Enough wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth regarding Steven Threet’s departure.
While I believe he could have developed into a competent quarterback (does anyone else see John Navarre parallels with this guy?) it’s still obvious that he was a square peg in a round hole in Michigan’s spread offense. His growth and development would have come at the expense of the whole offense.
So we face the likelihood of a true freshman starting at QB. Certainly not the preferred option, but an investigation of numbers shows that it can be survivable. I’ve got an analysis that says that if Tate Forcier gives Michigan the average output that BCS level true freshman QBs have given since 2003, it’ll be a vast improvement over last year. In fact, if U-M had that output last year, it likely would’ve meant 3-4 more wins. Put your faith in numbers, ladies and gentlemen.
I looked at the NCAA stats website and found that since 2003, there have been ten true freshman starting QBs at BCS level schools. This includes Sam Bradford from Oklahoma a couple years ago, as well as Chad Henne at U-M. However, it also includes two QBs from Duke, which barely qualifies as a BCS level program. This is how they fared, with averages at the bottom (my inexperience with formatting issues prevents me from making this more clear, so bear with me):
Year Cmp. Att. Pct. Yds. TD INT Wins Losses
Sam Bradford, Okla. 2007 237 341 69.5% 3121 36 8 11 3
Matthew Stafford, UGA 2006 135 256 52.7% 1749 7 13 9 4
Chad Henne, MICH 2004 240 399 60.2% 2743 25 12 9 3
Chris Leak, Fla. 2003 190 320 59.4% 2435 16 11 8 5
Josh Freeman, K St. 2006 140 270 51.9% 1780 6 15 7 6
Reggie Ball, Ga. Tech 2003 181 350 51.7% 1996 10 11 7 6
Brady Quinn, UND 2003 157 332 47.3% 1831 9 15 5 7
Jimmy Clausen, UND 2007 138 245 56.3% 1254 7 6 3 9
Zack Asack, Duke 2005 90 180 50.0% 966 5 8 1 10
Thaddeus Lewis, Duke 2006 180 340 52.9% 2134 11 16 0 12
Season Averages 168.8 303.3 55.7% 2000.9 13.2 11.5 6.0 6.5
The data is sorted by the number of wins posted that season by the representative teams. It could be said that Bradford, Henne, Leak and (to a lesser extent) Stafford each played with considerable talent that gave them better numbers than they would’ve had otherwise. It could also be said that this table includes two Duke QBs and two frosh Domers who pulled the numbers down. That’s why the averages are important.
Let’s look at what our guys Threet and Sheridan did last year:
Year Cmp. Att. Pct. Yds. TD INT Wins Losses
Steven Threet 2008 102 200 51.0% 1105 9 7 2 6
Nick Sheridan 2008 63 137 46.0% 613 2 5 1 3
Season Totals 165 337 49.0% 1718 11 12 3 9
So, uh, not that well.
Now, let’s make some assumptions regarding the upcoming season:
1) Tate Forcier comes in and performs at the average level of the QBs listed above, with the requisite TD and INT percentages.
2) However, because he is a freshman, he eases into the season before taking over completely at midseason – playing the equivalent of about 8 games.
3) Nick Sheridan actually improves to where Sheridan ≠ DEATH, but maybe Sheridan = Threet 2008 (which might be near death). He starts or plays significantly early in the season, but total PT is about 4 games. Again, with the requisite TD and INT percentages.
4) The last assumption would be to assume about 25 pass attempts a game.
How would such a scenario look?
Year Cmp. Att. Pct. Yds. TD INT
Tate Forcier (projected) 2009 112 200 56.0% 1319 8.7 7.6
Nick Sheridan (projected) 2009 77 150 51.3% 829 6.8 5.3
Season Totals 189 350 54.0% 2148 15.5 12.8
That is a huge improvement over last season. And I think it’s a reasonable base expectation for QB production in 2009.
I think what’s most important to look at in these numbers is the increase in completions, passing yards and TDs. Similar numbers last year would have meant, at a minimum, more sustained offensive drives, a few more third-down conversions and maybe 2-4 more first downs a game. Those things alone might have been enough to make a difference against Toledo, Purdue and Northwestern last year. The increase in the number of TD passes from last year’s 11 to 15-16 might have made the difference in the MSU and Utah games.
I know there are a lot of assumptions here, but it’s clear that poor QB play was probably the difference between a 3-9 season and a potential 6-6 or 7-5 season. Honestly, I think a best-case scenario for QB production this year might be like 2003 Chris Leak at Florida, and a worst-case would be like 2003 Reggie Ball at Georgia Tech.
I did like Threet, and I believe he had the potential, because of his experience, to post numbers similar to what I have here. However, it would’ve come at the expense of the offense that RichRod is trying to employ.
Let go of the angst, Wolverine fans. If Michigan gets mediocre production from the QB, things will likely improve greatly.