Michigan's QB Situation

Okay, deep breath.

There is a crazy ton of posts and news out there about Michigan's media day and what it all means. Rodriguez, the QB situation, Denard Robinson's shoes, reporters illegible handwriting, etc...

So where are we right now and what does it all mean?

By the way, props to MVictors for some great coverage from press day. Nice work.

We don't have such great access to the program here at MBN, we get the news the same way you do. But that surely doesn't stop us from posting our thoughts. For this post, we'll dive into the QB situation, since that seems to be the topic of choice these days.

                          Photo courtesy of MVictors (obviously)

MVictor's priceless caption of this photo:
Rodriguez surely wants the command of the system like #8, the arm and confidence of #5, the feet of #16 and the mad rapping skills of #17, the smile of #20.
Rodriguez was emphatic that Sheridan, Forcier and Robinson would all get a shot at the starting gig. All three have traits that he likes. No one has pulled away from the pack in terms of overall ability to lead this offense. It might be week 3 or 4 before we know who will be the leader of this team. Or not.

Let's look at each potential starting QB, and their pros and cons. We'll go by class (college class, not how fancy they are).

#8 Nick Sheridan

Height: 6-1
Weight: 212
Class: Jr./So.
Hometown: Saline, MI

Starter in 4 games in 2008, he's the only QB of the bunch that has seen actual game time.  He completed 63-of-137 passes for 613 yards and two touchdowns last season seeing action in 8 of Michigan's 12 contests.

According to Rodriguez, Nick's biggest asset is his ability to run pretty much the entire playbook right now. He's a second year QB in the Rodriguez system, which usually means the kid can move. Against Minnesota last year, he actually looked like a spread-style QB. He moved well with the ball, made plays when he had to, and delivered the ball with precision to open receivers. It was a small breath of fresh air to Michigan fans drowning in a season of hopelessness.

Rodriguez has stated that Nick has shown some great development since coming back from a leg injury that kept him out of spring ball.

As a first year starter, Nick showed that he wasn't quite ready to handle the spread very effectively. Freshman QB transfer Steven Threet stepped in a got most of the snaps  in 2008. This could be a case of just learning the system a little slower that Threet did.

When Sheridan made mistakes in 2008, it didn't seem like it was a lack of overall throwing/running ability, but just not grasping the concept of managing a game and running an offense that he wasn't fully aware of. To his credit, most of the offensive skill players really didn't grasp the concept of the spread/option either...which can only make a QB look worse.

#5 Tate Forcier

Height: 6-1
Weight: 188
Class: Fr./Fr.
Hometown: San Diego, CA

A product of a high school which ran a spread/option similar to that of Michigan's, Tate Forcier is a QB groomed to be in this system. In high school he completed 529-of-760 passes (69.6 pct.) for 7,448 yards and 61 touchdowns in his career. He also rushed the ball 231 times for 2,049 yards and scored 24 TDs.

He's the younger brother of former Michigan backup QB Jason Forcier, and Chris Forcier, player at UCLA. He was a 4-star prospect according to both Rivals and Scout recruiting sites. And the 14th best QB in the nation according to Scout.

Tate enrolled back in January, and since Nick Sheridan suffered a broken leg early this spring, Tate received pretty much the bulk of snaps with the first squad in spring camp. He's had time to work with the other members of the offense/coaches to learn the system better, and has had plenty of time to be molded by Barwis in the weight room.

He's a freshman. He has yet to take a meaningful snap in a game. Sure he got to see a half-full Big House in the spring game, but he was wearing a red jersey and was never touched by the defense.

Aside from what anyone tells you, there is no substitute for actual game action. Rodriguez knows that, so he's being careful not to just hand him the starting gig on a silver platter. Sure I think Tate has a modest leg up on the other two, but at this point...there's no way to be sure until the ball is snapped on September 5th.

#16 Denard Robinson

Height: 6-0
Weight: 185
Class: Fr./Fr.
Hometown: Deerfield Beach, FL

Aside from a great smile, the kid can run. He clocked a 40-time of 4.32 seconds. He can bench 315, squat 400. In high school he completed 262-of-576 attempts for 4,784 yards and 44 touchdowns as a three-year starter at quarterback. He also carried 217 times for 1,132 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was a 4-star recruit rated by Rivals and Scout. Listed as an "athlete" rather than a QB, he was the #14 overall athlete according to Rivals, and #8 athlete according to Scout.

He's also the closest think to Pat White Michigan has. And that's a huge plus for Robinson. Free Press sportswriter Michael Rosenberg, love him (anyone?) or hate him, really thinks that Robinson could be the one to watch this fall. And I would have to agree. He's the wild-card. But a wild-card with a huge upshot...one that Michigan, at least the new-and-improved spread/option Michigan, desperately needs.

Really the biggest and only con that I can think of for Denard Robinson is that he's so fresh with the system. Not only a freshman, but he enrolled over the summer. A full 7 months after Tate Forcier got to campus. But in a way, that could end up being a plus. Denard didn't have the spotlight on him in the spring game the way that Forcier did. He's a relatively unknown for almost all Michigan fans...and Michigan opponents.

But freshman QBs can and will make mistakes. Its just a fact of life. But if Denard can enter a game for a few series, and provide a different look for the defense and keep them guessing while he flies by them with his foot speed, then he will be much more of an asset for this offense than if he were the starter by himself.

Overall Thoughts:
What Sheridan has in experience, Forcier has in balanced running/throwing ability, Robinson has in explosiveness. Or, at least that's what it seems from the outside. According to QB coach Rod Smith, not so much.
"I wouldn't label any of them with that," he said. "Tate probably comes from more of a passing background. He might be a little bit more refined technique-wise. But to say one kid can run and one kid can throw, I'll tell you what: Both kids can run, and both of them can throw."
From a Michigan fan's perspective, this is probably the best situation we could have asked for. We went from having two mediocre QB's in '08, to having three legitimate QB contenders in '09. All three express very different, but very valuable assets.

My certainty is that no one will be named the only starter by 9/5. Tate will likely start the game, but all three will play...maybe even equally. But hopefully by the start of Big Ten play, we will have knocked our rotation down to at least 2 guys. If Forcier can show he can manage the offense, he will likely be the man. But I expect...and somehow hope that Robinson steps up to be the playmaker he is advertised as. For Sheridan, a role of mentor and QB player/coach would be a nice position for him to step into. A competent backup with a full grasp of the offense is a great role for Sheridan to play.


  1. I agree, however, somehow I believe that Sheridan may start the first game or so, and will be relieved by Forcier after the first or second possession.

    Why? Because I think that RR wants to make sure that the big game jitters won't have Tate turn the ball over too early, causing the team to come from behind. Nick has been there before, and after the butterflys settle down, then Tate can step in.

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