Comparing UM Freshmen QBs

Submitted by AC1997 on October 23rd, 2008 at 9:16 AM

I wanted to try to put Steven Threet’s performance thus far
into perspective. Some people think he’s
a stiff who lathers his hands in butter before taking a snap. Others see him as a competent young QB who
can hold his own despite having the deck stacked against him with the depth
chart on offense. He’s probably
somewhere in between….so let’s find out.
One of my motivations has been that I’ve sensed Brian at MGoBlog souring
on him a lot in the past couple of weeks.
Obviously he isn’t Pat White in this offense, but he isn’t Ryan Mallett
either. Let me explain…..


I set out to compare his performance to other Michigan freshman
quarterbacks. It is at this point,
before even looking at a stat, where you can really understand Threet’s
situation. Freshman aren’t supposed to
play at that position. No matter how
good you are in high school, you’re not ready to start at a big-time college
program. Ask Jimmy Clausen. Ask Ryan Mallett. You can argue that Threet is a RED-shirt
freshman and not a TRUE freshman, but since graduating college he’s spent a few
months at Georgia Tech, a few months under Lloyd Carr, and a few months under
Rodriguez. Not exactly a masters course
in preparation for this season.


There are only two circumstances where a freshman QB is likely
to succeed:

  1. He’s a
    freakish athlete and can rely on his athleticism to make up for his mental
    and physical deficiencies. Pryor at
    OSU falls into this category. His
    passing stats are very modest and they’re keeping things really
    simple. He uses his legs to
    overcome his passing limitations.
  2. He’s
    surrounded by a talented, veteran team.
    This is the Chad Henne category.
    We saw in Henne’s sophomore year that he wasn’t the second coming
    of John Elway that we saw his freshman year. Why?
    Braylon Edwards. Henne knew
    that if he threw it near Braylon, he was likely to have a chance to catch
    it – no matter how mediocre the throw was.
    To some extent this applies to Pryor as well since he is starting
    behind a veteran offensive line with a Heisman quality RB.


Steven Threet has neither luxury. But how does he compare to other freshman
QB’s? If someone can dig up NCAA
statistics from all schools it would be really interesting. I took on just Michigan QB’s. And it wasn’t difficult – they barely play as
freshman. At this point through 7 games
Threet has thrown the second most passes of any freshman QB that I could find
in the recent history of the school.
Let’s look at them:













Steven Threet










Ryan Mallett










Chad Henne










John Navarre










Scott Dreisbach










Elvis Grbac










I was surprised at Navarre’s stats. I remember him being horrible as a redshirt
freshman and single-handedly giving away the UCLA game. But his stats aren’t horrible. Obviously Henne is on a plane all of his own,
though his Y/A were lower than I expected considering the Braylon factor. Ryan Mallett sure was terrible, wasn’t


If I’m not mistaken, Threet is the first one of those
players to be given the job out of necessity rather than due to an injury to a
more experienced player, though I can’t remember Grbac’s situation. I also mentioned the lack of a surrounding
cast. Here’s another chart comparing
those QB’s.




Top Offensive Skill Players


Steven Threet

Matthews (Jr), Odoms (Fr),
Stonum (Fr), McGuffie (Fr), Minor (Jr)


Ryan Mallett

Manningham (Jr), Arrington
(Jr), Hart (Sr), Matthews (So), Minor (So)


Chad Henne

Edwards (Sr), Avant (Jr),
Breaston (So), Hart (Fr)


John Navarre

Thomas (Sr), Terrell (Jr),
Walker (Jr), Perry (Fr)


Scott Dreisbach

Biakabatuka (Jr), Toomer (Sr),
Hayes (Sr), Riemersma (Sr)


Elvis Grbac

McMurtry (Sr), Calloway (Sr),
Boles (Jr), Hoard (Jr), Bunch (Jr), Howard (Fr), Alexander (Fr)


Wow, nostalgia. I’m
starting to wonder if Arrington’s departure hurt this offense more than anyone


I’m going to limit the amount of conclusions I draw from
this information and leave it open to interpretation. Obviously missing from this data are the
number of fumbles and any rushing statistics.


My opinion from this information and from watching the games
is this – Threet is not a very good quarterback right now, but he’s not a bad
one either. Unlike some areas of the
team he is showing progress from week-to-week and compares favorably to other
freshmen at his position. The
quarterback position is a problem for the team, but the problem is mostly due
to a lack of depth and experience – not directly because Steven Threet is
incapable of leading the team to victory.
Threet is raw and inconsistent, but he’s competent and should develop
into a solid QB in time. There is little
in my limited analysis that shows he’s worse than most of those other
guys. What Michigan lacks is a capable experienced QB
(Jason Forcier?) who could hold down the fort this season.


Let’s give Threet time and the benefit of the doubt…….and do
whatever we can to keep Sheridan
off the field.



October 23rd, 2008 at 9:30 AM ^

You asked about Grbac.

The starter at QB that year was Micheal Taylor. Taylor got hurt in the opener vs ND (the famous 1 vs 2 game with, sigh, Rocket returning those 2 kicks).

Grbac came into the second half of that game, and he led a couple of TD drives. He started, I believe, at least the next two, if not 3 games, before Taylor got healty and returned to the lineup.

Grbac's first start was at UCLA in a primetime national TV game. He brought Michigan from down 13 (thats a guess, it might have been less points, but we needed a score, onsides kick recovery and another score to win) to win in the fourth quarter.


October 23rd, 2008 at 9:59 AM ^

I think they were down 23-14 before the comeback. Late touchdown, onside kick and field goal sounds right. I think Grbac should have played instead of Taylor in the Rose Bowl that year; Taylor's shoulder was hurt a bit and he couldn't throw as well as he had earlier in the year. As a result the offense was pretty one-dimensional and we lost 17-10.

By the way, no love for Rick Leach? Sure, he was more of an option quarterback in the years before Bo discovered the pass, but I believe he was the first freshman to start at QB for Michigan. 


October 23rd, 2008 at 10:03 AM ^

A key point in that UCLA game was a blocked PAT when both Vada Murray and Tripp Welborne skied high to share the block.

There was no OT back then, and that miss helped put Michigan in a position to win late, rather than just tie it.

I dont remember a whole lot of talk in the lead up to that year's RB about Taylor's shoulder, but you are probably right.....the O was pretty stagnant that game, and I had forgotten that Taylor might have been dinged up.


October 23rd, 2008 at 10:16 AM ^

You're right, I should have dug deeper into the past and looked up Leach. Looking at them now you can see what a different time it was back then. He played in all 12 games and yet only threw 100 passes. From a pure passing standpoint by today's standards (which obviously isn't fair) he was flat out terrible....horrible in fact. But what is missing is his rushing totals, which weren't bad. 



100    32   32.0%   3    12    680   6.80



113 - 552 - 4.9 - 5 TD


October 23rd, 2008 at 10:19 AM ^

Some of my first memories of Michigan football are Tripp Welbourne and Vada Murray leaping into the air to block kicks. Perhaps I over-rate them in my memory, but they were the ultimate safety combination that we haven't had since.

I got to meet Vada Murray once, as many of you probably have, when he broke up a party I attended in college while working as an Ann Arbor Police Officer. Good times....

As for the OL for each QB, I would love to see that too - just harder to dig up that information and hadn't gotten to it yet.


October 23rd, 2008 at 10:55 AM ^

I can say that some of the greatest OL's in the history of the program were in the late 1980s, early that definetly helped Elvis out a lot.

 I think Navarre had a great one as well.

However, its been steadily declining ever since We all know that. I'm up for a counter argument, but without even looking at the starting lineups, I'd say Elvis and Navarre played with better OLs than say Henne, Mallet and, of course, Threet did as Frosh.

Bielfeldt's Calves

October 23rd, 2008 at 11:52 AM ^

Here's the breakdown of the O-lines for each:

year player  position yr yrs as starter nfl - yrs in
89 Dohring  LT Sr 4th Y - 1
Dingman LG Jr 3rd N
Everitt  C So 1st Y - 7
Elliott RG Jr 1st Y - 4
Skrepenak RT Jr 3rd Y - 5
95 Runyan LT Sr 3rd Y - 12
Adami LG Jr 1st N
Payne C Sr 2nd Y - 1
Marinaro  RG Sr 3rd N
Jansen  RT So 1st Y - 8
2000 Backus  LT Sr 4th Y - 7
Hutchinson  LG Sr 4th Y - 7
Brandt  C Sr 3rd Y - 2
Goodwin  RG Sr 1st Y - 6
Williams  RT Sr 1st Y - 7
2004 Stevanich  LT Sr 2nd N
Riley LG Jr 1st N
Baas  C Sr 3rd Y - 3
Lentz  RG Sr 2nd N
Long  RT So 1st Y - 1
2007 Long  LT Sr 3rd Y - 1
Boren LG So 1st ?
Kraus C Sr 3rd Y - 1
Ciulla RG Jr 1st ?
Schilling RT Fr 1st ?
2008 Ortmann LT Jr 1st ?
MacAvoy LG Jr 1st ?
Molk C Fr 1st ?
Moosman RG Jr 1st ?
Schilling RT So 2nd ?

Navarre had the best by far (if you consider NFL guys as best). And obviously Threet has most inexperienced (and of course there is no way to judge quality based on NFL status)



chitownblue (not verified)

October 23rd, 2008 at 11:20 AM ^

Also, remember that Navarre started out the year vs. Miami (OH) and some other school like that, whom he shredded by hitting wide-open receivers because Miami simply couldn't cover them. His throws weren't great - they were just that open. So - I think Navarre's stats over-state how good he was that year, as, once he played BCS competition, he got brutally bad.


October 23rd, 2008 at 12:24 PM ^

I just spent the last hour trying to find the OL information you posted. And what I found was nothing compared to the level of detail you put together. Nice! How did you find that stuff? Is there a good site out there for it? The 2000 line was incredible, though the 1995 line wasn't bad either with Runyan and Jansen at the tackles and Payne in the middle.

I was thinking of posing this question to people: "Which of these players that could have stayed this season would have helped the team the most?"

-- Adrian Arrington

-- Justin Boren

-- Ryan Mallett

-- Mario Manningham

Manningham was leaving no matter what so that's not really applicable. Boren would help for sure, but how much? I don't think Mallett was much better than Threet and was a pain in the ass. Personally, I'd pick Arrington - quality veteran who catches everything and allows Stonum to develop.

(I also think Jason Forcier would be really important to this team, but had he known what was going to happen this season he would have stayed two years ago instead of going to Stanford so that's not really fair.)

Bielfeldt's Calves

October 23rd, 2008 at 12:33 PM ^

I went a couple different places. For rosters and depth charts: For NFL info:

I still believe that if all the linemen returned that could, we'd be much better off. Mallett would've been nice to have too, but I'm not sure he would've put forth the effort.  



October 23rd, 2008 at 1:54 PM ^

Fantastic post. One of my friends was whining about how Threet is the worst Michigan QB ever and I tried explaining to him that he really isn't much worse than any other freshman QB we've ever had. He wouldn't take it, maybe I should show him all this info.

Mountaineers Fanatic

October 23rd, 2008 at 3:25 PM ^

I think the problem a lot of people have had with Threet is the timing of some of his really bad throws, ie. the INT in the Toledo game. Yes he makes some great throws, but his bad throws come at times when Mich really needs good throws. He has consistantly over-thrown his WR on 3rd down plays which has halted drives inwhich Mich was moving the ball. If he can limit those mistakes in the crucial times of the game, the fans outlook of him might change some

chitownblue (not verified)

October 23rd, 2008 at 3:43 PM ^

Right - some QB's make mistakes, and the mistake is limited to that. Unfortunately for Threet he made a mistake (the pick-six against WVU) that basically single-handedly lost the game. That said - I don't think it's an inherent "unclutchness" problem - he happened to make that throw at about the most inopportune time possible. He is an EXTREMELY inconsistent QB, fluctuating from good to bad from throw to throw, the fact that his error there came at a key time is, I think, pure chance.

That said, as has been proven on this thread - he's really not performing any worse than any other freshman QB we've had. He makes, in general, pretty good decisions (execution is a little more dodgy) - there isn't a reason he can't become a perfectly solid QB for Michigan.

Bielfeldt's Calves

October 23rd, 2008 at 3:53 PM ^

about how Threet throws. I looks to me that he's placing the ball instead of throwing it. It's almost as if he hesitant to really unleash the ball for fear that he's either 1) wrong about the read or 2) going to kill the receiver with the ball. Just watch him, nothing is really thrown with any authority.


October 23rd, 2008 at 10:08 PM ^

I think part of it is his mechanics or the way he winds up.  I think the past couple weeks the injury maube limited his arm strength, but I noticed it ealier in the year too.  I think he needs to shorten up his delivery and get his footwork better.  I think when he cuts it loose is when he sails it to taco pants.  needs to step into those more and level his shoulders.  maybe holding back on the velocity to be more accurate?


October 24th, 2008 at 9:20 AM ^

He threw that pick six but I still think he would have redeemed himself if he played the whole game. Lots of great quarterbacks have made a bad read like that one (see Brady in  playoffs vs. Denver a few years ago)

Mountaineers Fanatic

October 24th, 2008 at 2:28 PM ^

The other thing I see that Threet really needs to improve on is learning his reads on the belly option plays. A prime example of this is on the second play after he came back into the game from his injury. He handed the ball off instead of keeping it and the back was takled for no gain or a short loss. One of is main reads, the DE, shot down the LOS towards the back. If Threet had pulled the ball and ran with it, even as slow as he is, he could have ran for at least 5-6yds before he came close to a defender. There have been several times in EVERY game where this has been the situation. I can't count the number of times I have seen Coach Rod talking to Threet telling him to take it and run with it. If he would learn to do this just a few times a game it will help out the RBs a lot


October 23rd, 2008 at 3:33 PM ^

One point on the QB numbers - back in the early '90's we ran the ball so much, and so effectively, that it was much easier to be efficient in the passing game. If you look at the run/pass ratio at Michigan - Brian has done this at some point, I believe - you'll see it rising steadily from when we first starting throwing with Grbac after Taylor got hurt (as described above).

The increased proportion of passes to runs make it harder to maintain the same level of efficiency on a per-pass basis, which we need to consider when evaluating the stats over different years.


October 24th, 2008 at 9:21 AM ^

Navarre got his first bit of action as a freshman because Henson got hurt. That was his freshman year and he only played sparingly with a great team behind him.