Live From Arlington: NFL Draft Thoughts from Alabama vs Michigan

Denard Robinson— Let me first state that I carry the opinion that Robinson is a NFL running back, not a quarterback or wide receiver. After this game, I’m convinced Denard Robinson isn’t even a college quarterback. Throwing mechanics and intangibles of the QB position are not even up to par for some JV high schoolers I’ve seen here in Texas; rarely sets his feet or squares to his target, falls off his throws with a follow-through that comes both in and down too far and too quickly. Consistently stared down his target and led the defense right to the play. Doesn’t have the arm strength or precision with ball placement to beat good coverage. Had several throws where his receiver was open for a good throw and he missed it every single time save one long throw that wound up setting up 1st and goal from the 1. As a runner it was not his best night. It appeared there were no designed runs until the second half as Michigan was trying to loosen up the defense by establishing the pass, which failed miserably. Showed some inherent slipperiness but appeared to not have the instant acceleration that thrust him to prominence. More slightly built in person than he looks on film, and he doesn’t run with any sort of power at all, it’s all lateral bobbing and weaving. Very disappointing night, although to his credit his line was porous and the play calling did him no favors.

Taylor Lewan– Some have hailed the big left tackle as a potential top 10 pick next April but Lewan didn’t show it here. On several plays where I focused on him I saw him lunging out and getting too high with his punch in trying to get to a target that moved too quick for him. He was generally effective at sealing a seam but didn’t get much push on stretch runs, almost every one of which Alabama quickly snuffed out. Saw at least three pass protect situations where he wound up on the ground (one was the 1st INT). Not sure he gave up any sacks but he did get beat on a nice inside rip move once in the second quarter. Lewan did play better in the second half, made a couple of nice drive blocks and showed he could quickly slide outside in pass protect while keeping knees bent and hips square. Had an indignant argument with a coach during a timeout where he was demonstrating moving to his right; I wish I knew the exchange and its context better. Left the field in the 4th with an apparent knee injury on a play that encapsulated his night: on a run to the right, his initial target (RDE) beat him inside and as Lewan chased across he clipped his foot and crumpled into the ground. Threw his helmet off in obvious pain and frustration, and his replacement got beat for a sack on the next play without even touching the pass rusher.

Jordan Kovacs– The best summary of the try-had Michigan safety goes to my 7-year old son, who asked me just before halftime “Why is #32 the only Michigan player that knows how to tackle?” He’s physical and tough, often wound up having to take on lead blockers because the linebackers were too easily overrun. Looked better seeing the play and closing than anticipating. Well-built athlete, looks and plays bigger than he’s listed. Obviously well coached early about tackling form, drives the shoulder thru the belly button and keeps his feet churning and head up whenever he can. Made one nice play outside in coverage in the 3rd quarter. Reminds me some of Harrison Smith, another safety that too often was asked to do too much against good teams.

Ancillary observations:

-Neutral site games are always fun as there is no overwhelming fan support for one side. I’ve now seen Michigan in person in all situations (home, away, neutral) and Alabama on the road and neutral. Michigan fans are louder pregame, both in the tailgating areas and when the teams enter the field. Bama fans are much louder during the game, though to be fair there wasn’t much for Michigan to cheer.

-In the hotel during game day, most Michigan fans were crowded into rooms with doors cracked open and drinking beer in small groups. The breakfast area of the Holiday Inn Express was filled with Bama fans drinking cocktails, almost like a social society where the code words “Roll Tide” immediately got you into the cool part of the club. There is a palpable easygoing confidence to Bama fans that I find very charming as someone living in Texas and A&M country with zero rooting interest in either team. With Michigan fans, it felt like they could sniff out that I wasn’t really with them. As a disclaimer I am a proud Ohio University grad and grew up worshipping Ohio State football. But my wife and her family are huge Michigan boosters and I lived in Michigan for nearly a decade, sufficiently eroding my hatred of all things Wolverine. Somehow it felt like they still knew my Go Blue hat was just a prop and held it over me, whereas Bama fans were just happy to talk some football and share a drink and a story.

-Every football fan must visit Cowboys Stadium at some point in his/her life. This was my second time but my first sitting in the stands (I saw Texas A&M/Arkansas in the press box). It’s an electric and incredibly fan-friendly atmosphere. The scoreboard is truly amazing. I’m 6’5” and I comfortably fit in my seat and down the aisles. The standing room areas are an excellent concept and they are well policed. There are several interesting pieces of art and memorabilia throughout. Two minor complaints: all the sounds from the halftime bands went straight up and were essentially inaudible in the end zone, and if you have any cell phone that isn’t AT&T, it isn’t going to work for either phone or data, period.

For more notes, check out James Christensen’s breakdown of the draft prospects as well.

You can find more from Jeff Risdon on Twitter, at or at or upcoming joint venture, – coming in late 2012.

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