Past forward

Denard Robinson may not fit Coach Brady Hoke's vision for the team, but no one's complaining. Leon Halip/Getty Images

A version of this story appears in the Oct. 31 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

ON OCT. 8 AGAINST NORTHWESTERN, under the lights in Evanston, Ill., the only thing about Denard Robinson that screamed Michigan was the winged helmet. He threw three first-half interceptions, interspersing his errant passes with Katy-bar-the-door runs that have made him essential viewing every Saturday.

Robinson, to be sure, is nothing like Tom Brady, Chad Henne or the other pro-style quarterbacks the Wolverines have machine-pressed and packaged off to the NFL in the past two decades. But for a school that nurtures its traditions more dearly than perhaps any other, a combined record of 15–22 the last three seasons under Rich Rodriguez has made for trying self-analysis -- and a willingness to embrace whatever works.

Enter new coach Brady Hoke. Never mind that the former UM assistant is a disciple of traditional passing offenses. He's fully embraced the six-foot Robinson, the same QB who was the centerpiece of Rich Rod's spread-option scheme.