Commentary

Defense benefits from Denard

Wolverines get preparedness class for mobile quarterbacks every day in practice

Updated: October 4, 2011, 12:59 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Denard Robinson is lucky. For all the things the Michigan junior quarterback can and does do on the field for the No. 12 Wolverines, he doesn't need to try this.

He doesn't have to stop himself. That, that he leaves for other teams.

"Nah, I never thought about going against myself," Robinson said. "I don't know. I think I should be able to stop myself. I don't know."

This week, Michigan's greatest offensive weapon is also the Wolverines' best practice asset for the defense.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDenard Robinson isn't sure how he'd go about stopping himself, but the Michigan defense benefits from his presence.
Michigan will see its first truly mobile quarterback of the season Saturday against Northwestern. Dan Persa, the Wildcats' star, is one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the conference. His backup, Kain Colter, is Northwestern's leading rusher with 266 yards and four touchdowns after Persa missed the first three games due to injury.

For some programs, preparing for a mobile quarterback could be a major concern. For Michigan, it is known as Tuesday.

This is one of the inherent advantages of having the country's most explosive quarterback in practice every day.

"When you get that type of experience and you go against somebody like Dan Persa, who is also athletic, we get an opportunity every week in practice to get that caliber athlete in the backfield and try to contain him in the pocket or take an angle to him when he's running the ball," defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said, referring to practices with Robinson. "So that's an advantage our defense has compared to most defenses in the country ... we're able to prepare for athletes in the backfield.

"I know a lot of other teams use scout team running backs, receivers, skill positions that can't necessarily throw the ball. We have Denard, and that puts us at a huge advantage preparing for the week."

In those practices, Michigan's defenders all try to do the same thing -- chase down Robinson. And they do it with varied success. Van Bergen said two weeks ago that he almost caught Robinson once, but clarified Monday that it was only after Robinson had to cut and switch the field a couple of times.

And no other quarterback Michigan's defense will see has Robinson's speed -- another benefit of facing one of the fastest players in college football. The offenses and players aren't the same, but having the experience helps.

"Seeing a lot of the looks we get from our offense from time to time is always a benefit," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "Both Persa and Colter are very good athletes and can run well. The same thing when it comes to getting in the pocket and scrambling and finding that opening.

"So I'm sure Greg [Mattison] and the defensive staff will have a few things that will hopefully shore us up and help us."

Yeah, they will. They'll have Robinson. As well as backup quarterback Devin Gardner, who also is a dual-threat quarterback.

The keys to stopping a dual-threat quarterback are usually the same. Keep him inside the pocket and always work with containing the edge. Most of the time -- and opponents have tried this with Robinson -- defenses will try to force him into throwing the ball.

Having Robinson makes defending Persa a little bit easier.

"He's athletic and quick and we have to do a good job with him," Van Bergen said. "But what helps is that we have Tuesday and Wednesday for practice with good athletes at quarterback.

"So we're always going to be prepared with how we can contain quarterbacks like that."

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter