Sunday, January 18, 2009

Michigan's 2009 Offensive Depth Chart

The Michigan Wolverine offense was much maligned in 2008. And for good reason.

Big Ten Statistics:

Scoring Offense: 11th with 20.3 average points per game.

Yards Per Game: 11th with 291 average yards per game, 143 yds/game.

Total Yards Passing: 11th, 1178 yards passing over 12 games, 291 yds/game.

Total Yards Rushing: 7th, 1771 yards rushing over 12 games, 148 yds/game.

Michigan's Big Ten statistics are damning enough, but the offensive numbers nationally are about as comforting as a root canal:

Scoring Offense: 98th out of 120 teams

Yards/Game: 109th

3rd Down Success Rate: 119th (27 % !!!), only godawful Washington State was worse.

Time of Possession: 110th with 27:33 minutes per game (in other words: run, run, pass, punt)

Penalties: 23rd (57 penalities for 500 yards)


That was excruciating to read.

Just about the only thing Michigan's offense was proficient at doing was offensive holding, performing illegal motion, and jump offsides slightly less than 97 other major college football teams during the entire 2008 season. How magical!

So indeed Michigan's offense was not just awful, but one of the nation's worst.

But is there any shred of hope for improvement in 2009, since most of the starters will be back on offense for Michigan?

Here are the 2009 Projected Offensive Starters (though the 2009 Recruiting Class has not fleshed itself out completely):

QB Tate Forcier - 2 Fr. 4 STAR
Steven Threet-10-RS So. 4 STAR
Nick Sheridan-8 So 0 STAR

FB Mark Moundros - 44 Sr. 0 STAR
Kevin Grady-24-Sr 5th 5 STAR

RB/SB Brandon Minor - 4 Sr 4 STAR
Michael Shaw-20 So. 4 STAR
Carlos Brown - 23 Sr. 4 STAR
Jeremy Gallon-? Fr. 3 STAR
Vincent Smith-? Fr. 3 STAR
Teric Jones-? Fr. 3 STAR
Fitzgerald Toussaint-? Fr. 3 STAR
Justin Feagin-3-So 2 STAR

WR Greg Mathews-13-Sr. 3 STAR
Darryl Stonum-22 So. 4 STAR
Cameron Gordon-? Fr. 3 STAR

WR Junior Hemingway-21 So. 4 STAR
Toney Clemons-17 Jr. 4 STAR

WR Martavious Odoms-9 So. 4 STAR
Terrance Robinson-7 RS Fr. 4 STAR

TE Kevin Koger-86 So. 4 STAR

RT Steve Schilling-52 Sr. 5 STAR
Perry Dorrestein-79 Sr. 3 STAR
Patrick Omameh-65 So. 3 STAR
Taylor Lewan-? Fr. 4 STAR
Michael Schofield-? Fr. 3 STAR

RG David Moosman-60 Sr. 5th 4 STAR
Kurt Wermers-64 So. 4 STAR
Ricky Barnum-56 So. 3 STAR

C Dave Molk-50 Jr. 4 STAR

LG Tim McAvoy-62 Sr. 5th 4 STAR
John Ferrara-74 Sr. 3 STAR DE
Elliott Mealer-57 So. 4 STAR
Mark Huyge-72 So. 2 STAR

LT Mark Ortmann-71 Sr. 5th 3 STAR
Dann O'Neal-78 So. 4 STAR
Rocko Koury-63-So. 3 STAR
Anthony Lalota - ? Fr. 4 STAR
William Campbell-? Fr. 5 STAR

Clearly Michigan enters 2009 with a great deal more depth (except at Center), overall talent, and experience than it did just one year before. Even with the losses of TB Sam McGuffie (transferred to Rice), Michigan is now a mile deep with youth, talent and speed at tailback and slotback positions. The Wolverines have considerable speed, wide receiver height and depth on the perimeter as well. The Michigan offensive line will likely only improve in 2009 given it's considerble experience, talent and depth.

But if there is a position on the Michigan offensive team that is still a cause of serious concern, it would have to be quarterback. That concern has more to do with questioning the skill, speed and "play-making talent" required to run the entire spread offense playbook of Rich Rodriguez.

The quarterback is instrumental to any offense in college football, but in order for the full power of the spread option offense to be displayed, the right person must be at the helm.

With Rich Rodriguez's spread offense attack, the quarterback must be able to make fast reads and make big plays - either with the arm, with the feet or with both.

Steven Threet has a strong arm, but lacks throwing accuracy, and was frequently injured (elbow and concussions) in games. In addition, Threet is a slow, long-stride runner. He tends to hesitate in the pocket and accepts unnecessary sacks.

Nick Sheridan is not much quicker than Threet, has below average throwing accuracy and a propensity to throw interceptions. Yet no one on the Michigan roster today knows the offense better than Sheridan.

Third string QB Justin Feagin, as far as anyone knows, can run a QB keeper pretty well, but that's the extent of what we've seen. David Cone remains a highly unlikely 4th option.

Threet and Sheridan alternated as the Wolverine starters all season long, but both struggled immensely making fast, defensive reads and managing this high-tempo, no huddle offense.

And so it is that a great deal of hope has already been pinned on incoming freshman quarterback Tate Forcier from Scripps Ranch High School of San Diego, CA.
Forcier's senior high school statistics:

Rushing: 76 attempts, 771 yards, 10.1 yards per carry, 11 TDs

Passing: 298 attempts, 195 complete, 3,331 yards, 23 TDs, 11 Ints.

Forcier brings all the ingredients that Wolverine head coach Rodriguez is looking for in a quarterback: quick feet, an accurate throwing arm, and the ability to make big plays. Forcier has enrolled early, will participate in winter workouts and can start to study Rodriguez's extensive playbook. He will also be eligible to play in the Michigan Spring Football game April 11th.

It should therefore surprise no one if we were to witness Tate Forcier as the leading candidate entering fall practice to start at QB for Michigan.

While Michigan does return both starting quarterbacks Threet and Sheridan, and young Forcier shows favorable promise, there is still cause of concern on offense.

The spread option offense requires the QB to run the football. He is therefore much more susceptible to injury. Should Forcier, for example, become injured, Threet or Sheridan would likely step in, and the Michigan offense might have to downshift a gear or two (or three!).

Rodriguez really needs two to three talented, dual-threat QBs in order to bring the full weight of the offensive playbook to bear on opponents, and to keep the Wolverine offense running on all cylinders.

Landing a second talented and skilled quarterback, therefore, must be a top priority for Rich Rodriguez's 2009 recruiting class. With 2.5 weeks to go before signing day, Michigan has not yet signed one to replace decommit Shavodrick Beaver.

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