QB "freshman mistakes"

Submitted by El Jeffe on April 21st, 2009 at 1:18 PM

In many of the exchanges about the extent to which Tate will see action this year (barring injury) vs. Denard or some version of Tatenard Robier, posters have, usually when advocating for Tate more or less exclusively, included qualifiers on the order of, "of course, he'll make freshman mistakes, but…"

So, a two-parter:

1. What sorts of freshman mistakes do you see Tate (or Denard for that matter) being especially prone to?

and, perhaps more interestingly:

2. Which freshman mistakes are mitigated by the Spread n' Shred and which are accentuated, by which I mean both "made less/more likely to happen" and "resulting in less serious/more serious damage"?

I'll start:

1. The obvious one, for either of them really, is to try to make too much out of a busted play, resulting either in a 15-yard sack or an ill-advised heave across the body to the center of the field, when eating it for a 5-yard loss would have been the better part of valor.

2. I'm less sure of this, but it seems to me that the SnS relies more on pre-snap reads and quick ball distribution to a primary target, thereby reducing the likelihood that a green QB will progress faultily through post-snap reads and miss a free safety or a middle linebacker or something. Therefore, there ought to be fewer "freshman mistakes" of that sort than there would be in some version of a pro-style offense. OTOH, the reading of the backside DE can cause problems.

I would love to get the MGoCoaches' perspectives on this especially. Bonus points for people who have reliable memories of, say, Pat White's or Colt McCoy's freshman year (did he play his freshman year?).


West Texas Blue

April 21st, 2009 at 1:34 PM ^

McCoy and White both redshirted their freshman year, which helped immensely in them adapting to speed of college game, learning playbook, and going through S&C program. Enrolling in the spring has helped Forcier; he was overwhelmed initially but now is starting to adapt, though he has a while to go. Watch videos between the first spring practice and the spring game, and you'll see the progression Forcier has made.

Yeah, I'd pretty much say Forcier and Robinson, both whom are dual-threat, will try to make plays when they should instead take a minimal gain/loss and then proceed to turnover the ball or lose alot of yards.

We use alot of bubble screens, so those short passes will be better for the freshmen QBs. Asking them to throw over the middle of the field is asking for trouble. Our Spread N' Shred will keep many passes manageable, with some vertical elements sprinkled in here and there.

Maize and Blue…

April 21st, 2009 at 2:04 PM ^

There are "probably" going to be some ill advised passes like like the one Tate threw in spring game right at a dropping LB. It wasn't intercepted, but should have been. We should be able to live with a few as long as they don't result in a pick 6, cause a short field, or take points off the board.
Pat White really didn't pass much his freshmen year- 57% for 868 yards with 8 TDs and 5 INTs. McCoy was redshirted as a freshmen and then completed 68% of his passes for 2570 yards with 29 TDs against 7 INTs as a RS freshmen.
I think everyone is goiing to be a bit surprised by the play calling this year. This isn't going to be the WVU version of the spread nor the Tulane version which lead the nation in passing w/ RichRod as O coordinator. I think you will see a balance attacked with the field being stretched vertically far more than last year.


April 21st, 2009 at 2:19 PM ^

I think a lot of the play calling will depend on how the Oline performs at the start of the season. If brown and minor are getting a lot of open lanes, i woodnt be suprised to see a very run heavy offense. But we will certainly get our fair share of screens now that we have a qb that can throw them consistently. i do hope that we can throw in a deep pass completion every now and again just to keep the safeties from jumpping the run. am i the only one who gets a hard on for the play-action? Even if it fails it keeps the safeties honest


April 21st, 2009 at 6:00 PM ^

I know someone already posted a similar article but I need to get this off my chest. Looking at Tate so far, I think he is a player that will have an excellent freshmen year. I think he could be better then Henne his freshmen year. Just think about it, TATE IS COCKY. He has a swagger about him that just shows he knows what he is doing. And considering Minor, Brown, Grady and Shaw will all be healthy, our run game should own. Plus we will have Tate keeping it on options and he has the speed to take it the distance. All this will open up the pass, and our WRs and TEs are looking fantastic this year. We have a lot of depth on offense. I think Tate is special. He doesn't seem like a freshmen in practice and he has a VERY accurate arm. To me, he is the perfect package. I think Michigan fans are in for something special this year.

Note: Now I know that he will make mistakes, as do all QBs but I don't think he will have very many "freshmen mistakes". I think people are doubting Tate too much. My predictions are that Tate leaves Michigan the all time leading passer and will become a great NFL QB. Kinda life Jeff Garcia.

PS: Go ahead and bash me all you want because I have my own opinion.


April 21st, 2009 at 6:41 PM ^

Freshman Mistakes:
1. throwing into coverage
2. trying to do too much on his own
3. Too jumpy from a pass rush (ND will test him early)
4. Letting a previous mistake influence the next play


April 21st, 2009 at 6:55 PM ^

I agree that the "SnS" passing game does rely on many presnap reads, but the running game is mostly post snap. This is one thing Sheridan and Threet had so much trouble with last season - never keeping the ball. I expect to see similar growing pains with Tate, its not an easy read to make, especially while adjusting to college game speed. I expect we will see a fair share of tackles for losses, sacks and fumbles along the learning curve.

That being said, I think the passing game that is relatively easy for a freshman QB to pick up, there seems to be plenty of throws where he knows where he is going before the snap.

Really the key is seeing how he handles a live ball situation in august, those reads can never be perfectly simulated. Good post though, I like the topic.

Maize and Blue…

April 21st, 2009 at 8:20 PM ^

Remember this is the only type of offense Tate has played in HS. It was totally foreign to both Threet and Sheridan until last year. So while the speed of the college will be much faster at least Tate knows what he's looking for on the read. I'm not sure last year's QBs ever had it totally figured out. While I don't expect every read to be perfect, Tate also has the advantage of the RBs having a year experience which should make for less fumbles this year. Finally, the O line should also be much improved which will be a key factor.

restive neb

April 21st, 2009 at 9:46 PM ^

I don't think I can agree with the statement, "at least Tate knows what he's looking for on the read," referring to his experience in high school in a similar offense. "What he's looking for" is an interpretation of what the defense is doing, and those defensive packages that he'll be trying to read are going to be significantly more sophisticated than what he was reading last year. I can agree with the rest of it though.

Hard Gay

April 21st, 2009 at 9:50 PM ^

Forcier is probably going to fumble a lot on runs. I just remember during the spring game thinking how if he had a live jersey he'd would have turned it over so many times. And sure enough, he did fumble even though the defense wasn't allowed to touch him.


April 21st, 2009 at 10:53 PM ^

His most prominent mistakes will be turnovers, and I don't think it requires any proverbial stretching of the imagination to predict that most of those turnovers will come off of fumbles and bad hand-offs--as opposed to interceptions.

Let us not forget Tate's quote from earlier this spring (not written verbatim, but re-remembered here): "These college snaps are ludicrously faster than the ones I'm used to; they were very difficult to keep control of at first."

To be sure, his fumble in the end zone (spring game) only works to corroborate this worry.


April 21st, 2009 at 11:52 PM ^

This is kind of silly.

Tate wasn't allowed to get hit, and he KNOWS he's not allowed to get hit. To expect him to cover up the ball with two hands and play it safe is kind of ridiculous.

Since the defense can't hit the QB in practice, do you think that they're going to slow up and tag the QB against Western Michigan? No. They're going to realize it's game time and they're going to hit him whenever they get a chance.

The same goes for Tate. He can't be hit right now, so he's going to try to make plays with his arm. It gives his receivers a chance to catch the ball and it gives him a chance to complete passes, judge the speed of the game, work on his mechanics, etc. But he'll play differently on Saturdays.

He could very well have a bunch of turnovers. He's a freshman. But that fumble in the end zone tells me absolutely nothing about his ball security. All it tells me is that he needs to be more aware of where he is on the field (i.e. he shouldn't take a sack in the end zone).

And if I remember correctly (I could be wrong), when he fumbled in the end zone, it was because someone hit him. You can't downgrade a guy for being hit when he wasn't supposed to be hit in the first place. That's like blaming the guy who gets T-boned instead of blaming the guy who ran the red light.


April 22nd, 2009 at 12:43 AM ^

I don't think I buy "not covering up the ball because he can't get hit". I grant that players play a little different when play is not live (see Stevie Brown vs. David Cone). But players go through the fundamentals time after tie after time, and there's no way the coaches would let a QB be lazy with the ball on plays/scrimmages/drills where there is no hitting, since almost everything in the spring is that way. He might have been a little more aggressive knowing he can't get hit; hell, he should be, its a scrimmage and that's when you can try something. But bad fundamentals are bad fundamentals, if he's not protecting the ball, its something that needs to be fixed.

I do think fumbling after getting hit when he's wearing the red is somewhat excusable.

restive neb

April 22nd, 2009 at 7:52 PM ^

I might have agreed with you if I hadn't watched his high school highlights in which he didn't look to be protecting the ball. It wasn't just because he wasn't live. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to seeing him on the field in the fall, but those who fear his ball-security have more reason than just the spring scrimmage.


April 22nd, 2009 at 3:51 PM ^

1) Ball security. Tate has never been hit at the D1 level. He carries the ball around like a sack of shit. I hate to say it, but Tate will fumble.

2) I think the spread n' shred exacerbates the inexperience of a freshman QB. I don't think it mitigates anything. In this system, the QB plays more of a role, both passing and running, compared to traditional pro-style offenses. The upshot is that the learning curve is sharper. We could see rapid improvement over the course of several games.

I like to think of the spread offense as an amplifier. If your QB sucks, you are going to get killed. Inferior teams will beat you because of poor QB play (Threet). On the other hand, you can beat superior teams (USC) if your QB has an outstanding day.

With that being said, I think Tate will be one hell of a QB. He will fumble and throw pics early on. As he develops, I see him being the next Colt McCoy.