ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- For the first time in Denard Robinson's career, he theoretically had nothing to play for. The spring before his sophomore year, he needed to show he actually could play in front of a crowd. The spring before his junior year, he needed to show off for his new coaches.
Heading into his senior season, though, he already had secured the starting job. He had proved to his coaches throughout the spring that his accuracy and reads -- two of the major concerns following his junior year -- had vastly improved.
So in front of the public, he played one series and then became a spectator inside Michigan Stadium for the majority of a game or scrimmage for the first time since his freshman year, when Tate Forcier was the starting quarterback.
And he was mostly OK with that.
Instead, Michigan's coaches wanted to take long looks at two potential candidates to replace Robinson after the 2012 season -- and the unintentional consequence showed how potentially special Robinson is in college.
"It was kind of frustrating, but I wanted to watch the others have success and talking to the guys and making sure they are doing well," Robinson said. "It's all good."
But as Robinson sat through his final scrimmage in his final spring at Michigan as a football player, the Wolverines also acknowledged how far they say they've seen him come.
In the spring, he worked on eliminating some of his biggest mistakes from the past two seasons, including making reads that were suspect more often than he'd care to admit.
"The two things that have gone away from Denard's game are fall-off throws, where you are throwing off your back foot, and indiscriminate decision making," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "He had very, very few interceptions this spring. He cut his interceptions from last spring to this spring four times. Four times less interceptions.
"That's not unusual now for a guy who understands the offense now. Like I said last year, our passing game is a drastic disparity from what he'd done in the past, and there were going to be some growing pains."
Those pains, sometimes, were rough. His passing game and decision making appeared to regress going from Rich Rodriguez's zone-read spread to Borges' hybrid between the spread and a pro style.
Toward the end of the regular season, though, Robinson seemed to adjust. He played smarter. He read defenses better than he had all year and appeared to find the same level of comfort he had running Rodriguez's offense.
"As a quarterback, you got to eliminate turnovers," Robinson said. "You have to be the No. 1 person and to help the team, have no turnovers and get the team going.
"Turnovers were a big factor last year and kept a lot of teams in the game last year. So hoping to decrease the turnovers."
Now, with a second spring to digest, he feels he became stronger because he knew where he messed up last season, and where he needed to improve if his senior season was going to be an improvement of what he's done in the past.
Robinson and Borges also know one other thing -- something Borges even verbalized Saturday. If Robinson doesn't make these changes when it matters in the fall, all of his supposed improvement this spring will be meaningless.