Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 7 Michigan. Quarterback Denard Robinson is back, but the Wolverines must replace center David Molk. The defense must replace tackle Mike Martin, but should be solid in the back seven.
Will Denard Robinson Be a Heisman Finalist in 2012?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Robinson has nearly all the trademarks for a Heisman finalist according to HeismanPundit.com’s 10 Heismandments. He’s a senior quarterback for one of college football’s elite programs. With a nickname like Shoelace, he’s likable. His games are mandatory viewing and on just about every play he has a chance to set Twitter ablaze -- a fair amount of those pundits out there, of course, are Heisman voters. Even if he has one underwhelming game -- say, against Alabama to start the season -- he’ll have Notre Dame to recover. Or Michigan State. Or Nebraska. Or Ohio State. Or the Big Ten championship game. What’s holding Robinson back is consistency. He had some serious lapses last season in throwing up a pass and hoping for the best. Against Notre Dame, it worked. Other times, it didn't. Still, there’s plenty of reason to believe Robinson will improve. He threw nine of his 15 interceptions last season in the first six games. Then, he threw six picks in the final seven, never more than one in a game during that stretch. That’s not good enough to be Heisman-worthy, but it’s at least a sign of progress. If Robinson marginally improves to become a 60 percent passer and throws only 10 interceptions (after completing 55 percent of his passes and throwing 15 picks), Michigan may be the national title race. And that’s not even counting the breakaway runs he’s sure to have throughout the season. To win the Heisman, Robinson may need a career year, but career achievement alone might be enough to get him to New York.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Yes. Barring any major injuries — which is certainly possible with Robinson's playing style — the Michigan quarterback should be the Big Ten's representative in New York City come December. With no disrespect meant to Montee Ball or Rex Burkhead, who should both have stellar senior seasons, there's no better situation for a Heisman run in that league than the guy under center at Michigan. And it all starts Week 1 on primetime national television against the defending national champions in the biggest football stadium in the world.
While he needs to show improved efficiency and decision making, all of the needed factors are in place for Shoelace to make a serious run at the stiff-arm trophy. He plays the quarterback position, and 11 of the last 12 Heisman winners have played under center. He is the leader and engine of the potential Big Ten champions and will play in marquee match-ups against the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State. He is unequivocally the single-most electrifying athlete playing the quarterback position in the entire nation. And statistically, there may not be another player in the history of the sport who can match D-Rob's production when his career is all said and done.
He is the only player to ever top 2,500 yards passing and 1,500 yards rushing in one year. He is only the fourth player in history to go for 2,000-1,000 twice in his career and could become the only player ever to do it three times. He already owns the NCAA single-season quarterback rushing record with 1,702 yards, and with 1,252 yards on the ground this season, he will pass Pat White to become the top rushing quarterback in NCAA history. Robinson has all the necessary pieces laid out in front of him for a forceful Heisman run — as long as he can stay healthy.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The battle to win a spot to New York for the Heisman ceremony will be an interesting race to watch this season. Barring injury, you can go ahead and write in USC quarterback Matt Barkley for one of the five spots. Although Wisconsin’s (and 2011 Heisman finalist) Montee Ball won’t repeat last season’s numbers, he should be in the mix for a trip to the Big Apple once again. After that? It’s anybody’s guess.
West Virginia’s Geno Smith should improve on last season’s totals in the second year of Dana Holgorsen’s spread attack and is a potential darkhorse candidate to get to New York. Other top preseason candidates have question marks, including Clemson’s Sammy Watkins with a potential suspension, while South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore is coming off a torn ACL.
Considering the question marks with some of the other top candidates, I think Robinson will be a Heisman finalist in 2012. There will always be a couple of off-the-radar candidates that emerge, but the senior quarterback seems to be in good position to earn a trip to New York at the end of the year. Although Robinson needs to be a better passer, his rushing ability will give him another opportunity to record over 3,000 yards of total offense.
As long as Robinson stays healthy and Michigan is in the mix to win the Big Ten title, he will remain a frontrunner for the Heisman. However, should the Wolverines struggle or Robinson miss a couple of games due to injury, he will fall short of finishing among the top five in voting at the end of the season.
After Barkley, the battle to get to New York for the Heisman ceremony is up for grabs. However, I expect Robinson to be one of the five finalists in early December.
Robinson burst on the scene his sophomore season in 2010, when he finished sixth in the Heisman voting after rushing for more than 1,700 yards, passing for more than 2,500 and accounting for 32 touchdowns. He had another productive season in 2011, earning second team All-Big Ten honors and accounting for more touchdowns (36) than the previous season, but he also saw his total offense drop by by more than 900 yards.
The fact that Michigan should be a strong contender for a return to a BCS bowl, not to mention the Big Ten title, certainly helps Robinson's Heisman chances in 2012, however, it also should be noted that in 2010, when Robinson was a near-Heisman finalist, the Wolverines won just seven games. Last season, Michigan won 11, including an overtime victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, thanks not only to Robinson's production, but also a much-improved defense and the emergence of 1,000-yard rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Robinson is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and arguably the best in the Big Ten, but the fact that Michigan is a more complete and balanced team actually hurts Robinson in terms of Heisman consideration. In 2010, he was basically a one-man show, which was a large reason for his lofty numbers and subsequent Heisman votes.
And although he is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, he's still not an extremely polished passer as he has completed less than 60 percent of his throws and holds a 40:30 touchdown-to-interception ratio entering his senior season. The Wolverines' offense, and the team for that matter, is no longer a one-man show. I just think it will be too hard for Robinson to put up the numbers necessary to compete, if you will, with other expected Heisman-contending quarterbacks like Matt Barkley, Tajh Boyd, Landry Jones and Geno Smith, to name a few, and finish the season as a finalist for college football's most coveted honor.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not think Robinson will be one of the top five players in 2012, but he has a great shot to receive an invitation to New York in December. The key with the always-political Heisman is late momentum, something that has eluded Michigan’s quarterback for the last two seasons. If the Wolverines can win the Big Ten for the first time since 2004, then D-Rob almost seems assured of a trip to the Big Apple.
Robinson should put up solid numbers with his elite speed, but it’s tough to build a Heisman campaign around a 55-percent passer with 15 interceptions. Those 2011 numbers will need to improve this season. While D-Rob is an electric playmaker on the ground, his TD-INT ratio for his career is 40-30. If Michigan continues to spread the running yards around, Robinson could see his rushing yards decline once again. Plus the Wolverines add Alabama to the schedule this season, and it’s difficult to see Robinson producing the same type of numbers that he did against Notre Dame and Ohio State a year ago. While Robinson will still make plenty of highlight plays, I’m not sure that he will put up the consistent numbers to be a top five player. But if Michigan wins the Big Ten, he will be invited to NYC.
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