It’s really tough to know how to treat Tate Forcier going into this season: he’s a freshman, yes, but an early-enrollee surrounded by an offense with a year of the spread under their belt. You could argue that, with the experience he gained in spring, he will produce more like a sophomore than a freshman. The argument, of course, could also be made that anyone who thinks the above is an idiot, and freshmen are freshmen until they have a year of on-field experience. I’m going to look at both views, and see how quarterbacks did under Rich Rodriguez in both their first and second years playing in his offense, starting with his tenure as Tulane’s offensive coordinator from 1997-1998. I realize this is treating some upperclassmen quarterbacks as freshman and sophomores, but we’ve seen how big the adjustment can be for a quarterback to adapt to the spread, regardless of their talents. Since Tate Forcier is a true dual-threat QB, and Rodriguez had one year at Michigan without one, I’ll be taking a look at Rodriguez’s dual-threat QBs only. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
TULANE (OC 1997-1998):
Shaun King, Jr., 1997 (Year One) — 199/363 (54.8%) for 2577 yards and 24 TD vs. 14 INT. 124 carries for 511 yards and 5 TD.
Shaun King, Sr., 1998 (Year Two) — 244/364 (67.0%) for 3495 yards and 38 TD vs. 6 INT. 156 carries for 633 yards and 11 TD.
CLEMSON (OC 1999-2000): Note: Dantzler and Brandon Streeter split time in 1999, and Dantzler spent much of 2000 injured, so the stats are somewhat low for a full season. However, Streeter was a senior in 1999 who rushed for all of 37 yards, so his numbers don’t help much here.
Woody Dantzler, So., 1999 (Year One) — 112/201 (55.7%) for 1506 yards and 9 TD vs. 6 INT. 146 carries for 588 yards and 4 TD.
Woody Dantzler, Jr., 2000 (Year Two) — 122/212 (57.5%) for 1691 yards and 10 TD vs. 6 INT. 172 carries for 947 yards and 13 TD.
WEST VIRGINIA (HC 2001-2007): Note: Rasheed Marshall played sparingly in 2001, but didn’t take over full-time until 2002. Brad Lewis started for most of the 2001 season, and was not a dual-threat quarterback. West Virginia went 3-8. Sound familiar?
Rasheed Marshall, So., 2002 (Year Two of Rodriguez) — 139/259 (53.7%) for 1616 yards and 9 TD vs. 5 INT. 173 carries for 666 yards and 13 TD.
Rasheed Marshall, Jr., 2003 (Year Three) — 109/215 (50.7%) for 1729 yards and 15 TD vs. 8 INT. 101 carries for 303 yards and 4 TD.
Of the three quarterbacks listed above, I think Forcier is most similar to King. King was a pass-first dual-threat, even though he put up very solid rushing numbers, while Dantzler and Marshall tended towards athletes playing quarterback (especially early on in their careers).
Personally, I’d be happy with numbers similar to King’s junior year … the completion percentage isn’t flashy, but he threw for a decent chunk of yardage through the air, was a threat on the ground, and was able to pass for ten more touchdowns than interceptions. That’s a great season for a true freshman if Forcier were to put up that stat line, and I’ll be keeping my expectations even lower than that. However, Forcier has an advantage King did not: the rest of the offense has one year of experience in Rodriguez’s offense, and the entire offense (except, of course, the quarterback) returns to provide a solid supporting cast. This is a situation where I truly can’t tell whether I’m selling Forcier short or giving him too much credit. We’ll just have to find out come fall.