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Robinson is much more mature as a passer. The player known as “Shoelace” because he doesn’t tie the laces on his cleats showed he was fast enough to make plays with his feet as a freshman last season, but couldn’t prove he was polished enough to beat teams with his arm.

Now, he can throw.

“Denard has worked on his passing extremely hard,” quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said.

Robinson has also gained 15 pounds of muscle since last season. He insisted his dreadlocks, which haven’t been cut since he was a sophomore in high school, that flow out of the back of his helmet won’t give defenders something to grab when they’re trying to tackle him.

“They’ve got to catch me first,” he said with a smile.

While it seems unlikely a true freshman will start at QB for the second straight year _ ahead of two talented and experienced options _ Gardner says he has a shot to take the first snap on Sept. 4 against Connecticut.

“I think it’s pretty equal,” he said. “The competition is making them better and me better.”