Thursday, August 27, 2009

Michigan’s Quarterback Chimera

So I'm out of it for a little while (Viva Mexico!) and then things start to get interesting with respect to Michigan football!

Jesus, the entire college sports media has their mouths agape at Rich Rodriguez's recent comments about possibly playing three (3) quarterbacks (Nick Sheridan, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson) during the season opening game versus Western Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Rodriguez has never rotated three quarterbacks during his coaching career. Such a tactic has been observed before in Division II and Division III college football, but only intermittently at the Division I level. David Cutcliffe did it at Mississippi. John Jenkins rotated three quarterbacks at Houston in the early 1990s. Bobby Bowden has played multiple quarterbacks at Florida State several times. Rick Neuheisel rotated 3 quarterbacks at Colorado in 1997. Rocky Long tried to rotate 3 quarterbacks with some success at New Mexico in 1999, and later famously stated:

"We were trying to rotate three quarterbacks, and that's way too many to get ready,"

The scariest example I could find of a division I head coach rotating three quarterbacks was at South Carolina in 2007, when Steve Spurrier decided to rotate in Blake Mitchell, Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley at quarterback. This was the same year that the Gamecocks started out 6-1 and then lost their last 5 games in a row!

So yeah, rotating three quarterbacks has been done before. The on-field results reside all along the spectrum between gridiron success and failure.


A.) injuries and/or

B.) inconsistent play of the starting or backup quarterbacks

force this radical coaching decision. Of course injuries are not the case with Michigan's current quarterback situation. Not yet anyway. The fact that Rich Rodriguez would consider rotating three different quarterbacks in the season opening game versus an opponent that has been 7-1 in September, 6-2 over the last 8 road games, including recent road upsets over Big Ten opponents Iowa and Illinois, lead us to one plausible explanation: Michigan’s quarterback play thus far has been inconsistent and not one candidate has stood out far above the others thus far. This is somewhat surprising to me because even though Forcier and Robinson are true freshman and will be making a ton of mistakes, they obviously both possess the total talent package that Rodriguez really needs to run this offense at full throttle: a great arm, elusiveness and foot speed.

It therefore lies within the realm of possibility - however remote - that Nick Sheridan has improved considerably in every phase since the embarrassing defeats last November versus Northwestern and Ohio State. It's also possible that Rodriguez's thick playbook has slowed down the incoming freshman Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson to such an degree that the game-seasoned Sheridan remains a viable option to lead the Wolverine offense. With one full week of practice left to go, one would expect the clouds to be separating and a clear leader to emerge at quarterback. This has not yet happened, but it still could.

Sheridan played a good game against Minnesota last fall, but if we're honest, that was about it. Still, Sheridan has reportedly done well in summer workouts and fall practice so far. Tate Forcier showed a lot of promise in the Michigan Spring game on talent and physical skill alone. During fall practice Denard Robinson has repeatedly improvised his way into the end zone, further what my investigative intuition instructed me all along: "Shoelace" has always had wings on his helmet.

Even if Rodriguez does rotate three quarterbacks this fall, this is not a viable long-term objective. There are some damn good reasons why Robinson and Forcier got the scholarship offers they did last year and why Nick Sheridan did not receive any such offers. Eventually the talent and big play making ability of Forcier and Robinson will be showcased on Saturdays, separate them by the lengths of continents from Nick Sheridan, and make Rodriguez’s decision a whole lot easier.

The term chimera means an impossible or foolish fantasy.

1 comment:

Rasmus said...

I think it's possible that Rich did not intend to generate the hoopla he did when he said it was possible all three would see time in the WMU game because no one had distinguished himself at that point. But since he did, they're now running with it. I predict the starter for the season will be the player who starts the ND game.

Aside from the obvious goal of forcing ND to study film of all three, it seems like this situation could be due to the apparent fact that Robinson has proven to be a more complete player than anybody thought. [Smith said they're adjusting his throwing mechanics, which indicates there's an arm to work with.] Otherwise, I think you'd see Rich designating Forcier the starter now -- today!