COLUMBIA – Steve Spurrier wasn’t joking.
“I don’t think we’ve faced a guy quite like Denard Robinson that can throw and run and do what he does,” Spurrier said during his acceptance of a bid to the Outback Bowl. “It will be a great challenge for our team.”
Michigan’s dual-threat quarterback certainly represents a no-doubt target for No. 11 South Carolina’s defensive game plan, especially since the No. 19 Wolverines like to use him as a slot receiver and scat-back along with taking the snaps. Backup QB Devin Gardner also broke the 1,000-yard passing plateau to give Michigan two signal-callers who have achieved the mark, an absurd stat for a team that focuses on running the football.
It’s not just the plan of focusing on Robinson, the one-man gang. Michigan has too many other weapons, although Robinson is the engine of the offense.
The Gamecocks have faced mobile quarterbacks, running quarterbacks and athletic quarterbacks. But Spurrier was absolutely right – they haven’t faced anybody who combined all of those traits as effectively as Robinson does.
Check it out:
* Jordan Rodgers (Vanderbilt): Aaron Rodgers’ little brother had 13 rushing attempts but ended with minus-8 yards due to five sacks. He threw for 214 yards but had a costly red-zone interception.
* Rio Johnson and Shane Carden (East Carolina): Playing in a spread, quick-and-short passing system, the two were a threat to run about as much as Spurrier was to start kicking extra points again.
* Jonathan Perry (UAB): At the head of another passing offense, Perry threw for 219 yards. He had 11 rushing attempts but six sacks pushed him to a Rodgers-esque total (minus-8).
* James Franklin (Missouri): Coming in with the reputation of a scrambling quarterback, USC was wary of Franklin before finding out it was a lot of hype and not much weight. Perhaps it was just USC’s defense or perhaps the Tigers simply weren’t ready for the prime time of the SEC, but Franklin wasn’t on his game at all. He rushed for 6 yards on 15 attempts and only threw for 92, and was replaced by Corbin Berkstresser late in the game.
* Jalen Whitlow (Kentucky): USC prepared for Maxwell Smith, then knocked him out of the game on the first snap. In came Whitlow, who wasn’t a runner, although he did have 16 attempts for 6 yards. Whitlow was mostly picking his spots and making passes in what was shaping up to be a really sour day for the Gamecocks, before the second half.
* Aaron Murray (Georgia): There was simply no way that Murray was going to run, especially not with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall available to tote the rock. The Man with the Golden Arm threw for only 109 yards in a dominating defensive effort.
* Zach Mettenberger (LSU): A quarterback who was just starting to find himself, Mettenberger wasn’t going to run, either. He became a strong passer as the year went on, but the Gamecocks weren’t hurt by him.
* Jeff Driskel (Florida): Mobile enough to move around, USC was wonderful in shutting him down, although hybrid backup Trey Burton picked up a few yards on the ground. The Gators’ punchless offense is credited with 44 points, but only really gashed USC on one drive. Turnovers did the rest.
* Tyler Bray (Tennessee): The first of the two Tylers, in the same breed. Pass, pass, pass.
* Tyler Wilson (Arkansas): The second Tyler.
* James Lawson (Wofford): The Gamecocks knew that the Terriers would run, but figured most of the damage would be done by their fleet of tailbacks and fullbacks. Lawson did keep it for himself a few times, but only got 13 yards.
* Tajh Boyd (Clemson): The most similar to Robinson, at least in rushing ability. Since Boyd lost weight over the offseason and kept it off, he became much better at scrambling out of trouble and becoming a constant threat with his legs. Boyd rushed for 56 yards, but his net was only 26 after five sacks were figured in.
Boyd seems to be the most similar to Robinson, but is a much bigger physical presence than the slight Robinson. He has made the “Wildcat” offense a constant presence, and while his passing isn’t ideal (53.6 completion percentage, nine touchdowns equaled by nine interceptions) it’s been good enough for over 1,300 yards.
But USC had to adjust week to week and despite not playing many dual-threat QBs, played some, including one in its last game. Robinson is a big threat, but the Gamecocks are familiar with planning for big threats.