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Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Compare 'em: Robinson vs. Tebow

By Andrea Adelson

We know Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is good. But is he Tim Tebow good?

Tebow elicited oohs and ahhs throughout his Florida career as a break-the-mold dual threat quarterback. He was a mack truck at quarterback, a linebacker taking snaps, unafraid to bulldoze into you or over you -- whatever got the job done. When he became the starting quarterback for the Gators in 2007, the hype machine was on overdrive before he took a snap under center.

In his first two games, he lived up to the expectations, scoring a combined eight touchdowns and contributing 667 yards of total offense. But never once in that season did he go over 500 total yards. He went over 400 just twice. That was good enough to win the Heisman Trophy on a 9-4 team, the first sophomore to win the award. He led his team in passing and rushing, but he could not overcome a sometimes inconsistent defense.

Denard Robinson
Denard Robinson has looked Heisman like through two games.
The talk had already begun that he would become the best player in college football history. There are many who believe he is greatest, just a few months removed from his senior year with the Gators.

So will the same type of overdrive hype follow Robinson in his sophomore season?

Tebow never put together a two-game stretch the way Robinson has, with 885 yards of total offense to open the season. That includes 502 yards of total offense in a win over Notre Dame this past weekend. Tebow went over 500 yards of total offense just once, in his career finale against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl (533). Tebow went over 800 total yards in a two-game stretch just once -- again to close out his career against Alabama and the Bearcats (843).

For Robinson to do that in his first two starts is simply astounding. Those 885 yards of total offense is better than 87 of the 120 FBS teams, according to ESPN Stats & Information. What sets him apart is his blazing speed and ankle-breaking juking ability, a running back taking snaps, unafraid to fake you right out of your shoes.

Where he is different from Tebow, though, is he does not have Percy Harvin to help him out. So Michigan has had no choice but to allow him to carry the rushing load as much as he has in two games, contributing to the eye-popping numbers. Coach Rich Rodriguez said after Robinson had 29 carries in the opener he did not want to do it again. But he did, giving Robinson 28 against Notre Dame simply because his quarterback is his best option.

Given all this, Robinson has just started getting national attention. Robinson came into Michigan without the fanfare Tebow got when he arrived at Florida. Tebow had been featured as a high school senior in an ESPN documentary, after all.

Robinson played as a freshman in spot duty, the way Tebow did behind Chris Leak. But there was no jump pass to get him on national highlights, no inclination he would be able to simply overwhelm defenses the way Tebow did. Let us remember that Urban Meyer learned a lot of what he knows about the spread from Rodriguez. If there is anybody who knows how to utilize his quarterback in this offense, it is Rodriguez, who had his own quarterback wunderkinds at West Virginia.

To keep up this pace, Robinson would have to be almost superhuman. But, that is what people thought of Tebow. Any Heisman talk after two weeks is premature, of course, but if Robinson continues to dominate the way he has, he would be absolutely deserving, even on a mediocre team. Tebow won one on a four-loss team, proving that going undefeated is not a prerequisite to take home the trophy.

Tebow deserves his spot in college football history for what he accomplished in three years as a starter. But Robinson could be on the verge of accomplishing the unprecedented. No player in major college football history has passed for 2,000 yards and rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. If Robinson keeps up this pace, he would become the first.

We are getting ahead of ourselves. There are 10 games left to be played, including the entire Big Ten slate. What made Tebow so good was that he was consistently good, week after week. We only have two games to judge Robinson. But after watching him shred Connecticut and Notre Dame, Robinson has showed us sometimes we should believe in the unbelievable.