Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 3/22/12
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Denard Robinson has spent the last couple months enjoying every moment of his college experience. This week he goes back from student-athlete to athlete-student. After a winter when he met President Obama and showed up at dozens of Michigan sporting events, Robinson and his teammates are back at Schembechler Hall for spring practice. As a senior and coming off a Bowl Championship Series victory in the Sugar Bowl, he knows the expectations are high. "People expect a lot of us, but we expect even more from ourselves," he said Thursday. "Our first goal is simple -- we want to win the Big Ten title. Once we do that, we'll see what happens." While fans and pundits were trying to decide if Robinson could lead the Wolverines to a national title, he was trying to focus on life as a college student. "I really had a great time just being a student again," he said. "Time really flies when you are in college, and it is hard to believe that I'm going to be a senior this year." Robinson said the best part of the time off was the chance to support his fellow Michigan athletes. He said he just wanted to be one of the crowd, even when TV cameras made that nearly impossible. "I was having so much fun being part of the Maize Rage at basketball games, and sitting with the rest of the students at hockey games," he said. "I've even been going to the track to see the girls run. If there was a game that I could fit into my schedule, I was going to be there." Heading into his final season has also changed Robinson on the field. Instead of the overly quiet player his teammates have gotten used to, he has worked hard to become a vocal leader on the field. "I'm not a natural talker, but I know that it something I have to do," he said. "In these four days of practice, I've been patting guys on the back when they make good plays and making sure everyone knows what they are doing right." It isn't always that easy. "There are times that I've had to get up in guys' faces," he said. "I can't always have a smile on my face any more." Michigan coach Brady Hoke and top receiver Roy Roundtree have both noticed the chance. "Denard has definitely stepped up as a vocal leader in these four practices," said Hoke, who led Michigan to an 11-2 (6-2 Big Ten) record in his first season. "I know it is something he's worked very hard to do." Roundtree, who joined Robinson at many Michigan basketball games, joked that the biggest difference has been in the huddle. "We've finally gotten him to be assertive enough that we can understand his play calls in the huddle," Roundtree said. "That's been a big help." More important, of course, Robinson has been working on his passing skills. He completed 142 of 258 passes for 2,173 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. "I had 15 interceptions last season, and that's just unacceptable for a quarterback," said Robinson, who also ran for 1,176 yards and 16 touchdowns on 221 attempts last season. "I need to make plays without making mistakes." Again, Hoke has been encouraged after a few workouts. "I haven't looked at today's tape yet, but through yesterday, there has been a noticeable improvement in his game," he said. "Not only does he look more accurate, he looks more decisive. That's important for him and for the team." Roundtree, who has been busy working to replace Junior Hemingway as Michigan's top receiver, also sees more out of Robinson. "He's showing us something new every day," Roundtree said. "He's more comfortable, and he looks more fluent in the offense. That's big." Will it be big enough to lead Michigan to their first national title since 1997? No one will know until the Wolverines face live competition this fall. So far, things look good.
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