Monday, August 24, 2009

Three's a crowd

Depending on how you want to interpret Rich Rodriguez's quote from Michigan's media day, when he said "maybe we'll have three starting quarterbacks," you could come to the conclusion that there isn't really a favorite for the starting QB job.

That would be false. It's been clear since early in spring practice that Tate Forcier is the front-runner, and anyone else taking the first snap against Western Michigan would be a major surprise. Redshirt junior Nick Sheridan has a slight edge in experience, but almost every report from practice has said that of the three quarterbacks (Forcier, Sheridan and Denard Robinson), Forcier has been the most impressive, both physically and in terms of running the offense.

The obvious question is why all three would play when one appears to be the most talented AND the most game-ready, and it's a legitimate question. Personally, I'd start Forcier, give him every opportunity to show what he can do and hope for the best. Rodriguez apparently won't be doing that, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he hasn't settled on a QB. What it means is that he's getting snaps for all of them, and he's doing it as insurance in the event that one of the following two scenarios comes to fruition:
  • Forcier gets injured (this isn't entirely unlikely for a spindly, 160-pound freshman)
  • Forcier struggles and the coaching staff decides that he needs a little time on the sidelines
Realistically, the chances of Forcier starting all 12 games this season are probably less than 50/50, just because of the possibilities mentioned above. And with that in mind, I understand what RichRod is doing: It makes sense to have your secondary options prepared.

My guess is that Sheridan and Robinson each get about one series per half, with Forcier taking the large majority of the snaps. And if Michigan is trailing in the fourth quarter, I'd be absolutely stunned if Forcier isn't on the field -- he's by far the best passer in the group.

If Forcier does live up to expectations, expect Sheridan's playing time to decrease quickly. It was clear last season that he simply doesn't have Division I talent (which isn't surprising for a walk-on), and when you have two talented freshmen on the sidelines who need to gain experience ASAP, there's no real upside to having Sheridan on the field.

Robinson, though, will probably continue to be a significant part of the offense. The guy has unreal speed (despite not tying his shoes, which is pretty bizarre), and when the quarterbacks coach is comparing him to Pat White, that tells you all you need to know. The extent of his playing time probably depends somewhat on Forcier's production ... although you could probably say the same thing about a lot of questions surrounding Michigan's offense.

If Forcier is as efficient, smart and athletic as promised, he'll likely relegate Sheridan to the bench and Robinson to a change-of-pace role that involves a lot of zone-read option plays.

If Forcier struggles ... well, then I guess I'll be glad that Rodriguez got the other guys some meaningful snaps.

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