Troy Woolfolk has proven to be a very interesting character over the past couple years — he even admits to having a split personality named “T-Wolf” — and yesterday, well, one of his personalities decided to keep it very, very real:
“Denard has been out there through the thick and thin and been out there all the time regardless if he’s hurting,” Woolfolk said. “And Tate, he tries to come out, but he’s not as consistent as Denard is. And that’s allowed Denard to jump a little bit ahead of Tate and I think that Tate’s going to have to do a lot of work to catch back up to Denard in camp this year.”
“I personally have a lack of respect for [players who don’t show up to voluntary workouts],” Woolfolk said. “The outlook on them is kind of diseased. Like you don’t want to be hanging around those people because they have bad work ethic. But at the same time, it’s my role to try to persuade them to come out more.”
According to Woolfolk, Forcier hasn’t shown up to as many workouts as he and the other seniors feel he should have, and Woolfolk said it’s hurting his teammates’ perception of their signal caller.
“The only reason he’s not really labeled as diseased is because of the way he was able to carry the team last year before we started losing. People still trust him a little bit, but he’s starting to lose that trust.”
It is worth noting here that Woolfolk later released this statement via his Twitter page (which is protected; quote via Dr. Saturday): “A story was written about me putting Tate in a negative aspect. This was phrased wrongly and is not the truth. I think Tate is a great player.” While I believe Woolfolk was being truthful (and a good teammate) in his retraction, it’s tough to ignore the words that came out of his mouth at media day, especially when those words fall in line with long-standing message board rumblings that Forcier has not been 100% dedicated since the end of last season.
The question stands, then: what should we take out of Woolfolk’s statement, and how concerned should we be about the quarterback situation? First, the good news we can take out of this:
- Although most of the fallout from Woolfolk’s quotes center around Forcier, this does reflect very well upon Denard Robinson. We all got to see the huge strides Shoelace has made since last season during his stellar performance in the spring game, and it is clear that he is doing everything within his power to win the starting job and be the best player he can be for Michigan. That effort is not lost on his teammates, and the sophomore has now carved out a leadership role that a good team needs from their field general. Just check out this quote from senior guard Stephen Schilling: “He’s definitely taken on some leadership,” fifth-year senior offensive lineman Steve Schilling said. “He’s there every day working hard. He’s been a guy that doesn’t complain. He makes you want to play for him, and he has those qualities to be a special leader and a special quarterback.” That’s a great sign for not just Robinson, but the whole team.
- Woolfolk’s Twitter retraction aside, there’s no way that these words escaped the ear of Tate Forcier, and the good news is it’s not too late for Forcier to take them to heart and do his best to regain his teammates’ trust (as well as improve as a player) — remember, he’s still only a sophomore. If anything can light a fire under a player, it’s getting publicly called out by a teammate, and how Forcier reacts to this situation will tell us a lot about his ability to lead a team. If he starts putting in the same effort as Robinson and earns his way back onto the field, we will probably be able to look back on this as a turning point in Forcier’s career.
- I love seeing this type of brutal honesty from a senior leader. Yes, Woolfolk probably went further than he intended while on the record, but he is speaking from the best interests of the team. If the coaching staff is having difficultly reaching Forcier and getting him on the practice field and in the film room, it’s up to his teammates to see if they can provide some motivation. Woolfolk stepped up here, and it’s great to see a senior on a young defense willing to take on a leadership role, especially now that Brandon Graham is in the NFL.
The bad news? No need for bullet points for that: in a year where the program is in “win-or-bust” mode, and with a full-blown quarterback competition on our hands, it is very disconcerting to hear that the returning starter at the most important position on the field is skipping workouts and losing the trust of his team. There’s no way to sugar-coat the situation — even if Robinson was going to win the starting job regardless of Forcier’s practice efforts (and I’m not saying that’s necessarily true), Forcier would still potentially be one injury or poor performance away from seeing the field, and when he’s on the field Michigan needs him to be as prepared as possible. Skipping summer workouts and losing the trust of the team isn’t going to get that done.
I doubt we’ll hear Forcier (or anyone else on the team) directly address Woolfolk’s quotes, but come fall we’ll have a pretty good idea about who put in the work necessary to lead this team on offense. Judging from what Woolfolk said, we may already have the answer.