TAMPA, Fla. — Michigan coach Brady Hoke was in no mood for sharing Saturday when he met with media and fielded the expected questions about senior quarterback Denard Robinson’s role in Tuesday’s Outback Bowl against South Carolina.
Robinson hasn’t thrown a pass in the past four games, because of an injured throwing elbow. He didn’t play at all in the first two of those games, and strictly ran the ball or lined up at wide receiver in the next two games.
Hoke did say Robinson has been “throwing the ball well” during practice. But Hoke didn’t shed any light on how much Robinson might throw against USC, or what duties Robinson could have.
“He could do about anything,” Hoke said. “He doesn’t punt real well.”
Yet Hoke said Robinson, known for his versatility, has been practicing some on kick returns and could be used in that capacity. Robinson has never returned a punt or kickoff in his career, but he is one of college football’s shiftiest players.
USC’s defense is preparing the possibility of facing both Robinson and junior Devin Gardner at quarterback, said Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier.
Sticking with QB plan
Spurrier again said Saturday that he will start his regular No. 1 QB, Connor Shaw, against Michigan, but plans to get Dylan Thompson into the game at some point in the first half.
Spurrier said Shaw’s sprained left foot, which sidelined him for the regular season finale at Clemson, is “100 percent well.” But, Spurrier said, “We just feel like (Thompson) deserves a chance to play also.” Thompson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns against Clemson’s suspect secondary.
Michigan is thin at cornerback. Blake Countess suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener against Alabama, so Raymon Taylor took over. The other starting corner since the beginning of the season, J.T. Floyd, was suspended for the bowl game for breaking an unspecified team rule. So reserve Courtney Avery must step in.
Spurrier isn’t sure how his QB rotation will work, but he knows the setup he prefers.
“I don’t know which quarterback will play most of the game,” Spurrier said. “I hope it doesn’t turn into one of these where you messed up, he goes in, and he messed up, and you go back in. We plan on one guy playing most of the game.”
Who that is remains to be seen.
This and that
Many offenses tried to double-team USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney this season, but Hoke has one of the nation’s best offensive tackles, Taylor Lewan, and the coach indicated that the Wolverines might not double-team Clowney. “I think anybody can be blocked one-on-one,” Hoke said. “How long you block him is what the key is.”
USC running backs coach Everette Sands said Shon Carson, his No. 3 tailback for the bowl, is 100 percent with his conditioning. He has not played all season because of a wrist injury. As a true freshman in 2011, he played in two games and carried three times before suffering a season-ending knee injury. “When, how many plays, all that — I don’t know exactly,” Sands said of Carson’s role against Michigan. “But we’re definitely planning on playing him.”
USC offensive line coach Shawn Elliott has been pleased with his group’s performance in the past four games, all wins. It comes as no coincidence that USC used the same starters in all four games: left tackle Corey Robinson, left guard A.J. Cann, center T.J. Johnson, right guard Ronald Patrick and right tackle Brandon Shell (Goose Creek High).
Elliott had to shuffle his tackles in the first four games because of injuries and spotty play. For the three after that, he went with the starting lineup that he used in the regular season’s final four games. Other than the Florida game, when Elliott changed his left side starters, the current starting five has started seven of the past eight games.
“Different guys playing beside one another causes concern,” Elliott said. “Now that we’ve had a four-game stretch where they’re all pretty much the same guys in there at one time, we’re feeling pretty confident.”