ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Denard Robinson middle, left and right.
That was pretty much what Michigan's game plan last year under Rich Rodriguez, who leaned on the speedy quarterback to average about 20 carries a game.
First-year coach Brady Hoke, who plans to run Robinson 10 to 15 times a game, and offensive coordinator Al Borges expect to give a featured running back the bulk of the team's carries.
"That's all right with me," Robinson said Sunday after posing for pictures with backup quarterback Devin Gardner at media day. "I want to stay healthy."
Hoke said he and his staff will take the blame if the new plan for Robinson and the rest of the team doesn't lead to a conference title this season.
"This is Michigan — there aren't going to be any excuses," Hoke said. "If we don't win the Big Ten championship, we failed them as coaches."
Despite the toll a ton of hits took on his body, Robinson became the NCAA's first player with 1,500 yards rushing and passing in a season. He also won Big Ten offensive player of the year and conference MVP honors and finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting.
Robinson started every game, but was knocked out of some with a bruised left knee, banged-up right shoulder and concussion-like symptoms knocked.
"We're trying to take some of the burden off him and more than anything," said Borges, who has compared Robinson to Michael Vick. "We're trying to keep him in one piece."
When Robinson was on the field early in the season, he and the Wolverines were tough to stop.
During their 5-0 start, Robinson averaged 202 yards passing with seven touchdowns and one interception along with an average of 181 yards rushing with eight scores.
In Michigan's six losses, though, he threw as many TD passes (six) as interceptions and averaged 70 fewer yards rushing than he did during the jaw-dropping start.
Robinson finished with 1,702 yards rushing — an NCAA record for a QB — and 14 touchdowns. He completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,570 yards with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
As spectacular as he was at times, Borges is hoping he opts to be simply solid and sensible sometimes.
"Make plays, don't make miracles," Borges said he tells Robinson. "As long as his judgment is good, he's deadly because he can do so many things that you don't draw on the chalkboard."
Since Rodriguez was fired and Hoke was hired, the public has only seen Robinson play once and he wasn't impressive.
In the spring game, Robinson was 5 of 14 for 70 yards passing and had six rushes for 60 yards. He threw an interception that was negated by a defensive penalty, had a lost fumble wiped away because of a pre-snap whistle on the offense and recovered a fumble after struggling with another center exchange.
"I don't think that's a fair evaluation of him," tight end Kevin Koger said. "He was great all spring, but defense played great that day. I think he's looked good so far this year in camp."
Robinson was often in the shotgun in Rodriguez's spread, but will now take most snaps under center just as he did at Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High School. His footwork has changed considerably as a dropback passer and the coaches are trying to get him to not have "happy feet" in the pocket.
"They've been getting on me about it," Robinson said. "It's a little different than what I've done here, but I was under center a lot in high school."
Rodriguez recruited Robinson out of Florida and the two have kept in touch.
"I talked to him just before camp started," Robinson said. "He just told me to listen to what the coaches are telling me."
It sounds like Robinson has already picked up on one phrase that had quickly made a comeback at Schembechler Hall when asked about relying on teammates to make more plays than they did last year.
"It's not hard for me at all because I love seeing other people be successful," Robinson said. "It's about the team, the team, the team."