Up next in our Jacksonville Jaguars player profile series is a player who received a lot of attention in college, running back Denard Robinson.
Denard Robinson had a very memorable career in his four years at Michigan, his speed at the quarterback position put his name in the record books as he set the record for rushing yards at the quarterback position. His ability to keep defenders off balance with his passing or rushing ability made him one of the most electrifying players at his position and all of college football. Before we highlight the success Denard Robinson had at Michigan we must first review how he got to such a high point.
Robinson entered his senior year of high school with a lot of colleges looking at him. Some colleges thought he could be a receiver, others thought he could be a defensive back but Denard was on the search for a school who wanted him to play the quarterback position. The recruiting race for Robinson got very competitive, but the Florida native felt Michigan was the best fit despite receiving interest from schools much closer to home like Florida, UCF, Georgia, and Tennessee. Robinson wanted to find a team where he could be the star and with Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez already having experience coaching stellar running quarterback Pat White, the Wolverines made the most sense to him.
Robinson didn’t receive a lot of playing time in his freshman season, only throwing the ball 31 times for 188 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He was still able to show glimpses of his running ability in his first year, finishing the season with 351 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns, he averaged just over five yards per carry as a freshman. His sophomore season was a memorable one, Robinson was now the starter at the quarterback position and he was ready to prove that he was one of the most electrifying players in the NCAA. He did just that, taking the NCAA by storm as he finished with a career high 1,702 rushing yards, he got in the end zone 14 times as well. He also put up very impressive numbers through the air, he threw for a career best 2,570 yards to go along with 18 touchdowns, he finished the season with an extremely efficient quarterback rating of 149.6.
Robinson was one of the most popular players in college football going into his junior season, he had a combined total of 32 touchdowns in the previous season and he finished sixth in the Heisman voting. He didn’t let the hype phase him, excelling in his junior season, posting career highs in rushing and passing touchdowns. Robinson finished the season with 2,173 passing yards and 20 touchdowns, along with 1,176 yards on the ground and 16 rushing touchdowns.
His senior season was much different than his last two seasons with the Wolverines, it became known that Robinson wasn’t going to be a quarterback in the NFL so he spent some time at the running back position to help show his worth to NFL scouts. Despite him trying to learn the nuances of the position, Robinson still posted a career high in yards per carry at 7.2, finishing the year with 1,266 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Despite a much less productive senior season, Robinson finished with the most rushing yards for a quarterback in NCAA history with 4,495. He provided some of the most electrifying highlights in college football history, rushing for over 200 yards in five different games and constantly leaving defenders in the dust. He was the first player in NCAA history to throw for over 2,500 yards and rush for over 1,500 yards. Even though he had a legendary career at Michigan, Robinson entered the draft with a lot of uncertainty. He wasn’t sure how his future NFL team would utilize him and he wasn’t sure when he would be selected. His name was finally called in the fifth round when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected him with the second pick and the 135th pick overall.
The Jaguars knew that they had a unique athlete in Robinson, they even created a special position for Robinson on their depth chart called offensive weapon (OW). Despite the Jaguars giving Robinson a new position on the depth chart, he was rarely used in his rookie season. He only carried the ball 20 times for 66 yards and he wasn’t able to rack up any receptions. His nerve injury to his right hand that he suffered in his senior season in college could have been a big reason why he struggled with catching the ball in his rookie season.
Robinson entered his second season with the Jaguars with more uncertainty, The Jaguars had just signed Toby Gerhart and drafted running back Storm Johnson. However, Robinson’s speed made him a big play threat and he finally started to receive more playing time. Robinson was now officially listed as a running back and he saw his playing time increase in week 3 of the regular season. He finished the 3rd game of 2014 with eight carries for 33 yards and that alone was good for half of his total rushing yards in 2013.
He received his first start in week 7 where he helped lead the Jaguars to their first victory of the season. Robinson rushed for an impressive 127 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries. He continued his strong play in the following week, rushing for 108 yards on 18 carries, including a 41 yard run on a fake reverse play that had the crowd in Jacksonville on their feet. Over the next two weeks he continued to put up solid numbers, running for 154 yards and three scores. After the Jaguars week 11 bye week, Robinson’s numbers started to decline and his season was cut short due to a foot sprain that ended his season after only 13 games.
There are many questions for Denard Robinson as he heads into his third season: Can he stay healthy? Will his blocking ability improve? How many touches will he get now that T.J. Yeldon is in Jacksonville? These questions and more will be answered once the 2015 regular season starts but I think its still safe to say that Denard Robinson will be very important to the Jaguars offense in 2015.
Be on the lookout for our next player profile featuring Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith, coming soon!
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