Alabama's D anxious to meet Robinson

Damion Square is anxious to meet Denard Robinson

Alabama's defense must: make good decisions, push the pocket, avoid reaching, stay on their feet and keep shifty Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson contained. Otherwise, as Nick Saban said, "This guy will ball fake you like Michael Jordan and take off running and you'll say, ‘Well how did that happen?'"

Damion Square has been looking forward to meeting Denard Robinson. In fact, he's already planned out how their first interaction should go.

"Bootleg, sack, first play, 13-yard loss," he said, smiling.

Everyone knows Robinson. The small (6-0, 197), slippery, fourth-year Michigan quarterback who's a Heisman contender and said earlier this summer he could beat Usain Bolt in a 40-yard dash.

Even though opposing defenses know he's shifty, that doesn't mean he's easily caught and crushed. The Crimson Tide defense has a tall order to contain him in the season opener Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said his team probably hasn't seen "as significant a player" since facing Cam Newton in 2010 in terms of an offense being built around and featuring him as a player.

"They have lots of good players, but he's that guy," Saban said. "Whether it's a zone-read play or a quarterback power, or pass play, he makes a lot of significant plays in the game that impact the game by what he does.

"Extremely fast. He does a good job of executing their offense. He's become a better and better passer each game, each year. I think that's a big key."

Last season, Robinson threw for 2,173 yards, led his team by rushing for 1,176, and scored a combined 36 touchdowns. He's a dual-threat quarterback that beats you throwing the ball or on the run.

Saban said the area he's seen Robinson improve most is in his accuracy as a pocket passer.

"He extends the plays and makes big plays throwing it," Saban said. "He doesn't just take off and run like some guys do. He extends the play, keeps his eyes down the field. He's made a lot of big plays doing that."

Saban has preached the importance of decision-making when facing a guy like this. He'll continue to warn his players until Saturday night is over that they better push the pocket, not lose containment and stay on their feet. Otherwise, "This guy will ball fake you like Michael Jordan and take off running and you'll say, ‘Well how did that happen?'" he said.

Square said it is hard not to bite on the pass fake.

"It's tempting when a guy's right in front of you and he pulls the ball and your first instinct is to come up off your feet," he said. "But you have to understand who you're playing. That comes with preparing, understanding the guy under center this week. Some guys you can rush the passer relentlessly, and some guys you can't because they will create problems with the rush lanes and things like that. So you have to stay content with the rush, you have to have communication up front, understanding what the guys are doing on the other side to keep the pocket contained, things like that. It's just game planning against a guy that is electrifying with his feet."

Blake Sims has been acting as Robinson on scout team this week. Linebacker Nico Johnson said he's given the defense a good picture of what they'll see on Saturday.

"That's what's going to help us out in the game," Johnson said.

Johnson said he hasn't been seeing Robinson in his sleep, but he does think about him all the time, how to get him rattled.

"Our defense, it's an NFL-style defense," he said. "It's difficult for us, so I know it's difficult for a quarterback to pay attention to all the little things of detail. We're going to try to make him feel less comfortable."

Because Robinson is so crafty, it's hard to get a big shot on him. So Square said when he gets his chance, he's not holding anything back.

"No doubt," he said. "Anytime I get my hands on the quarterback I'm trying to make it as ugly as possible. That's just what I do as a D-lineman. You don't get to touch those guys often. Anytime I come off the ball and I put 100 percent effort into pass-rushing, I get my hands on him I'm going to try and make him remember it."

Sounds like a nice way to introduce yourself.


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