Preview 2010: Quarterbacks Comment Count

Brian September 3rd, 2010 at 10:02 AM

Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, the running backs, the receivers, the offensive line, special teams, and the conference.  

Rating: 3.

devin-tate-denard threet-sheridan

You are feeling a sudden sense of well-being relative to two years ago.

QB Yr.
Denard Robinson So.
Tate Forcier So.
Devin Gardner Fr.

If I had to summarize the thousands of words poured out into this space previewing the 2009 Michigan quarterbacks in a single sentence, it would be "they are going to be much better but probably still suck":

The upshot: freshman quarterbacks suck, but on average they suck far less than Michigan's two-headed monster of yesteryear. An average-for-a-freshman performance from Forcier will be a huge step forward for the offense.

And lo: Michigan's quarterbacks combined to throw 14 interceptions against just 15 touchdowns, fumbled probably a dozen more times, averaged a meh 7.2 yards per attempt, and singlehandedly sabotaged a surprisingly winnable 2009 edition of The Game. This was vast, vast improvement—the 2008 QBs combined to average 5.1(!!!) yards per attempt—and also pretty much sucked.

But, hey, that's what you get when you start true freshmen. We can now slot Tate Forcier in Doctor Saturday's list of recent true freshman starters at BCS schools:

Quarterback Team Year Comp. % Yards/Pass TD % INT % Efficiency Record*
Terrelle Pryor Ohio State 2008 60.2 7.9 7.2 2.4 145.6 10-3
Robert Griffin Baylor 2008 59.9 7.8 5.6 1.1 142.0 4-8
Willie Tuitama Arizona 2005 57.7 7.8 7.5 0.9 137.0 3-8
Erik Ainge Tennessee 2004 55.1 7.3 8.6 4.5 135.9 10-3
Chris Leak Florida 2003 59.4 7.6 5.0 3.4 132.9 8-5
Chad Henne Michigan 2004 60.2 6.9 6.3 3.0 132.6 9-3
Matt Barkley USC 2009 59.9 7.8 4.3 4.0 131.3 9-3
Tate Forcier Michigan 2009 58.7 7.3 4.6 3.6 128.2 5-7
Mitch Mustain Arkansas 2006 52.3 6.8 7.6 6.8 120.5 10-4
Tyrod Taylor Virginia Tech 2007 53.7 6.9 3.7 2.2 119.7 11-3
Matt Stafford Georgia 2006 52.7 6.8 2.7 5.1 109.0 9-4
Thaddeus Lewis Duke 2006 52.9 6.3 3.2 4.7 106.9 0-12
Jimmy Clausen Notre Dame 2007 56.3 5.1 2.9 2.5 103.9 3-9
Josh Freeman Kansas State 2006 51.9 6.6 2.2 5.6 103.5 7-6
Reggie Ball Georgia Tech 2003 51.7 5.7 2.9 3.1 102.8 7-6
Kris Heavner Arizona 2003 51.1 6.3 3.4 6.3 102.7 2-10
Brady Quinn Notre Dame 2003 47.2 5.5 2.7 4.5 93.5 5-7
Juice Williams Illinois 2006 39.5 5.7 3.5 3.5 91.8 2-10

A tick behind Chad Henne isn't bad. And since Henne's receivers were current NFLers Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant, and Steve Breaston while Forcier's top target was a redshirt freshman who only started playing extensively at the tail end of the year—the senior "star" went undrafted—you could plausibly argue that the main difference between the freshman years of NFL starter Chad Henne and current sophomore Tate Forcier was the quality on the other end of the pass, especially since Forcier's YPA was superior. (Save your Baby Seal U protests: Forcier threw two passes in that game.)

To put the suck of '08 in perspective: '09 sucked but only because of the turnovers. The YPA average in I-A last year was 7.2, exactly what Michigan managed. A standard deviation was a yard. Michigan improved two standard deviations with a true freshman under center.

So of course everyone expects the guy who threw four interceptions in 31 attempts last year to start. This is Michigan, where things don't seem weird until the melting clocks drip PCP-tripping Gary Busey homunculi into swimming pools full of ham. We've seen stranger. Have you heard the one about the field goal that one of Michigan's players unblocked?

The Starter Right This Instant

denard-robinson-eastern Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson tries to fire a pass to wide receiver Roy Roundtree, but it was picked off by Penn State's Navorro Bowman, one of four Michigan turnovers that helped the Nittany Lions hand Michigan a 35-10 pasting, Saturday, October 24th at Michigan Stadium.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com

Yeah: Denard Robinson. This is the part of the preview where I ignore the the guy with 281 attempts and 118 rushes in favor of the guy with the 31 attempts and 69 rushes because of an impressive spring performance, a bunch of practice reports, and some inflammatory comments from Troy Woolfolk. For the record, here they are again:

"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."

With Rodriguez and Steve Schilling essentially backing those up a couple days later and the general tenor coming out of spring practice, it seems clear that Forcier did not think his job was under threat, slacked off a bit, and has paid for it with his starting job. (Forcier:  "I felt like I was working with the team, just not as much as I should have. Part of that is maturity." Rod Smith: "He didn’t come back in shape, and he’s competed as hard as any of the other guys.")

By now (and for now) this is assured. When Bruce Feldman was attempting to justify($) his out-there pick of Michigan as #25 on his preseason ballot, he deployed this conversation he'd had with Rodriguez:

Rodriguez is so fired up by the development of QB Denard Robinson, who is so dynamic he evokes memories of WVU great Pat White. Rodriguez says Robinson's presence and personality are similar to White's, and that Robinson is actually bigger than White was at the same stage. He doesn't quite play as fast as White did, but he will.

"Pat was so decisive," Rodriguez said. "He knew what he was doing. Pat was a fast player who played fast. Denard is a fast player who didn't play fast all the time, but I know he will play faster this year. He'll play faster and faster. He'll become more relaxed and calm executing the offense. There is a lot to learn, but at the same time, he is eager to learn it. And as he plays faster and his teammates play faster, we'll get a lot better."

Rodriguez added that the other two QBs Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner are very gifted too and will push Robinson, and if they overtake him, well, then the Wolverines offense should be in good shape.

We were at the point where the other two quarterbacks are "pushing" Robinson even before the fall scrimmage reports ("clear starter," "will absolutely start," "will be the starter") started rolling in. Perhaps more telling even than those rapturous reports was the substitution pattern: like David Molk, Mike Martin, and select other players too important to risk, Robinson saw his snaps limited. His time wasn't nearly as limited as that of the aforementioned duo—he had time to establish himself obviously the man before Forcier and Gardner mopped up during the last bit of the scrimmage—but the sign was clear. The competition is chasing.

I guess this is plausible. I mean, there's this:

 

Since that was done against the 1972 Pittsburgh Steelers it's pretty impressive. Yes, they had a 5'7" defensive tackle too.

So what does Michigan have in this guy? Anyone who attempts to tell you is having a moment of foolish arrogance. The guy who did this…

 

…also did this…

 

DENARD ROBINSON

RUNNIN'
has a lane
darts through this gap
easy QB draw
another one for TD
ISQBZoneStretch
ISQBZS #2
squeezes in for Iowa TD
RIDICUROUS
a precious thing forever.
shoots into the secondary
six exciting yards
ACCURACY… MEH
Iowa doom INT
underthrown DSU TD #1
fired it hard and high
QB LIKE
okay Koger seam
zings one on the money

…and was such an incredible neophyte that he never once ran the zone read despite its status as Rich Rodriguez's calling card and Robinson's ability to do that first thing above. Any program not digging out from a 100-year flood would have taken one look at the kid in fall practice and put so many redshirts on him that he'd be peeling the last one off right now. Michigan couldn't because its other quarterbacks were walk-ons or injury-prone freshmen.

The results were occasionally brilliant, sometimes promising, and frequently facepalm-worthy. In lieu of a full UFR passing chart here are all of Robinson's infrequent attempts rolled into one pretend game with around 30 attempts:

Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR
Season 1 7 6 (2) 3 (1) 4 4 - -

That's three inaccurate screens and an 8/18 downfield success rate, which rivals Mallett's insane freshman performances, without even considering that four of those passes were terrible interceptions. This will not be news to anyone who saw Robinson play last year: he was in vastly over his head.

A guy that raw with that much speed has the ability to make a stunning improvement in a single offseason. And the above-linked spring highlights at least suggest that Robinson's improvement has indeed been stunning, especially since he followed that up with a similarly impressive performance in fall. He's added a non-insubstantial eight pounds to reach 193, and the offseason has come with a heavy focus on ending all the fumbling. Rodriguez:

“He looks to me physically bigger, and maturing physically,” said Rodriguez. “Mentally, he understands some of the concepts a lot better, which he should. I see his confidence continuing to grow. And he’s so eager to please and do well that he’s taking steps every day."

“There were a couple times today with ball security … even though they didn’t fumble, it wasn’t as good as we’d like,” Rodriguez said. “But you could see they were making a conscious effort to take care of the ball. Decision making, the same thing… they’re not just trying to force something in there."

This is the bit where I evaluate the player's strengths and weaknesses and offer up a projection for season stats and the like, but here the former is obvious and the latter a mystery. Robinson's radical improvement has come against Michigan's second and third strings, which are so thin as to hardly exist. How will he react when those seams are covered? How will he react when he gets pressure? Can he hold onto the ball when he's not playing two-hand touch? Run around, run around, don't know.

Let's take a wild-ass guess and ballpark it as Pat White, freshman edition. White was a redshirt freshman who split time with a pocket passer—Robinson is essentially the same thing. In 2005, White rushed for 952 yards at 7.3 a pop and completed 57% of his passes for 7.3 YPA, 8 TD, and 5 INT. Downgrade those YPA numbers 10-20% to take into account Michigan's presence in the Big Ten and that's your random guess.

Extremely Nominal Backup

Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier scrambles away from Michigan State's Blake Treadwell during fourth quarter action of the Spartans a 26-20 win, Saturday afternoon, October 3rd at Spartan Stadium.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com

TATE FORCIER

SHIFTY
WOOPs Brian Smith
WOOP gone vs ND
spins by safety
zips by DE
juke, spin, head down: RB?!
BUT NOT DENARD
tries to cut it outside
just kind of falls over
more falling over
scraping OLB gets out on Forcier
GUNNIN'
nailing Mathews in the numbers
brilliant adjustment
zips it in there
steps up to nail Hemingway
seriously tight window
THEY SEE ME ROLLIN'
tough rollout Koger TD
tying MSU game
zings deep corner route
ridiculous sideline toss
dart hits Mathews in the numbers
points Roundtree somewhere
FROSH BLARG
MSU OT INT DOOM
should never have thrown this
insane but Odoms reels it in
PUNTIN'
Forcier's 50-yard punt.

Until about a week ago, virtually every scrap of talk about Tate Forcier this offseason had been negative. A quick scan of any Michigan message board will turn up a thread or four that someone in the Forcier family will screenshot and throw into the section of their personal site once embarrassingly named the "Hall of Shame" and subsequently nerfed to something less ambiguously bitchy and more clearly intended as motivation. The charges:  Forcier is a douchebag. He's going to transfer. He's not going to get any better. He hasn't been going to workouts. He will pout when and if he doesn't play, destroying team chemistry. Etc. I've unpublished a couple around here.

How we got here from "Weapon of Choice" and Moxie Death Star is a matter of:

  • lots of losses,
  • Forcier's waning effectiveness as teams figured out they had to keep him in the pocket,
  • Forcier's waning effectiveness after his shoulder was bruised/dislocated/LABRUM'D,
  • five turnovers, many of them blithering, against Ohio State, and
  • Let's Get Denarded in spring.

Still, the numbers on the above chart are just off future star status, especially when you knock Pryor and Griffin out for being athletic freakshows whose stats were inflated by the rarity of their throws.

Forcier didn't get a ton of help from his offensive line or receivers, either, which made a couple of his performances better than they looked. Michigan State provides a typical example:

You wouldn't know it because of all the pressure and the drops killing his stats, but Forcier had a spectacular day. His downfield success rate* was 71%, which is up there with Chad Henne's best game. Chad Henne's best games didn't come with game-killing overtime interceptions, sure. He made three and a half terrible decisions throwing the ball (with the half being the bomb to Koger) and some additional ones in the ground game.

But does anyone remember the "Sheridan Might Start!" meme? Will anyone own up to actually advancing that point of view? No? No.

After the great start (post ND: "two games in it looks like Tate Forcier has 99th percentile skill in accuracy on the run, pocket awareness, and (yep) moxie"), Forcier had a mid-season swoon with an implosion against Iowa in which his DSR fell to a bleah 50% that didn't take into account how "disastrous" some of the bad reads; the following week Forcier duplicated the 50% DSR performance against Penn State. He picked it up afterwards with a "decent" Illinois game and had "one of his best games" against Purdue before turning in a "good day" against a very good Wisconsin defense; though Ohio State didn't get charted I can tell you that his performance in that game was plain great except for the four awful interceptions, which is a weird thing to say but there it is.

So. By the numbers, both official and blogger-generated, his freshman season was promising. Unfortunately, the numbers aren't everything. Forcier made a ton of bad reads on the zone read and Michigan's rare option plays, one of which Burgeoning Wolverine Star documented in detail. Part of the reason he looked so ineffective on the zone last year was because he pulled the ball out too much.

((CAPTION)) Tate Forcier(5) drops the football in a dowpour at the end of the game as Michigan State beats Michigan, 26-20, in overtime at Spartan Stadium Saturday afternoon. (Dale G. Young / The Detroit News)2009.

Worse, the numbers capture Forcier's interceptions but not his massive fumble issues. Everyone remembers Tate gifting Ohio State the first touchdown of last year's game with a  basically unforced fumble, and that was a problem all year. Illinois

The fumbling issue remains a problem, though: Forcier was irresponsible with the ball and coughed it up twice, once on a QB draw he made a poor read on. Michigan lost one, causing everyone to turn the TV off. Hopefully this is a major point of emphasis in the offseason; Forcier can't be as careless with the ball going forward or the offense is never going to get off the ground.

Purdue:

The big downer was the fumble, which was a huge error on Forcier's part but also an understandable one since Purdue blitzed right into the option and Forcier was not prepared to deal with the corner there. He should have eaten the ball and taken the loss.

Robinson chipped in his share of mind-bending fumbles but Forcier, more than anyone else, was responsible for Michigan's crippling 13 fumbles lost.

But as training camp progressed, the Forcier vibe got better. Rodriguez:

“I’ve had quite a few talks with Tate and some of the other guys and said if you’re a true competitor, you’ll respond to it,” Rodriguez said. “So far he has. He’s responded … he’s not sulking and laying back. He’s working his way back and trying to prove himself.”

Schilling:

"Obviously he went through some adversity there with Troy's comments and the wings and all that stuff you guys know about." He's worked hard to prove himself, and show that he wants to be the team's quarterback. "I'm definitely gaining a lot of respect back for Tate," as are a lot of others.

With transfer and ineligibility rumors quashed and fitness levels approaching something the coaches consider reasonable, Forcier has bounced back and finds himself in position to play. Rivals has taken to using its insiders to talk him up like whoah, and while I don't share the point of view on offer there*, especially the lack of confidence in Robinson, it seems like his time with the third team is at an end. As I've asserted a thousand times before, the two sophomores are so different that Michigan has reason to play both, and can reasonably hope the platoon is greater than the sum of its parts.

What can we expect from Forcier's sophomore year? Beware linear projections. Way back in December, Ace took a look at a subset of those true freshman starters in the chart above and compared their sophomore performance to their freshman years. He found that sophomores improved their average yards per attempt by a full yard, completion percentage 5.5 points, and touchdowns by five. If you take those improvements and apply them to Forcier's freshman year you get ridiculous results: 65% completions, 8.5 yards per attempt, 20 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and the #12 passer efficiency rating in the country.

That's totally not going to happen. Ace took a bunch of really terrible QBs who became decent to good and applied that transition to a decent quarterback, resulting in a projection that says Forcier will be the greatest sophomore QB of the past ten years, and by some margin: only Chris Leak's sophomore year rating of 145 is anywhere close to Forcier's projected 151. More realistically, the hope is for Forcier to cut down on the crippling turnovers by a third, add some more touchdowns, merely maintain his YPA—only Chris Leak significantly exceeded Forcier's freshman YPA as a sophomore—and add a point or two to completion percentage. Forcier doesn't have a long way to go to be a good quarterback, but that means his improvement in all things other than holding on to the damn ball will be incremental.

*(Chances there's some serious fuddy-duddy-ism going on there: high.)

Wildcard

devin-gardner devin-gardner-paul

And then after all that there's Devin Gardner. Gardner just came in for an extensive recruiting profile last week, so I won't rehash that when virtually nothing has changed in the interim. The executive summary: massive upside, raw, needs serious work on his throwing motion. I've also made my opinion on the redshirt issue clear:

Should have the luxury of redshirting with Denard's emergence into a viable option. Given Rodriguez's statements on the matter

There is also freshman Devin Gardner, but Rodriguez said he wouldn't burn Gardner's redshirt if it was for a couple of plays a game.

…you'll probably see him on the bench unless both sophomores struggle. After that it's kind of hard to see him unseating an established junior,  but they'll mix him in when given the opportunity; a lot of people have claimed he's going to be the starter as early as 2011, but I think he'll have to wait until he's a redshirt junior, at which point he should be Awesome Devin through and through.

Rich Rodriguez is not of a similar mind. He told the media Monday that Gardner was on the depth chart and would play. I'm still hoping that the two sophomores play well enough to keep him on the bench, if not immediately then by the time the Big Ten season rolls around, at which point Gardner can come down with a strained whatever and get that year of eligibility back.

Comments

msoccer10

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:31 AM ^

You really want us to fake an injury to get an extra year for Gardner? After the NCAA violation crap I want our program to be spotless. Let's just hope Rodriguez doesn't use Gardner because our sophomore duo is killing it.

M-Wolverine

September 3rd, 2010 at 1:22 PM ^

He can play a certain number of games, minimally, and still get a Redshirt.  As long as it's not spread over the season (can't play the 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 11th). So what Brian means is he gets the "I can't play the rest of the season sore funny bone" after he's had a little in game experience, and just takes a natural redshirt. No one is defrauding anyone medically, or otherwise. It's just a white lie public statement so the coach isn't telling the media he's not playing anymore because we really want to redshirt him, thus saying, he's just not good enough yet.  Makes the player look better, and is completely legal and typical.  You don't have to justify to the NCAA why you didn't play him. Just don't.

So yes, we all really want him to do this.  Unless the reason he's playing his Rich wants to break him in slow, but really thinks by the end of the year he'll be the best quarterback and will be starting.  But there hasn't been a lot of indication of that.

joeyb

September 3rd, 2010 at 2:15 PM ^

If you have any participation in a game, you cannot redshirt.

http://www.ncaa.org/wps/portal/ncaahome?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/wps/wcm/connect/ncaa/NCAA/Legislation%20and%20Governance/Eligibility%20and%20Recruiting/Faqs/eligibility_seasons.html

You should know that NCAA rules indicate that any competition, regardless of time, during a season counts as one of your seasons of competition in that sport. It does not matter how long you were involved in a particular competition (for example, one play in a football game, one point in a volleyball match); you will be charged with one season of competition.

What I was pointing out was that if he has to apply for it and they allow it to go through, then there is no ground for the NCAA to stand on in terms of trying to say we broke a rule.

M-Wolverine

September 3rd, 2010 at 2:24 PM ^

They've come up with some cock and bull injury story.  Because it happens a lot.  So, the poster questioning the practice was right...it is committing a fraud to the NCAA, and he was right to question the practice, particularly when we're under scrutiny.  Of course, it's one of those things that everyone does. But then, so was practice time.

Gulo Gulo Luscus

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:33 AM ^

Getting pumped up for tomorrow!?  Looks like we are in for a real fall day with weather dipping into the low 60s by gametime.  Ah football... the one great thing about summer coming to an end.

Needs

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:50 AM ^

Nothing's more important for this group than whether they've learned to make the correct read on the read-option. Tate didn't do it  well last year and Denard wasn't seemingly given the opportunity. It's what makes this offense go, it's what makes the linebackers and secondaries tentative, allowing the o-line to be effective on the second level and freeing up both parts of the option. If they can do it well, with Denard's speed and Tate's ability to turn it into a run-pass triple option, the offense will be very, very potent.

It's also why Devin should redshirt. As we've seen with Tate, it's very difficult for a true freshman, even one who's been as coached up as possible in high school, to make the correct read consistently. Rich Rod's best ever qb redshirted, so should Devin.

The Mathlete

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:39 AM ^

Did a quick comparison of the true freshman QB's listed in the chart above using by Points Above Normal. In general true freshman QB's improve slightly in Year 2 but regress to the mean. As freshman they average just over 1.0 PAN, about 50th in the country. As sophomores the same players increased to about 1.7 PAN, about 10 spots nationally. The biggest benefit though, is when you look at overall team offensive performance. The increase in overall team offensive performance is about 3-4 times higher than the increase in individual QB performance. If Tate is the baseline, even if his numbers don't increase dramatically, the overall offensive performance should take a step forward.

bluebyyou

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:44 AM ^

So many questions to be answered over this season.  Here are a couple of mine.

1. Denard had a 45% completion percentage in HS. Some people, even really good athletes, simply can't achieve high levels of accuracy.  Just the way it is. His height is a detriment and he probably won't grow any more.  Sure, Drew Brees is not tall, but there is something about tall QB's that give them an advantage.  Will Denard's completion percentage at Michigan exceed what he did in HS? 

2. Tate was coached up in HS to levels beyond what most kids ever see.  Will he rise to another level?  I am not sure, but as Brian noted, even half of the typical sophomore jump will make him pretty good.  His passing velocity also seems a bit on the low side - is it easier to teach a kid with a laser arm touch?  Again, not a big kid with the disadvantages that go with  lack of size.

3. Devin seems to have what Denard and Tate do not - the physical gift of size, rifle arm and speed, all in one package.  My guess, and I hope I am wrong here, is that Gardner will get more playing time than a lot of people think. Freshman QB's....yuk.  

Guess all this will be answered soon enough.

Lastly, one thing that has bothered me about our QB's, is if  yo really have no real leader in terms of snaps, your passing game suffers.  Every QB, as you all know, has his style and receivers become comfortable with the speed of the pass, angle of the ball in flight, tendencies, etc.  That won't happen to the same degree when you platoon.  Of course, we don't know what is really going on in practice.

Look forward to tomorrow in a big way.  GO BLUE!  See you at the Big House!

Kilgore Trout

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:44 AM ^

One, the way I see the QB situation going down tomorrow is that Robinson starts and Robinson and Forcier see about equal time in the first half.  At the half, it becomes obvious that this is going to be a game and that Tate is the best option and he plays the entire second half, leading to a 45-31 win.

Two, I'm not normally into fawning, "fearless leader," Brian worshipping, but I have to say thank you for this entire preview series.  Looking at the "previews" in Phil Steele, AA.com, and the Detroit papers almost makes you laugh after reading all of this.  It's funny that the last two seasons have been by far the worst in my 25+ years of watching football, but I knew significantly more about the team and what was going on than I ever did in the past, and it's not even close.  So thanks for that, it truly is a service to us. 

Mhpangr

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:47 AM ^

reading college football previews all day and having tachycardia over tomorrow's game.  This is my first game away from AA in 8 years (alot of people go to college for 7 years... yeah... they're called doctors...) and I took this weekend off from the hospital to go to a UM bar here in Chicago and tailgate like it's 2006.  Excited/nervous rating for this season knows no peak.  

 

GO BLUE

North Star

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:49 AM ^

spring game footage is very interesting to look back on - Denard more comfortable with the offense and a ton of improvement - he's not throwing into a crowd, for example, and generally accurate - potentially exciting.  Not to temper the excitement too much, but watch his helmet - he still appears to be locking onto his primary receiver at the expense of missing better, more open alternatives - for example, around 2:18 mark , he turns it up to run instead of hitting wide open slot (Roundtree) flaring out into the flat for a big gain.  Also, on one of his TD passes to left side, he had Stonum dragging across the middle of the field for much easier TD toss / catch - would have required a slightly back across the field throw but was a better read - I guess hard to complain too much given that he stuck it in for a TD.  Baseline for Denard this year is to show major improvements in decision making, good ball security and (hopefully) be able to competently run the zone read.  Enough to have a pretty good offense - but he won't be an elite QB until he shows he can come off his primary receiver to find a more open 2nd or 3rd option in the pattern. 

Go Blue!

Don

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:57 AM ^

when so many UM fans here seem to be convinced he can't complete a five-yard pass without dumping it at the feet of a wide-open receiver. Something doesn't add up.

One big, unanswered question is whether Forcier and Robinson will be able to sustain the season-long physical pounding they'll get carrying the ball as often as they should if they're running the offense correctly. That points to one of the ironic things about Pryor—his size and skill set is absolutely perfectly suited to RR's offense—his size alone means he'd be much more likely to meet the physical demands of the read-option; he's simply miscast as a drop-back QB at OSU. He's not as incompetent at throwing the ball as many here allege, but he's never going to be Chad Henne, either.

zlionsfan

September 3rd, 2010 at 6:40 PM ^

is that his most recent season is not the one at the top of that chart. With an additional 130 attempts last season, pretty much everything dropped: YPA, completion percentage, TD/INT ratio, efficiency rating.

As discussed in the Forcier section, you're probably not going to see constant improvement from QBs in that chart, but you don't expect to see struggles, especially not from players that are projected to have NFL careers ahead of them.

Pryor may have the tools to be a great college QB, but he didn't show nearly as much last year as people expected him to, and I, for one, look forward to this new progression. If he throws 25 interceptions in 2011, at least two of them will be in The Game, right?

msoccer10

September 3rd, 2010 at 1:03 PM ^

where Tate lines up at qb, Denard at running back and Gardner at wider receiver and the insane amount of shifting and trick plays you could design. Makes me salivate. Never going to happen, but a guy can dream, right. Hell, even if only for a single play against OSU it would be great. Talk about a triple option. 

CRex

September 3rd, 2010 at 11:10 AM ^

What I really like about Denard comes at the 44 second mark in the spring game video.  Denard's rolling out, he has one man he can easily beat.  He could have just gone with dilithium and run for yardage.  Instead in mid stride he throws.  It's a bit of an ugly pass, wobbles, but keep in mind that was Spring Game (pre summer camp, etc).

That right there is ever so annoying/impossible to defend against.  If the DB's come up to help seal Denard in and force him to the sideline / tackle him he can just gun it over their heads.  That looks like what happened there, he hits a man in space because the guy handling coverage underneath has started to come up.  If everyone stays on their WR, the WR's just run deep, sucking people up the field and opening up space for Denard to run.  

That ability to throw on the run, without much of a pull up / tell is really hard to defend.  I love Tate, but when he tends to pull the ball down and telegraph his intentions.  That means to throw he normally has to pull up and plant.  That pause normally gives the guy(s) in pursuit time to hit the QB and the safeties a window to react in.  The fact that Denard can gun one out in midstride is going to be a nightmare for defenses.  

CRex

September 3rd, 2010 at 11:46 AM ^

Watch Tate's movement in a lot of those clips.  He is dropping back to avoid the rush, he's moving laterally to avoid pressure, he's scrambling.  He is always looking down the field, always telegraphing an intent to throw.  Like in the last clip he's rolling to avoid pressure and pointing Roundtree to a point.  So he's just thinking "Throw, throw, throw."  

Tate does an excellent job of using his feet to buy time, to get his WRs time to get clear, but he doesn't have the speed and the moves to make DBs come forward and off their coverage assignments to the same degree Denard does.  He also never really hits top speed, he does just enough to avoid the rush and let him keep his balance to pass in most cases.  They know the DEs and LBs can run him down most of the time.  

Whereas when Denard feels pressure he'll hit the gas pedal, he'll start to move to the line of scrimmage and attack.  Tate is running to buy time for a WR to get clear.  Denard is running with the option of ripping off a 20 yard gash or unloading the ball.  

BraveWolverine730

September 3rd, 2010 at 12:17 PM ^

That's actually the one part of Tate's game I really like. If he can learn to hold the ball better so he doesn't fumble as much, he is extremely dangerous when the play breaks down.  The other thing he needed to work on in the off-season is staying on-script more often and not scrambling at the first sign of trouble.  

SC Wolverine

September 3rd, 2010 at 12:04 PM ^

I'm with you on this.  I also loved the second TD throw to Roundtree.  If Denard  can run the zone read , throw on the move, and throw decisvely from the pocket, he is going to give defenses massive scheme fits.  For all of Tate's admirable moxie, Denard (if effective) is just a much more difficult problem for defenses.

bronxblue

September 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 PM ^

Good points about Denard, but I caution (like Brian did) that were are reading quite a bit into a couple of non-contact spring games and fall practices.  He has been watching this defense for months, knows that nobody is going to pop him when they get close, and he is likely matched up against the 2nd and 3rd-string defenders on most of those passes.  I have all the faith in the world that Robinson will be a good QB, but throwing a couple of passes on the run in a controlled environment does not lead me to believe that he will perform similarly in a game-time situation. 

IanO

September 3rd, 2010 at 1:25 PM ^

So of course everyone expects the guy who threw four interceptions in 31 attempts last year to start. This is Michigan, where things don't seem weird until the melting clocks drip PCP-tripping Gary Busey homunculi into swimming pools full of ham. We've seen stranger. Have you heard the one about the field goal that one of Michigan's players unblocked?

I lol'd. Really good stuff.

funkywolve

September 3rd, 2010 at 11:25 AM ^

At the running back position UM has little experience (some experience but no where near what the QB position has) but hopefully a lot of potential and they get a 4.

At the QB position they have: A) Guy who started all 12 games and as the chart of freshmen QB's shows played pretty good, and B) guy who played in about every game last year and has been the talk of spring and fall camp.  And the QB's get a 3?????

maxr

September 3rd, 2010 at 11:41 AM ^

QB is a lot harder of a position to play, and generally the more experience the better the QB will be.  RBs can come in as freshmen and do well.  The QBs' experience here is better than nothing, but it's probably not optimistic to rate them higher than a 3 till they've got two full years of experience under each of their belts.

Blue In NC

September 3rd, 2010 at 11:50 AM ^

I agree with maxr on this but I also said yesterday that the RBs should only be a 3.  On the other hand, if 3 is average I actually expect that the QBs will be better than average.  Maybe not quite 4 status but probably closer to 4 than 3.  In the end, I feel better about our QBs having a big year versus our RBs having a big year.

KBLOW

September 3rd, 2010 at 11:28 AM ^

Do I want Denard to be the second coming of Pat White? Hell yes!  I love that style of ball, but I trust the coaches to use the QB's in a way that gives the team the best chance to win no matter who is behind center.

SC Wolverine

September 3rd, 2010 at 11:54 AM ^

That was an incredibly judicious review of what we should be thinking about Denard on 9/3/10.  Thanks for the objective analysis.  You have to admit that the spring game video shows DR making the zone read correctly at least some of the time, and with good results every single time (against that dominating defense he was facing, I will admit).   But if he can make the zone read consistently, he can only pile up the yards and points.  Given RR's offense, DR has so much more potential upside than TF that I am extremely excited with the way we seem to be going at the QB position.  Tomorrow will tell us an awful lot.  I'm thinking it's going to be good, but your sobriety is, well, properly sobering.

st barth

September 3rd, 2010 at 12:16 PM ^

That's the first time I've seen that picture of the three QBs together and I had not realized how much larger Devin Gardner is than the other two.  He is going to be awesome...but I still hope that he redshirts this year.  Go blue!