Michigan’s Denard Robinson working to learn new positions

January 23, 2013

Denard Robinson is trying his hand at receiver and punt returner. (Dave Martin/Associated Press)

Most players at the Senior Bowl use the week of practices to showcase their skills to NFL talent evaluators and reaffirm the conclusions that were drawn from their play during the college season.

However, for the biggest name of any at the Senior Bowl — Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson — the week represents a learning experience and an audition for a spot in the NFL at a position he rarely played during his college career.

Once a Heisman Trophy candidate, Robinson this week has spent time at wide receiver, punt returner and kick returner in hopes of showing to teams that he can use his athleticism to help them elsewhere on the football field because he isn’t viewed as NFL quarterback material.

Robinson has had his share of ups (like the bomb he caught after shaking a defender on a double-move, or the sideline catch he had on an out-route, tip-toeing the line to ensure a catch) and downs (drops at the end of some pass routes, and three muffed punts on Tuesday).

But he isn’t letting the challenge of learning a new position discourage him.

“It’s been fun,” said Robinson, who saw time at running back and wide receiver for Michigan late last season after suffering injuries while playing quarterback. “I think it’s a blessing to be out here with the best and learning from the best. You’ve got some of the best coaches out here and I’m trying to take advantage of it. … I can use my speed, and that’s what can help me out here. But I have to be crisp in everything I do, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

The 5-foot-11, 196-pound Robinson, who boasts 4.3-second, 40-yard dash speed, said he never thought about playing another position in the NFL during his senior season at Michigan. But now that his future hinges on his ability to make the transition, he is devoting his full energy to becoming a receiver/returner.

Acknowledging that his biggest area of growth must come in the return game, Robinson said he will go back to Michigan after this week and work extensively with his school’s punters.

“I’ll work with them a lot,” he said. “It’s just about trying to find the ball, get underneath it, and making sure you have your shoulders square to the field and get up it once you get the ball. It’s not frustrating. I love football, so I’m having fun doing this. I love football, so whatever [position] it is, I’m having fun doing it.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · January 23, 2013

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