Seeing Denard grimace and swear is akin to seeing Santa remove his fake beard and take a long pull from a flask. Something's gone horribly wrong and perhaps it's time you stopped believing in certain things—like the possibility of a Big Ten title or the existence of Santa Claus.
[After THE JUMP: More cursing! More sadness! But also basketball!]
If the GIFs are slowing down your browser, hit 'escape' on any browser except Chrome to stop animation. If you are using Chrome, I highly recommend adding the extension "GIF Scrubber" to have video-like control over each GIF.
Denard Robinson's introduction as something more than a lightning-fast curiosity came in Michigan's 2010 opener against UConn. Fittingly, the game marked the unveiling of the Michigan Stadium luxury boxes, a new attendance record, and the completion of Brock Mealer's journey from paralysis to walking out and touching the banner. It's an easy argument to make that this game represented the high water mark of the Rich Rodriguez era, a moment when anything and everything seemed within the realm of possibility.
The Big House was gaudier, a man had gone from never walking again to walking again, the much-maligned defense shut down the Huskies, and Denard ... well, a Michigan quarterback record of 197 rushing yards is what we remember most, and he also completed 19/22 passes for 186 yards and a score. Rodriguez introduced the first iteration of the Worst Waldo play...
...and when it looked like UConn finally might be able to slow down Denard, he used their eagerness to finally lay a finger on the guy against them:
Michigan raced out to a 21-0 lead within the first 21 minutes of the opening kickoff, then cruised to a 30-10 victory. Denard became an overnight sensation. A fanbase beaten down by 3- and 5-win seasons the previous two years had reason to think that perhaps this could work out after all. Most of this optimism stemmed from Denard, of course, who helped matters by being one of the most eminently likable athletes to ever step on campus.
This summer, I went back through Denard's career and made a whole bunch of GIFs, with full intention of writing up an ode to the man who—often single-handedly—dragged the Wolverines from the depths of 3-8 and put them in a position to succeed in his three years as a starter and beyond. Like Brian with his HTTV article, I sat down and just couldn't go through with it.
I think I'm ready now. Hit the jump for a GIF retrospective on the career of one Denard Robinson.
Hey, Butch Woolfolk, are you excited for the game tonight?
Agreed, Butch. How do you feel about it being the last Michigan-Notre Dame home game for the foreseeable future?
We're on the same wavelength, Butch.
[If you're wondering "why?" those are from the intros to the '81 ND game. For many more GIFs from Notre Dame games of the past, hit THE JUMP.]
Also Previously: Podcast 5.0.
I had this thing I was always going to write about Denard, and I said I'd put it in Hail To The Victors, and Seth really, really wanted it because we really, really had to send everything to the printer, and I sat in front of my keyboard and could not do it. As you're about to find out this week, putting words into a computer is something I do quite frequently. My problem is usually keeping those words relatively concise. This time I sat there, and the thing I'd had in my head for years sat there too.
We stared at each other. Nobody moved.
This is a program that has been in flux for nearly a decade now. The first indication was Jim Herrmann's one-year experiment with the 3-4 in 2004. Like everything in the Late Herrmann period, it worked just enough to make you crazy when it didn't. A year later, Michigan was running a 4-3 again, had a 9-point lead against Ohio State with 7:49 on the clock, and blew it.
Herrmann was given the NFL position coach gold watch, and because any motion towards the future must be paired with an equal and opposite motion towards the past a year later Mike DeBord was re-installed as the offensive coordinator. He completely overhauled the offense, dumping pulling linemen for a zone-stretch running game. Two years later, Rodriguez came in, overhauling everything except David Molk. Three years later, Hoke came in, overhauling everything except David Molk.
All along, the panic grew. Michigan started casting about for anyone they thought could help, whether it was mentally unbalanced defensive linemen or guys with no offers who showed at camp or defensive backs who hadn't ever played a varsity game. Or Mike DeBord. The decisions being made became increasingly unmoored from reality in the late aughts. Something named Appalachian State beat Michigan. At some point Greg Robinson was hired.
Here is a Hieronymus Bosch painting, because nothing else can represent the thought process that ended with that decision.
Chaos descended on Michigan gradually, until a bird-man and spiky monkey and plague dude and bird-hippo-thing murdered it and its magnificent beard. You can assign the various actors their roles based on your preferences, except the plague guy has to be GERG.
This is still a team in flux. Rodriguez got axed just in time for Michigan to complete its transition to spread personnel, echoes of which are still on the team today: a right tackle who was high school hurdler, a #1 receiver standing 5'8", a quarterback who's probably going to jet for 60 yards at some point this year. There are two (two!) upperclass offensive linemen.
This will be the first time since 2003 that anyone at Michigan has entered his third year—let alone fourth—in the same defense, under the same coordinator. Even as the defense settles in, the offense prepares for a drastic change in its nature. The Hoke recruiting classes are just blooding themselves in the two deep; the disastrous 2010 recruiting class looms in holes across the roster.
But for the first time in a long, long time, you can see the trajectory. No one's clamoring for the defensive coordinator's head; no one's looming over the shoulder of the offensive coordinator, ready to pull the plug on anything that looks remotely dangerous. For the next half-dozen years, Michigan is going to be an aggressive 4-3 under defense paired with an offense of titanic humans who will make safeties choose between pounding on the ground and long-range aerial bombardment. The coaches will be the coaches with the exception of a position coach or two who will probably be replaced by a Michigan legend.
On fourth down, they're going.
Deadlines are deadlines, so I wrote the thing eventually. It wasn't what I wanted. It was supposed to have turrets and buttresses and run a 4.1 40. Instead it was… okay. It's not the worst thing I've written. None of that mattered. Time was up. It was done.
In the aftermath a peculiar feeling descended on me. If I spoke German, I would crush together several contradictory words into a multi-syllabic monstrosity that would not quite entirely fail to communicate it. It was over, and that was terrible. It was over, and that was necessary. I wanted to go back, and wanted to go forward.
The thing that was keeping Michigan between states of being had dreadlocks and could outrun a photon. Denard could not do the things Al Borges wanted him to do, and Al Borges could not figure out other things to ask. And yet there he was, so we kept banging that square peg against the round hole. To do otherwise was incomprehensible.
Regrets, I've got 'em. Everyone's got 'em. But there's no going back. Finally, it's in the past. Finally, everyone can focus their efforts on refining what is there instead of throwing it all away and starting over, and then throwing it away next year and starting over again.
This is Michigan, a guy said once. What does that mean? Now we find out.
"Is that salmon?"
"Canteloupe? We use that as an audible color. How you guys doing?"
"It's been a while. Can't tell you how much I've missed you. You guys kind of sensed a hint of sarcasm, didn't you? Heiko! I made you a hero. Unbelievable."
Thoughts on Devin's maturity?
"Yeah, he's doing a nice job. When you know that you've done it so long -- he's always been a pretty confident kid anyway, but now that he has a chance to kind of be the guy, I think he's taken the next step."
What's it like having two experienced tackles?
"Yeah, you know, when Taylor said he was coming back, that was a great, great day for Michigan and for our offense because breaking in a new left tackle is never fun. I don't care what level it is. But Mike Schofield, who doesn't get talked about as much but is really a good athlete. He can move. He was a hurdler in high school. He's got a lot of talent. Mike's played a lot. He's played guard, he's played tackle. I think he's kind of fit into a comfort zone a little bit with tackle, not to where he's complacent, but he's comfortable in the position now. He kind of had to relearn the position a little bit. He's been in the offense. He's been pretty consistent the first couple days and in the spring."
<Falsehoods galore after the jump>
Countdown to Kickoff exists again. Talkin' with Devin Gardner:
So that explains that. If you were wondering why Michigan's option plays weren't actual option plays the last couple years, well, yeah:
“We did it [the Wildcat] in OTAs and a couple of times he ran the ball and fumbled the ball and he didn’t know how to pitch," Bradley said, according to the Register.
The one time he did try to pitch on a speed option was when he got lit up in the backfield, and that was a fumble.
Oklahoma State was not always good. Wolverine Historian presents the 1992 non-classic:
Gardner on Darboh. I think both of last year's wide receivers are on pace to work out, and Darboh is ahead of the curve:
"He's just a great athlete," Gardner said of the wideout. "He's strong, he's fast, he catches the ball well. He's pretty much everything you could ever want in a receiver."
Gardner compares Darboh to Junior Hemingway, but fast. No, seriously:
"He goes up and gets the ball just like Junior. And he runs fast."
I'll take it.
O'Bannon-related victory. I thought Sam Keller's lawsuit had been folded into the O'Bannon suit, but apparently not. They've just won at the appellate level:
By a 2-1 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said EA's use of the athletes' likenesses in its NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball games did not deserve protection as free expression under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
EA is disappointed that free speech doesn't cover important things like college football videogames using the representations of people without mentioning it to them, and plans to appeal, for all the good that will do.
They'll have to name him Lack Of Seat Cushions. Sorry, those are the probably fictional, possibly offensive stereotypical Native American rules:
I don't make the probably fictional, possibly offensive stereotypical Native American rules. I just enforce 'em, lady.
Jordan Paskorz: I'm not dead yet! Michigan could use some tight end depth with veteran Mike Kwiatkowski departed, and Jake Bu—MAH GAWD THAT'S JORDAN PASKORZ'S MUSIC, AT LEAST I THINK IT IS BECAUSE I'M NOT SURE HE EVEN HAD SOME:
[Paskorz's] career has since been derailed by seemingly interminable instability.
But that's about to change, as he enters his second season at tight end and seems to have fought his way into the rotation as a blocking specialist. …
"What I like is, we settled him into that position and I think he can be a guy who gives us a little more on-the-line-of-scrimmage movement. That’s exciting."
At 6'3", 251, he is about the right size to be more of a pusher at TE. AJ Williams is a guy Michigan will ask to fill that role as well, but he needs a lot of technique work to get there. We'll see if the talk translates into playing time.
When do I get to be on a bulletin board? Because if Steve Everitt's lighthearted jab at Kirk Cousins qualifies…
…surely I can come up with something vile enough to get up there despite not being a viking. Hey, Spartans! You smell! Bad!
I'll work on it.
In related news, Dave Brandon once again reiterated that he doesn't want a night game in the series. This is correct. I hope the real reason is wanting to tweak MSU by playing anyone but them at night, but I'll take "don't want a bunch of East Lansing people drunj" after the Gathering of the Juggalos that was two years ago.
Speaking of. UTL II Hype Video:
Glenn Robinson: now he can jump. Yeah, now:
His vertical is up four inches to 12'3".
Etc.: Introducing Dr. Gay Hitler, who was of course from… Ohio, and the son of George Hitler, and a dentist.
Here is a class of 1927(!) alum talking bout her days on campus. Oregon has some money. People don't like dynamic pricing, except for that one guy on facebook who hasn't been to a game since 1982 but likes being a prick to people on the internet. Bill Connolly previews Ohio State. Lewan talks Gholston punch.