The QB Race: Much Ado About Nothing?

Denard Robinson is pushing Tate Forcier for the starting QB job.

Check out any of the local papers today, and you’ll see essentially the same article: Denard Robinson is making a strong push to supplant Tate Forcier as the starting QB. And, to a certain extent, it’s true — Robinson has been getting as many snaps with the first-team offense as Forcier, and Rich Rodriguez always maintains that every position battle is open.

I can’t help but think back to last year, however, and the biggest on-field story heading into the opener against Western Michigan. The coaching staff maintained, right up until kickoff, that three Michigan quarterbacks — Forcier, Robinson, and Nick Sheridan — would all see snaps and get the opportunity to prove themselves as the rightful starter:

“Could be,” Smith said. “That’s something we’re going to have to decide as a staff. I don’t know who’s going to start … or how many will play, but we’re going to have three ready to go. We know that. We’re going to have three ready to play — not ready to play, ready to win with.”

What happened? Well, Tate Forcier, like every fan expected, emerged as the clear starter, with Robinson quickly settling into the role of change-of-pace QB and Sheridan seeing only mop-up duty from that point forward.

This isn’t to say that I don’t think Robinson is a viable candidate to start this season — by all accounts, his understanding of the offense and ability to read defenses has improved mightily, and a quarterback with his athletic ability is very hard to come by. But this is still the guy who was rarely trusted to pass last season, and when he did, the results were rarely pretty: 14-31 with 2 TDs and 4 INTs doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that Robinson is the man to lead the Wolverines on offense.

More than anything, this story makes me worry about Tate Forcier. If Robinson really is pushing Tate for the job, is that a greater reflection on Shoelace’s improvement or Forcier’s lack of? Or, if this is all a motivational ploy on the part of the coaching staff, as many have speculated, why do we need to keep taking first-team snaps — and valuable practice experience — away from our top quarterback in order to bring out the best in him?

Or, maybe, this is just another overblown spring story that will be long forgotten come fall. Personally, I hope — and expect — that this is the case. Unless Robinson has progressed a tremendous amount as a passer, I still believe that Forcier is the best option the Wolverines have at quarterback. We’ll see how this story unfolds, but consider me very skeptical of this “battle” until #16 trots out with the first team against UConn in September.

  1. hank said:

    I agree completely. If there is really a competition, then that means Forcier is playing nothing like the ND Forcier and M is looking at 5 wins, at most.

    I don’t buy that Robinson is ready to start for this team. His passing struggles were obvious last year. But, what really bothered me was that he never ran the option offense. His skill as a runner was simply to….run. No reading of the defense, no misdirection. Just take the snap and run. I don’t care if his passing doesn’t get much better. I don’t really see how it could. But, I will be very disappointed if he plays at all against UConn and there isn’t at least one play when DRob reads the defense correctly and either he or the RB breaks one for 18 yards, 12 of those without being touched.

    • Ace Anbender said:

      Hank, I agree with you that the “competition” means Forcier isn’t playing at 100% of his potential, but I can still see Michigan winning more than five games with a full-blown QB controversy — the team is about a lot more than just one (or even two) quarterback(s), and that team should be improved across the board from last year.

      From all practice accounts, what Robinson has improved at the most is his ability to read defenses and run the offense (especially the zone read, which he didn’t have down last year). My guess is he’ll be much more useful this season if they use him in the same role as last year — his passing should be better than last year (even if that isn’t saying much), and he’ll finally have the full threat of the zone read at his disposal, which should open up running lanes even if he isn’t much of a passing threat.

  2. andrew said:

    That Robinson is pushing Forcier can only be seen as a positive. In case Forcier ever misses time for whatever reason, we’d have a viable backup.

    • Ace Anbender said:

      I’m not saying that Robinson pushing Forcier is not a positive, but I don’t see how anyone can say that it can only be seen as a good thing. There is the very real possibility that Forcier is not progressing as the staff — and fans — had hoped he would, and Robinson may still be a guy who you wouldn’t want out there taking every snap.

      I’ll put it this way: I hope that by the time fall camp opens, Forcier’s shoulder is at full health and he leaves little doubt as to who the best QB is on the team. I think that’s the best-case scenario for us.

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