As I write this, I can hear the Michigan Drumline practicing just a block away in front of Revelli Hall, another sign that football is just around the corner. Despite being less than three weeks away from kicking off against UConn, Michigan still has an unresolved quarterback situation, a phenomenon Wolverine fans have become accustomed to in the Rich Rodriguez era. Today, the focus is on the quarterbacks in the first of my position previews for the 2010 season:
Returning Player Stats:
[table id=111 /]
The Projected Starter: There is still a long way to go before quarterback competition is resolved, but since his outstanding performance in the spring it has become clear that this job is now sophomore Denard Robinson’s to lose. Robinson’s rapid improvement as a passer after completing just 14 of 31 pass attempts in 2009 has allowed him to leapfrog incumbent starter Tate Forcier, but it’s his running ability that has really allowed him to separate himself from the pack. Robinson has the potential to be a Pat White-type weapon if he can prove he is a threat as a passer, and his game-breaking speed makes him the ideal player to run Rich Rodriguez’s zone read offense. He has the potential to be a truly special player, but Michigan fans won’t be completely at ease with “Shoelace” taking first-team snaps until he can show his practice improvements will translate to the big stage. With a full year at Michigan under his belt, I expect Robinson will be a completely different player — and a major contributor — in 2010.
The Competition: Tate Forcier started all 12 games as a true freshman last fall, and despite battling a shoulder injury for much of the season his final numbers compared favorably with other high-profile true freshmen starters. After an inconsistent spring and several missed summer workouts, however, Forcier will have to prove he is dedicated enough to earn the trust of his teammates and improve upon a rocky finish to 2009. Forcier is by far the most polished passer on the roster, but he must take care of the ball better or he will cede his starting job to a player with a higher athletic ceiling — Forcier may be nimble, but his athleticism isn’t in the same league as Robinson’s or freshman Devin Gardner’s. His leadership and mental makeup will be tested heavily this fall, especially if he can’t win the starting job in fall camp, and how he responds will play a big part in how his career plays out in Ann Arbor.
The Dark Horse: Devin Gardner, Rivals.com’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2010, enters his freshman season at Michigan with a boatload of hype after a stellar high school career at nearby Inkster. Although many hoped that Gardner would redshirt this fall to learn the offense and put an extra year of eligibility between himself and the two sophomores, it appears the early enrollee is very much in the mix to earn playing time this year. Gardner has earned praise for his hard work and dedication in the spring and summer, and while his mechanics may still need work, he is a very gifted athlete who also put up great passing numbers at the prep level — if Gardner sees the field this fall, it will be because he is a true dual-threat quarterback. The only thing holding Gardner back may be his age, as the coaching staff may be hesitant to start another freshman in a make-or-break year for the team. The focus has been on Forcier and Robinson, but Gardner may very well have the most talent of any Wolverine quarterback, and he could give the staff no choice but to play him if he can pick up the playbook quickly.
Outlook: With three very viable candidates to start this fall, the competition to see snaps at QB will be fierce, and that should only raise the level of play Michigan gets out of the position in 2010. With a talented and experienced offensive line and a bevy of weapons at the skill positions, whoever starts at quarterback should have no problem putting points on the board. If the team can limit the mental errors that led to an ugly -12 turnover margin in 2009, Michigan should be in very good shape at the position this year and in the future — the only question is who will be the man to lead the team come September. My guess is Robinson, but anything can happen over the next few weeks.