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Michigan hopes to have Robinson for another season

By Larry Lage

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Dec. 31 2011 1:16 a.m. MST

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (16) runs through a hole as running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (28) blocks defensive tackle Alex Schwab (60) during NCAA college football practice in New Orleans, Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, for the upcoming BCS Sugar Bowl scheduled for Jan. 2 against Virginia Tech.

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Denard Robinson said he expects to be back at Michigan next season.

The dynamic quarterback, though, has filed paperwork with the NFL Draft Advisory Board to get a gauge of where he might be selected if he skips his senior season. He said he is still waiting for a response.

"That is something that I am not even focused on," Robinson told reporters Friday in New Orleans. "I am focused on the bowl game, being here with my teammates and having fun."

Wolverines coach Brady Hoke will have a lot more fun next season — which kicks off against Alabama at Cowboys Stadium — if Robinson returns. But he and Robinson have talked about getting an opinion from the draft board.

"I think it's a smart to get an idea," Hoke said. "I expect him to be back here, but we'll find out what happens. I'm not going to live in hypothetics, but when we get the information we'll proceed."

Robinson will lead No. 13 Michigan (10-2) against No. 17 Virginia Tech (11-2) on Tuesday in the Sugar Bowl. Hoke hopes the game doesn't prove to be Robinson's college finale, but has no doubt the speedy player with an inconsistent arm can be an NFL quarterback.

"There are some guys playing at the next level who have the same skill set," Hoke said.

One of them is Philadelphia's Michael Vick, a former Hokies star, who is about the same height and about 20 pounds heavier than the 6-foot, 195-pound Robinson. Growing up in Deerfield Beach, Fla., Robinson marveled at what Vick did on the field with his legs and arm.

"It looked like he was playing against kids," Robinson said. "I rooted for him. I was a big fan of Vick."

Robinson also is fond of former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, whose spread offense drew him to college football's winningest program and helped him have a statistically spectacular season last year. As a sophomore in his first year as a starter, Robinson became the first NCAA player to pass for 2,500 yards and run for 1,500 in a season.

This season, he struggled at times in a new scheme that presented him with a mix of old and new tasks, including going under center for snaps regularly for the first time since he was in high school. And for the first time, he wasn't Michigan's first, second and third option on offense.

"He's had to make sacrifices," Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "He went from being a 1,700-yard rusher to being an 1,100 something-yard rusher. I told him from the beginning, that he wasn't going to rush for 70, 80 yards because we're going to keep him in one piece if it killed us."

Robinson also was slowed by a staph infection on his right forearm that he protected with a bulky wrap midway through the season. Robinson said doctors told him he got the ailment from artificial turf. The effects lingered painfully for two to three weeks and were close to keeping him out of a game.

"I went out there and still played and I did it for my team," he said.

Robinson's teammates and new coaches, by design, helped him out by having him do less with the ball this season.

He averaged three fewer carries during this regular season than he did last year and attempted a couple fewer passes per game, making him feel much healthier entering the Sugar Bowl than he was going in the Gator Bowl in what ended up being Rodriguez's finale.

"It's a difference," Robinson said. "I haven't taken as many hits and I took care of my body better."

That helped Robinson be at his best when his team needed him most. He led the Wolverines to wins over Ohio State and Nebraska, giving the program 10 wins and a BCS bowl bid for the first time since the 2006 season. He completed 71 percent of his passes for five touchdowns with only one interception against the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers and ran for 253 yards, two more scores and was sacked just twice.

"There was confidence in the offense and in his teammates," Hoke said. "The biggest growth was him understanding progression reads and how to move in the pocket without moving 100 miles per hour, and scan the field better."

AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.

Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.twitter.com/larrylage

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