Published September 08, 2010
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – They're tossing lingo around like footballs this week at Notre Dame. Gap assignments, containment, areas of responsibilities, sure tackling.
The Irish will need all of the above — and probably more — or Michigan's Denard Robinson might run wild at Notre Dame Stadium like he did a week ago at the Big House.
"Just take great angles with him. He's very fast and very shifty," Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o said, trying to summarize the best way to defend Robinson and the Wolverines' read option. "You have to be honest with your angles and close to him as fast as you can."
For those sleeping last weekend, Robinson took over the starter's role in coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense and set Michigan records for total offense (383) and rushing yards (197) by a quarterback. He showed off his arm, too, with 19 completions on 22 attempts for another 186 yards in a 30-10 win over Connecticut.
"He can run and throw at the same time. You have to respect that," Te'o said
Irish defensive back Darrin Walls likened Robinson's style to that of Pat White, the former West Virginia quarterback who was often electrifying while directing the spread offense when Rodriguez was coaching in Morgantown.
"He's just like another running back with the ball. He's quick, he's explosive. I mean, if you give him a crease, he's going to take it," Walls said.
For Rodriguez to quiet the critics in Ann Arbor and that huge following of Michigan fans across the country, he'll need another performance like the one Robinson pulled off against UConn.
Rodriguez is 1-2 overall against Notre Dame, winning a 38-34 thriller last season in Ann Arbor and losing in two trips to South Bend, one with Michigan in his inaugural season two years ago and dropping another during his first season at West Virginia in 2001.
There are options for Notre Dame to combat the option, but blitzing the Wolverines would not seem to be a good one for hemming in Robinson. It might create too many holes and Robinson, who doesn't like to lace up his shoes, could slip through and be off and running. Loose shoes or not.
"Not sure if he's going to tie his shoes. I don't know," Notre Dame linebacker Darius Fleming said.
Robinson will be facing Notre Dame's 3-4 defense but that shouldn't be completely foreign to him because odd and even fronts are prevalent in college ball, Rodriguez said.
"I think Denard has seen enough of it. The guys up front, it shouldn't be anything that confuses them," said Rodriguez, who actually believes the key is how the Wolverines execute on offense.
The defense, meanwhile, is busy trying to account for all the facets of the option.
"You've got to have somebody on the dive, somebody on the pitch, somebody on the quarterback every time," said Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, who had one of the Irish's four sacks last week in a win over Purdue.
Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, the man responsible for devising a plan against Robinson, says it's all about basic football.
"You don't want to have any horizontal seams and when you blitz, naturally vertical seams are created. And he's a very fast player who can run forward very fast and run laterally very fast," Diaco said.
"You can't start looking for the football. You start looking for the football then all of a sudden you're overtaken and you're out of your space and that's where the ball enters," he said. "Everybody has to know their assignment and do their job."