Hoke comes to defense of QB

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- He has been a starting quarterback for two-plus seasons, gone through two offensive schemes and countless dropbacks as a passer. Now one-third of the way through his final season at Michigan, Denard Robinson is still learning how to become an efficient quarterback and make correct decisions.

The good news for Robinson is that Michigan coach Brady Hoke still is confident his quarterback can and will improve with the end of his career on the not-so-distant horizon.

"He's our quarterback and he's a damn good quarterback," Hoke said. "We're very comfortable, very confident in him."

Hoke, though, had no problem admitting Robinson has had issues this season with accuracy and decisions. When asked on Monday whether Robinson's decision-making was where the coach wanted it, he threw the question back at the media.

"Think about that question. What do you think? Seriously. Probably not," Hoke said. "He's got to play a little better, we've got to help him play a little better. Blocking better, routes and catching better, competing better. Also as a staff make sure he can do the things we're asking him to do."

Michigan spent much of the focus during its off week evaluating Robinson as a passer and where else it needs to improve as it embarks on Big Ten play.

On offense, Hoke was more pleased with his line's play than he thought he would be. He especially liked what he saw in the second half against Notre Dame, when he and offensive coordinator Al Borges switched some line protections for Robinson in order to place more emphasis on the offensive line getting its job done.

It worked as the entirety of the offense flowed better.

"It's not just Denard," left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "There's plenty of guys who messed up and we had 23 [missed assignments] in 69 plays or however many plays we had. That was a whole team thing. From an untrained eye, it may look like Denard a little bit, but that's protection, the receivers, the running backs, all of us combined into one.

"Denard apologizing, he said what he wanted to say, but this responsibility is on this team. It's a team sport, never should be one guy who wins it or loses it."

Hoke expressed some concern in the rest of the aspects of the offense, including how his receivers were running routes and how plays were being run. And while the offensive line was better, Hoke still was not happy with how Michigan was blocking when the Wolverines ran plays outside of the tackles.

"We've been a pretty physical team," Hoke said. "I think we've got to keep pushing that and getting that better."

Unsurprisingly, Hoke also focused on the line when he approached the evaluation of his defense. While the week off gave Hoke "a little more confidence" in those who have already played well, he lamented his team's inability to force turnovers. Some of that has to do with the lack of pressure Michigan has put on quarterbacks.

The Wolverines have intercepted two passes this season -- both against Notre Dame in the first half -- and have three sacks in four games. According to the official stat books, MIchigan has only had three quarterback hurries in four games as well.

Pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers were two staples of Michigan's defense last season.

"We're not taking a quarterback off his mark timing-wise with pressure or tighter coverage," Hoke said. "We got some different guys, obviously, but at the same time we think we should be able to do the same kinds of things with who we have."

As Michigan progressed through last season, the Wolverines became increasingly better in every area Hoke mentioned Monday, both offensively and defensively. For the Wolverines to have success again this season, they'll have to show somewhat similar progress.