK, I'll beat him to the end zone because I know nobody's catching him.' Every time he breaks a run, all the offensive guys, we know where to head."

Schilling has been surprised by how quick Robinson shoots through creases. Although Michigan's offensive linemen never want to take a lazy attitude toward holding their blocks, Robinson doesn't make them wait long.

It has been a new experience for Schilling, who began his career blocking for former Michigan star running back Mike Hart.

"He was such a different back," Schilling said, "didn't really have the top-end speed but was quick and shifty and could make guys miss and always gained six or eight yards. Denard is kind of the opposite. He's faster and gets in the open space and then just can't be caught."

Schilling enjoys watching game film of Robinson's runs, especially the end-zone camera angles that show Robinson humbling defenders with his moves.

But Schilling isn't about to trade his view on Saturdays.

"It's nice on the field, especially at home, when the crowd starts going wild when he breaks away," Schilling said. "You can tell when he's gone."