OSU's Defense Plans Start With Robinson

Saturday, Ohio State will put its top-ranked defense on the line against the Big Ten's most prolific player: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Find out who will simulate him and how the Buckeyes have monitored Robinson from afar throughout the season.

Standing in the hallway at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Ohio State senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward was being quizzed about the team's upcoming game against Indiana. As he spoke, one of the two flat-screen televisions hung on the walls was showing highlights from Michigan's 42-35 victory against the Hoosiers the week before.

Featured prominently in the clips was U-M quarterback Denard Robinson, who put up 494 yards of total offense and scored the winning touchdown in the contest. His offensive output was the second-best in school history, eclipsed only by the 502-yard effort he put up three weeks prior against Notre Dame.

One reporter, noticing the clips of Robinson on the screen, asked if Heyward had been paying attention to the numbers the sophomore was putting up.

"A little bit," he said. "He's definitely been explosive. He's running up and down the field and no one has been able to stop him. Michigan is having a lot of success this year."

Asked if he was excited to know that he would have a shot at stopping him in the final game of the regular season, Heyward remembered that it was only Oct. 5.

"When we get to that point," he said with a sly smile.

More than seven weeks later, that point has arrived. Saturday, the Big Ten's top-ranked defense will get its chance to stop the conference's best offensive team and individual player.

Something has to give. The Buckeyes are hoping that it is not their defense.

"He does it all, man," OSU senior cornerback Devon Torrence said. "He's a great quarterback and a great athlete. He has a great arm. You've got to conscious of everything with him."

That much is obvious. The first quarterback in NCAA history to both run and throw for more than 1,500 yards in a season, Robinson has been electrifying this season. His average of 342.5 yards of total offense this season is second best in the country and his 3,767 yards of total offense are the most in Michigan history.

Monday, both Heyward and senior safety Jermale Hines said the closest comparison for Robinson is to former West Virginia quarterback Pat White. During his collegiate career, White accumulated 6,051 yards and 56 touchdowns.

"I'd say he's in his own class right now," Heyward said. "He's racking up so many yards every week. Denard is doing some special things right now. I definitely would put him as my Heisman. It's unbelievable what he does on film."

To simulate Robinson in practice, head coach Jim Tressel said the Buckeyes will use a combination of backups Kenneth Guiton and Joe Bauserman along with a mixture of running backs and wide receivers. During Monday's interviews, a number of players said they would use freshman wide receiver Verlon Reed, who was a quarterback in high school and has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"(Reed) could give us a good look as a Denard Robinson-type," senior safety Aaron Gant said.

As a prep cornerback, Robinson was timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash

Regardless of who simulates Robinson in practice, senior OSU defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said the Buckeyes will have to do some adjusting once the game starts.

"We don't have guys like that on the scout team because if they were that good he'd be playing for us on offense," he said with a chuckle. "Maybe just trying to almost in your mind think, ‘this guy is going to be better than this. It's going to be an unbelievable athlete.' We have to make sure we're even more prepared than what we're simulating in practice."

After being evasive earlier in the season, Heyward said he has paid more attention to Robinson as the year has progressed.

"Last year he was more of a Wildcat kind of guy but he matured a lot," Heyward said. "Last year really benefitted him and he grew a lot as a player. He's a great leader on the field."

The Buckeyes did see Robinson last season. During a 21-10 OSU victory, the quarterback completed 2 of 4 passes for 3 yards and picked up 31 yards on 10 carries. It was not enough to give OSU and real preparation for this season, Heyward said.

For the year, he picked up 351 yards on 69 carries and completed 14 of 31 passes for 188 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. Head coach Rich Rodriguez credited Robinson's development to a greater understanding of the playbook.

"We're excited because there's still a ways he's going to grow," the coach said. "He got some experience last year but he would tell you it was by the seat of his pants. He understood some things and now he understands that a whole lot better. He's still got another level he can get to."

Hines said the Buckeyes will not go into the game with expectations of completely shutting Robinson out.

"He's going to get yards," the senior said. "He might get a 15-yard run or a 20-yard run but you've got to hit him. He's still a quarterback. You just try to be as physical as you can. I don't know how big he is but he's not that durable because he's not that big. We've got to hit him and try to be as physical as we can."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories