Denard Robinson uncertainty poses challenge for Hawkeyes

BY BEN ROSS | NOVEMBER 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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It’s hard enough to prepare for a quarterback such as Denard Robinson. But the task gets even harder when a team has to prepare for Devin Gardner as well.

Iowa has beaten Robinson and the Wolverines three-straight years. There is a chance the Hawkeyes won’t even see the elusive Robinson this year, though. The senior hasn’t started a game for Michigan since Oct. 27 against Nebraska. He has been held out of competition since then, after suffering from an injured ulnar nerve in his throwing elbow.

Devin Gardner has moved from wide receiver back to quarterback, his original position, to fill in for the ailing Robinson. Gardner has won both starts, at Minnesota and against Northwestern. So no matter what, Iowa will face a quarterback with at least some successful starting experience.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said defensive practices have been harder to coordinate this week because of the uncertainty at the quarterback position for Michigan. Gardner and Robinson are similar players in that they both are very dynamic running. But after that, Ferentz said, it’s like preparing for an entirely different player.

“[Robinson]’s a really dynamic football player, great team leader,” Ferentz said. “But the other guy has really jumped in there and done a great job, too.  It’s a little bit tricky because you have two preparations.  They’re not that much different, but they’re not the same, either, so it’s two different preparations, and both of them are tough preparations.”

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said Robinson is still “day-to-day” with his injury, and said his status will likely be a game-time decision.

That means Iowa’s defensive players might be watching double the film in their preparation.

Even after watching limited video early in the week, linebacker Christian Kirksey said that keeping the quarterback, regardless of whoever he may be, under control and uncomfortable in the pocket.

“[Gardner and Robinson] make wise decisions,” Kirksey said. “They can kill you with their arms or kill you with their legs. That’s something we have to make sure we work on in practice, quarterback containment.”

Keeping quarterbacks between the tackles has been a struggle for Iowa at times this season. The Hawkeyes have allowed opposing quarterbacks to rush for over 100 yards in two separate games this season.

No matter who plays quarterback, Iowa will enter a tough environment. Michigan Stadium, often called “The Big House,” holds more than 100,000 people and has often been called the toughest place to play a college football game.

Iowa players don’t seem concerned. They say the venue where a game is played is only secondary beyond the game itself. And even with literally hundreds of thousands of people screaming, the Hawkeyes say, playing at Michigan shouldn’t be harder than playing at Indiana, where well fewer than half that number watched.

“You look forward to that,” safety Tanner Miller said about playing at Michigan. “It’s what you sign up for, to be able to play in the best stadiums in the country. That comes with the territory and something you look forward to. Ultimately, the game is decided in the white lines, and what is around that doesn’t really matter.”

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