Robinson's learning a new position
Mobile, Ala. - Denard Robinson's transition to wide receiver includes some new habits and adjustments.
The former quarterback has to get better at running routes and getting separation, but he's not about to start tying his shoes.
During his Michigan career Robinson was known for his speed, long runs and untied shoes. All those traits have been on display heading into Saturday's Senior Bowl - even his position coach has taken to calling him "Shoelaces."
"A couple of offensive linemen in the huddle are like, "Your shoes are untied,"' Robinson said. "I thought he was playing but he was like, "No, seriously, your shoes are untied."'
Robinson insists he's not about to start tying his shoes.
However, everything else about his game is changing.
His future in the NFL won't be as a quarterback, whether he lines up in in the Wildcat position, fields kicks or catches passes. Or all of the above.
Robinson was limited to non-contact the first two days of practice by nerve damage in his right elbow that accelerated his position switch since he finished his college career playing running back and some receiver.
He said receiver is where he wanted to be for the Senior Bowl.
North coach Dennis Allen of the Oakland Raiders said Robinson's explosiveness and ability to run with the ball has been evident on the practice field.
His openness to learning is another positive.
"He has a lot of confidence in his ability but at the same time he understands that he doesn't know everything that he needs to know about playing the wide receiver position," Allen said. "But he's very willing to learn. That's the biggest thing, is guys understanding and being willing to put forth the effort to try to learn the position."
Robinson said North teammates like Baylor's Terrance Williams have helped him along the way. He's also gotten calls from Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, receiver Roy Roundtree and cornerback J.T. Floyd with advice.
Floyd's message, Robinson said: "You've got to be smoother coming out of the breaks."
He said the biggest lessons he has gotten concern how to use his hands to get separation from defensive backs off the line.
"I want to be good already," said Robinson, who is also working as a return man. "I want to be great already, so of course I thought I could be better. I'm always striving to be better."
North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon's early glimpses of Robinson as a receiver were promising, even restricted by the elbow.
"He's a heck of an athlete," Glennon said. "I've seen him on TV plenty of times, and he can really play. Just the way he moves, I'm sure he'll make the transition well."
Robinson's running abilities were on display throughout his college career. His 4,495 rushing yards broke Pat White's NCAA record for quarterbacks.
White stayed put at quarterback during the 2009 Senior Bowl and was named the game's MVP before being drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins. He was cut after one season.
Robinson is hoping his career turns out more like Antwaan Randle El and Green Bay's Randall Cobb, who began his Kentucky career as a quarterback but has thrived as a receiver and return man.
Randle El, then the major college career leader for QB rushing yards, made the switch at the 2002 Senior Bowl and wound up catching 370 passes for 4,467 yards and 15 touchdowns in his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins.
Robinson seems to have maintained a positive attitude about the position move.
"I don't live my life with regrets, he said. "I made this choice and I've got to make the most of it."
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