Michigan's Robinson hopes to untie QB race

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith went down to Florida and asked to speak with Denard Robinson, he quickly learned that his recruiting target went by a different name.

"His coach goes, 'Hey, Shoelace!'" Smith said.


The story goes that Robinson hasn't tied his shoelaces since elementary school. Not for football games. Not for track competitions. Not for anything.

The odd practice seemingly would hinder an athlete's ability to stay on his feet. For Robinson, it's just the opposite.

Robinson's speed has become one of the top storylines during Michigan's preseason camp. After gaining attention in March for running a 10.44 in the 100-meter dash at a meet in Florida, the true freshman has amazed his Michigan teammates and coaches with his warp-speed, unlaced feet this month.

"Damndest thing I've ever seen," Smith said.

Like fellow quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Nick Sheridan, Robinson is practicing with the first-team offense in camp and likely will play in the season opener Sept. 5 against Western Michigan

True to form, Robinson showed up Sunday at football media day with his shoes untied. When Michigan opens the season, Robinson will go sans tied laces.

That is, unless the coaches make him lace up.

"I really don't know [if they will]," he said. "I don't think so."

Not if he continues to dazzle in camp.

He had a 58-yard touchdown run in Friday's practice and tossed a short touchdown pass to Je'Ron Stokes in Saturday's scrimmage. Robinson accounted for two plays of longer than 40 yards on Wednesday, including a 40-yard scoring strike to Greg Mathews.

Smith was asked Sunday if Robinson reminded him of a young Pat White, who thrived in Rich Rodriguez's spread offense at West Virginia.

"I don't want to blow [Robinson] up, but he's fast," Smith said. "It's fun to watch, and if he breaks through, I love Pat to death, but I'm not too sure this kid is faster. They're close."

Robinson's speed has helped him offset the natural struggles that come with learning a new offense as a freshman.

"I get away with a lot," he said. "I'll probably make a mistake and get back on it with my speed."

Robinson didn't really have an explanation for his shoelace habit. Despite the risk of tripping or having a teammate step on his laces, he'll plan to continue the practice.

Though he's making it easier on opposing defenders to make shoe-string tackles, they might not even get a chance.

"I just enjoy running," Robinson said. "When I get the ball, I think about not getting caught. If I'm in front of everybody, I feel I shouldn't be caught. Nobody's caught me from behind [in practice]."

Robinson's speed might be too valuable to keep off the field, even if he's not the starter at quarterback. There are lingering questions about his arm and accuracy, but offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said the freshman can "throw the heck out of the ball."

So he's not totally anti-laces.

"Everybody says I can't throw," he said, "but I'll show you different when you see me start and see us play."