Michigan eyes quarterback shuffle

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was lounging on the turf when a couple reporters approached, asking for the story behind the fact that he doesn't tie the laces of his cleats.

"I want to know, too," fellow freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint said.

Robinson sighed, rolled his eyes and explained the odd look.

"When I was 7, I started playing little league football and never tied my shoes," Robinson said Sunday. "My coach started calling me 'Shoelace' and that has stuck with me."

Robinson says he only ties the laces of dress shoes when he's going to church.

At a school where football is like a religion, fans will adore Robinson if he helps the Wolverines win football games after they had a school record nine losses last year.

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez says he plans to use Robinson and two other quarterbacks in the season opener Sept. 5 against Western Michigan.

Rodriguez spent about the first 10 minutes of his news conference Sunday answering questions about freshmen Tate Forcier and Robinson, who are competing for snaps along with junior Nick Sheridan, who started four games last year.

Robinson became the story of media day after quarterbacks coach Rod Smith nonchalantly used his nickname.

"I better remind myself, Shoelace and Tate are still true freshmen," Smith said.

Say what?

Smith then chuckled and recalled hearing the nickname for the first time when he was recruiting Robinson at Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High School.

"It's the damnedest thing I've ever seen," Smith said.

Michigan makes Robinson tape his ankles for practice, but doesn't plan to force him to tie up his laces for games.

"Anybody that runs that fast, I'm not going to tell him how to tie his shoes," Smith said.

Robinson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds in high school and starred at the 2008 Florida 4A track and field championships, where he helped his team win the 400 relay and finished third in the 100.

On the football field the past two weeks, Robinson hasn't been slowed down while the tongues of his cleats flop and his laces stick straight out of the holes.

"I don't think the laces hit the ground," he said.

Robinson said superstition will lead him to keeping the unique touch on his 11½ Adidas.

"I've been doing good in practices since I got here," he said. "So I might as well stick with it."

Rodriguez has seen his quarterbacks compete for a couple weeks and yet he isn't ready to say who is even the front-runner in the race.

"If there was, I wouldn't tell you," he said.

Rodriguez insisted the player who takes the first snaps will not necessarily be the No. 1 QB for the rest of the season.

"Maybe we'll have three starting quarterbacks," Rodriguez said. "That would be neat."