Stop With The Angst! A Frosh QB Analysis

Submitted by pete-rock on February 19th, 2009 at 4:34 PM

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.



February 19th, 2009 at 4:53 PM ^

Just curious anyone know if any of the above (excluding Bradford who was a RS) actually went through spring ball? I am sure that helps a QB, but have no idea to what extent it helps.

Willie Heston

February 19th, 2009 at 4:53 PM ^

"Those things alone might have been enough to make a difference against Toledo, Purdue and Northwestern last year. "

Sure, and let's see if we can also hang on to the frickin' rock on punts/kickoffs, eh?


February 19th, 2009 at 4:58 PM ^

Henne, Leak, Stafford, and maybe Quinn were all QBs higher rated than Forcier. So you might think about trying to reduce the upward influence their numbers have on the average. Conversely, I'm assuming Asack, Lewis, and Ball were lower-rated, so you might want to think about reducing the influence as well.

And no, I don't know how to do this. But I highly doubt that the upward influence of the higher-rated QBs exactly cancels out the downward influence of the lower-rated QBs. I imagine the average is artificially skewed one way or another.

Six Zero

February 19th, 2009 at 5:45 PM ^

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.

In the immortal words of Glenn "Bo" Schembechler:
Now what kinda happy horseshit is that?!!"


February 19th, 2009 at 6:14 PM ^

But what's the alternative? Sheridan running the show the entire season? Not. Gonna. Happen. Evenly split QB time between Sheridan and Forcier? Maybe a little more likely, but could lead to factions and chemistry problems on the offense. And if you split time between 3 QBs (Sheridan/Forcier/Robinson), you have a mighty stron recipe for Offense Mutiny.

Someone has to emerge as the frontrunner. And I'm guessing that RichRod determined that either 1) the Threet/Forcier margin heading into spring practice was razor-thin, and he would go with the guy who best fits the offense and with the highest ceiling, or 2) Forcier has already demonstrated that he's the frontrunner. If neither case was true, he would've been doing everything he could to keep Threet around. But he didn't.

Six Zero

February 19th, 2009 at 6:56 PM ^

I was thinking quite the opposite.... in light of everything that's happened, it's either Forcier or (gulp!) Sheridan, end of story. What I meant is that we do not have the luxury of letting OMT (Our Man Tate) ease into anything. He needs to be ready to go, to the best of his ability against the Broncos.

Sheridan earned my respect in the Minnesota game, to the extent that I offered him an apology here of all places... but if he starts the first game, or if Tate struggles early, we're in trouble. He needs have taken control of the position before the season begins.

If anyone can ease into a more prominent role by midseason, perhaps it's Denard?


February 19th, 2009 at 5:55 PM ^

When I looked up Sam Bradford's info, I didn't see a redshirt. I goofed on that one. But if anything, it shows how much that one year of incubation can mean for QB production.

As far as weighting the QBs by * rankings, they sorta did that by themselves already. A 4+* QB is very unlikely to head to Duke, or even Kansas St., if they have offers from more prominent schools. And I think the numbers reflect the relative talent that each QB had at their disposal, which inflated (or deflated) their stats.


February 19th, 2009 at 6:02 PM ^

By competent do you mean adequate?

Personally, I think it is really difficult to differentiate between a lot of Michigan Wolverine Quarterbacks in the Gary and Lloyd tenures. The builds were somewhat similar and so was their overall point of attack. By and large...they were pocket passers who needed to understand football fundamentals from the QB position. I think Navarre is the whipping boy in Michigan football history. So thus, every QB that does not win pretty at MI thus draws the HORRID Navarre analogue comparison. The real truth is we'll never know about Steven Threet or Ryan Mallett as Wolverines. Because they are QB carnage lost in the sands of time and regime change. For you to even hypothesize about what you think would have happened is pure conjecture. Navarre had his ups and downs just like Forcier will. But the dreaded Navarre comparison is cliche at this point.

Forcier is someone whom I hope the best for. He will be running into the heart of some tough defenses. Defenses built around grown men of 20-22 years of age. Guys who have been in the weight room for 3-4 years. Forcier is MAYBE 6'0 tall and MAYBE 200 lbs. This leads one to hope his arm and QB acumen are on par with that of a SEASONED Big Ten QB. I'll stop setting this up and get to my point. Once again, in our attempts to move on, we are trying to justify it as moving forwards. And there is a difference. And secondly, Foricer is likely to get his bell rung and injured at least once this year. Which leads us to Robinson and Sheridan. And lastly, let's skip the savior tag. Forcier is as much a project as Threet would've been.

Big Welcome to the guy who finds people always open.......We at Michigan say Bring on The Frenchman!


February 19th, 2009 at 6:31 PM ^

I liked John Navarre. I think you read something totally different from my intent.

I saw Navarre/Threet parallels -- both were thrust into a starting role prematurely; both had confidence struggles that led to wild swings in productivity. But Navarre grew into the position, and while he was never an All-American candidate, he was better than mediocre. My intent was to say that Threet could have evolved into the adequate and ultimately mildly successful QB that Navarre was.

Tate Forcier's size will be an issue. It was for Drew Brees. It was also for Chris Leak. It was also for Chase Daniels. All were about the same size as Forcier.

Does that mean I expect similar production from Forcier right off the bat? Hell no. But I would hope that Forcier's developed the kind of QB savvy and sixth-sense that would aid in his success.

Moving on, moving forward, whatever. I am not branding Forcier as a savior -- just saying he's probably the best we got.

Blue Durham

February 19th, 2009 at 6:52 PM ^


There are hundreds of college QB's that enter the ranks every year as true freshmen. Your list provides 10 over the course of 5 years, about 1% of the total true freshmen. If any or most of these QB's beat out an upperclassman, then they established their mettle in practice.

Our situation with Forcier/Robinson seems to be different. There is no one (sorry Nick) to beat out; the position is theirs by default. Will either pan out and be like one of the 10? Or will they be more like the 99% that were deemed not ready and sat on the bench, but thrust into a situation that they are grossly unprepared for?

I suspect and fear the latter (the odds are vastly on that side).

Blue Durham

February 19th, 2009 at 7:42 PM ^

I suspect any statistical analysis based on previous freshman performance is flawed and not applicable.

Your sample size is 10 when it should be well into the 100's, which would incorporate all freshmen QBs, whether they play or not.

But most of these don't play; they have no statistics. You are only looking at the 10 that were good enough to make the field. Essentially, you are only looking at the cream of the crop.

Michigan's bar for starting a freshman is, well, rather low; Nick Sheridan (actually, probably lower since the future lies with the two freshmen). One, the other, or bothof the freshmen are going to start, regardless of their "earning the position." This is by default, and thus likely a different situation than most of the above QB's mentioned.

This is going to be a total crap shoot, with likely crappy results. Hope I am wrong though.

And that is not even factoring in injuries.


February 20th, 2009 at 4:54 PM ^

Geez, I can't believe the author didn't incorporate freshman statistics for a freshman who has no statistics.

Instead of making a nice post, which I enjoyed reading, the author should have just not written anything at all because there were no stats for all incoming freshman.

Blue Durham

February 20th, 2009 at 6:04 PM ^

By only considering the true freshmen that get to play, and leaving out of a sample all those who don't, the sample is totally skewed.

Thus, by looking only at the stats of these 10 freshmen, we can't extrapolate their performance to represent ALL freshmen QB's, starters or not. These 10 represent close to the cream of the crop.

Michigan's situation is different. Whith Threet now gone, practically by default Michigan is forced to start a freshman. This freshman's performance is going to be closer to the average of all freshmen QB's (those few good enough to start as well as the 100 or so not good enough to see the field), not the average of the ones (the 10 listed) who are good enough to beat out upper classmen for the starting position.

I am sorry if I ruined this nice post for you.

chitownblue (not verified)

February 20th, 2009 at 7:33 PM ^

Exactly, the vast majority of freshmen do not start because an older, more experienced player is, in the overwhelming number of occassions, better. Tate does not have that older, better player to beat out - Pryor unseated a QB that led the Big 10 in passing efficiency the previous year, Mitch Mustain beat out (and then was beat out) by Casey Dick, Josh Freeman unseated a 2 year starter, and Stafford unseated a Junior who began the year as the starter. By facing and defeating these challenges, the QB's listed showed themselves capable of something most Freshmen aren't. Tate, on the other hand, has to unseat a walk-on who, while vaguely experienced, showed himself to be one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the history of college football.

The sample presented above quantifies the performance of the very elite true freshmen. We're not even sure Forcier belongs on the list.

Blue Durham

February 20th, 2009 at 7:51 PM ^

was so poorly presented that nobody understood.

An equally important concern with the coming season is physically mature 21-23 year DL's and LB's beating on relatively physically immature 18-19 year old through the course of practices and games.

Blue Durham

February 20th, 2009 at 9:04 PM ^

Glad that you just joined today and that this is your first post ever on this site. We can always use people with knowledge and insight into Michigan sports, particularly football.

The OP, Pete-Rock, also just joined yesterday and his first post ever on this blog was also, WHOA, the OP of this very thread.

Wow, what an incredible coincidence! You both seem to have a lot in common. Perhaps you two should do the facebook/myspace thing and get to know each other.


February 19th, 2009 at 8:31 PM ^

The author makes a limited statistical study to reach a tentative conclusion, and you all apparently want to crucify him for failing to run regression analyses or not taking into account this or weighting the numbers that way.

Statistics based on past players ARE NEVER PERFECT. It was just an attempt to put a reasonable expectation on the QB play for this year.

I'm sure the poster knows that Chad Henne is not Tate Forcier, etc. etc. etc.

I appreciated the analysis. It is at least an interesting take/perspective on everything, and certainly something I would not have done myself.


February 19th, 2009 at 8:52 PM ^

I like what Pete did here. I have been saying all along that if Threet played much more than a game and a half, UM would be in severe trouble this year.

I am confident that Forcier and Robinson will do a great job as freshmen. I am looking at 9-3 or 8-4, based on the schedule, the extra year of experience, and the fact that both QB's fit into RR's vision of what needs to be done.

And I am even more optimistic than you are, because I disagree that size will be an issue.

If UM still had a drop-back, pocket-style offense, size would definitely hurt both Forcier and Robinson. But in a spread option, the sightlines are a lot easier and recievers are often a lot more open, because the QB is usually rolled out to one side or the other.

This is why I see most of the taller QB's, like Terelle Pryor, turning down UM for pro-set programs, and UM taking shorter guys who are in Robinson's position where the media says, "if he was three inches taller, every team in the country would be after him."

And I see UM doing fine with slightly smaller QB's.

Blue Durham

February 19th, 2009 at 9:00 PM ^

And while I do think the method and assumptions were not totally valid, I do hope that he is the one to be vindicated and I am the vanquished.

But you know what they say about expectations and disappointment.

Personally, I hope that Nick Sheridan becomes the stuff of lore in Michigan football legends and is actually the one to lead the team to many victories. But I don't expect it.

At the very least, it should be an interesting season.


February 19th, 2009 at 10:49 PM ^

Terrelle Pryor

It'd be interesting to see what the freshmen averages look like without Bradford since he was a redshirt frosh. Bradford had the most yds, easily the highest completion %, the fewest ints, and comfortably led in TD's.

The interesting thing is that some of Threet's numbers aren't that far off from what the averages were for the other freshmen.

Threet: 51%, 9 TD's and 7 ints. (10 games?? and only part of Utah)

Averages: 55%, 13 TD's and 11 ints (and those include Bradford's numbers)

With Threet only playing in 10 games, his TD's and Int's might have been just about what the other players averaged. So for as much criticism as he's taken, he performed about equally to the average of the other QB's.

Other then Henne and Leak, no one else has any stats that look any good.


February 19th, 2009 at 11:54 PM ^

Personally I don't think that we will see Sheridan this year with the exception of standing next to RR helping call plays. I think with how Sheridan bombed every chance he had, RR will take his chances with Tate, or D Rob. Tate is getting all of the practice that Sheridan and Threet got last year but he is the right fit for the job. I have looked at the schedule and I really think that with the way the schedule is laid out that if we catch a few breaks we can win 9 this year. Isaid that we would win 8 last year so that does not mean much, but I think that we will beat Western. ND will be no better this year but we will not have the turnovers that we had last year plus the home field advantage will help. Eastern will still be learning English's ways. Indiana, well you know. MSU will be tough but not as good as they were last year without Ringer and Hoyer. I really think we will be undefeated going into E.L. I think if we can pull off the win we will suffer from the overconfidence against Iowa. I think we will win one of these 2 but not both. Delaware State should be a cake walk. PSU will not be as good as they were but they will be ready for us. Ill should be good with Juice coming back and Benn should shine like a star this year. I think we will lose to them but win against Purdue, Wiscy and tO$U. I really think that we can beat the suckeyes this year. Laurinitus and wells are gone as are most of the rest of the starters. Pryor has proven to be great on his feet but afraid to take a hit, and uncapable of throwing consistantly. Pryor will be the only real talent on that team but with no real depth at QB there will be a lot of pressure on him to stay healthy.
To look at the schedule I really think we can pull off 8 wins and maybe 9 (maybe).

Blue in Yarmouth

February 20th, 2009 at 9:23 AM ^

Who would have guessed he would have got graded on this analysis? Lighten up guys, he was just trying to bring hope to the wolverine faithful.

Personally, I don't see Sheridan ever seeing another snap.....EVER (that is my hope at any rate). I see it being a two horse race between Tate and D Rob with Tate winning out early in the season and D Rob coming on strong for more playing time late.

All we have to concern ourselves with is whether these two young studs will provide us with an improvement over last year and something to cheer about on offense this year. I think we can all say the answer to that will be an emphatic YES!
Go Blue!

chitownblue (not verified)

February 20th, 2009 at 5:18 PM ^

People are acting like he got shredded - CFaller just made a suggestion and Blue Durham offered a perfectly calm, non-insulting critique. What was so bad about what happened here?