QB Strategiery

Submitted by Blazefire on April 12th, 2010 at 9:20 AM

(First off - I know, I know. It's the off season. Gimme a break.)

Alright, so, I managed to stomach some of the grammar over at GBMW, and I came away with a few interesting tidbits. According to them, Tate and Denard look about even, with Denard's legs giving him a slight edge. They also said, however, that the offenses aren't running any plays to stretch the field at all right now, so whether that's because the QB's aren't up to it (Tate's shoulder?) or they're just working on other stuff, I don't know.

They also said the split in time right now is about 50% Denard, 40% Tate, 10% Devin, and that Devin is making substantial process, and though he's behind on the learning curve, he can do things the other two just can't. So go with me on this for a minute:

Rodriguez has stated on numerous occasions that the intention with Denard is to get him on the field wherever possible. We know that he's a ridiculous athletic talent, but to this point, he's proven to be a gamble whether he'll hurt or help more, and that's likely to always be the case to some extent.

Tate has proven to be a ridiculously awesome QB sometimes, but, also clearly has physical limitations. That can't really be argued. He's always going to be a touch smaller, a touch slower, with a touch less arm. But we do know, when healthy, he's awesome. He's not quite the athlete Denard is, but he's a safe bet to make plays and keep us in the game.

Then you've got Devin, who has the true star power potential to take us to new heights. He's simply not there yet, but actually could be at some point this year.

So then, I think we see the logic behind the QB process here. The goal is to eventually get Devin starting, at which point you don't want to relegate TWO other exceptional talents to the bench. So, we work the offense with Denard to make sure he's really good at what he's good at, then coach him on other positions. We start out the year with two QB's, similar to last year, and eventually, if and when he's ready, we work in Devin. At that point, we rotate uber-athlete Denard entirely to other positions, so we're not wasting two exceptional talents on the bench at any one time, and the QB rotation becomes Forcier-Gardner instead, with Robinson full time at other positions. Eventually, Gardner transitions to the full or most of the time starting role, and we end up with this:

Awesome, super athletic, NC winning starting QB.
Backup/split time QB that the rest of college football would kill to have as their full time starter
Athletic playmaker in the vein of Randle-El or someone similar, who takes over the game all over the field, and occasionally lines up at center to mess with defenses heads.

THAT, my friends, is a dream scenario.



April 12th, 2010 at 10:00 AM ^

You don't like GBMW I like them very much they seem to know lots about all positions most important QB with all three guys Tate he's the experienced guy Denard is a really good athlete Devin he's young but wow what potential and put them altogether and we should have a really good year but only if the defense rises to the occasion I'm sure they will what with Greg Robinson having more experience and all that.

El Jeffe

April 12th, 2010 at 9:50 AM ^

Loosely related thoughts for a Monday:

1. I appreciate the effort it took not to let this post devolve into a "Tate vs. Denard" rehash.

2. It seems like this whole thing will really amount to what RR wants out of his spread. It's pretty clear that something different was going on at Tulane with Shaun King putting up crazy throwing numbers. Since then, RR has more or less put his faith in the zone read as the base play, meaning that running threats like Robinson and Gardner will have an advantage over a better (i.e., more accurate) thrower like Tate.

3. I bet that the transition from King to Dantzler to White represents partly the personnel and partly the evolution of RR's thinking, or both. After all, the man did try to get Steven Threat to run the zone read. Makes you wonder what he would have done with Mallett if he had stuck around. Yikes...

4. In the end, it seems like RR would prefer a runner who can throw a little to a thrower who can improve his running a little. Ultimately, we may learn that Robinson won't be able to learn to throw well enough to take the reins full time and Tate may be too limited in the running game, leaving the door open for Gardner.

5. I still think Gardner will redshirt this year, though. Based on what? Uh, my thoughts.


April 12th, 2010 at 9:58 AM ^

I think that this is true, and the reason RR feels this way is because he has faith in his coaching staff that if he can get a guy who is a ridiculous athlete (like D Rob) who has a strong arm, they can coach him into a decent-enough passer to execute a winning game plan. He doesn't have to be Peyton Manning, but if he can complete bubble-screens in-stride and throw down-field occasionally enough to keep safeties dropping into coverage, that zone-read is a heck of a lot scarrier to try and defend, and ultimately you become a true 'spread n' shred'.


April 12th, 2010 at 10:05 AM ^

...but I think this dream scenario requires 3 players to absolutely max out to their potential ceiling of ability. And we know in college, we should be lucky if even one of these guys does it.

I just hope it's the guy with the highest ceiling, Garden.


April 12th, 2010 at 10:07 AM ^

What we haven't seen yet is any of the three QB's running the read option in a college game consistently. I think whoever can do that first will get the nod.

In Rodriguez's spread, as others have mentioned, the read option is the foundation, because it is what provides the whole "getting the playmakers in space" thing. Tate, Denard, and Devin all have a long way to go before they're faking handoffs like Juice or Darryl Clark or Pat White. I think whoever can get to the point where they can make a decision and pull or give the ball without being obvious is going to be the one who becomes the permanent starter.


April 12th, 2010 at 10:48 AM ^

I think it is very wise for RR to give all three QB candidates lots of PT in both Spring & Summer/Fall practice. I also think your analysis is correct . . . that whichever of the three is strongest in the read option (and thus, gives Michigan the best chance to win) will get the nod.

In fact, I think some of the non-conference games (Mass & Bowling Green,) as well as Big 10 opener with Indiana, RR will prob. give many reps to both soph QBs, and possibly to Devin as well. Game experience will help in the analysis of who truly does the read option well, and will help in the learning curve.

It is a bit unfortunate this year to be facing UConn & ND out of the gate. The temptation, or necessity, could be to give the ball largely to Tate. I'm not smart enough to know.

El Jeffe

April 12th, 2010 at 12:57 PM ^

I'm not sure it would make sense to burn DG's redshirt early in the season against such snacky cakes as Mass and BGSU (or even in mopup duty (plzkthx) against UConn, as suggested below).

Rather, if DG blows up (or keeps blowing up) in practice, and seems like a viable and necessary option for later in the season, I would imagine the redshirt would be blown mid-season against a semi-snacky cake like IU away or MSU at home (did you see what I did there?).

But Are You There God It's Me El Jeffe Please Let Tate and Denard Smoke Fools So Devin Can Keep His Redshirt.

Edward Khil

April 12th, 2010 at 2:42 PM ^

I, too, was doubtful that Gardner would keep his redshirt this year, mostly because I thought he'd be the best option for full-time quarterbacking duties after Tate. But, if Denard is really challenging for the starting position, even though Tate has improved, it sure sounds as though Gardner can be kept out of games (barring injuries).

If Denard has improved so much that he gets and deserves the starts, well, that would make me giddy.


April 12th, 2010 at 11:13 AM ^

I think that this is true. I was an option QB, and I can tell you - it takes a long time for almost anyone to learn to make those reads consistently at game speed. It takes years.

So, I was stunned when I was at practice on Saturday and say that the QB who was the best at this was Gardner. I don't know that he ever truly ran it in high school, but he clearly already GETS IT. He's not perfect, not by any stretch, but he seemed ahead of the other two. Tate was getting better than last year. Denard was hit or miss, but is such a ridiculous athlete I'd rather have him keep more than he should - he broke a few runs that should have lost him yards.


April 12th, 2010 at 10:23 AM ^

Here's the problem with your reasoning:

While everyone loves to talk about moving denard to another position because of his obviously insane speed, all of the reports coming out of practice seem to indicate that (1) he has made huge strides as a QB, and (2) that he has a cannon of an arm. Just because he had a crappy first season at QB doesn't mean that he cannot be the real deal. Consider Jimmah's first season at ND and where he ultimately ended up (as a player, now where his team ended up). Also consider that he did not enroll early and was tasked with learning an offense that even the coaches admit is complex and takes time to learn. I guess my point is that while everyone wants to get Denard on the first as much as possible - and I don't disagree with that - I wouldn't be so fast to write him off as a QB.

Also, while all of the reports are that Devin looks damn good, he is still a true freshman. He can only benefit from a full season sitting on the bench and learning this offense inside and out. If he redshirts, and if he is as good as projected, then he can split time with Tate or Denard for the following two seasons, and ultimate take over the QB spot outright for his final two years. If he does not redshirt, then you have a real logjam at QB for the next three seasons.

My preference for this season: some split of time between Tate and Denard unless one emerges as clearly better (with Denard being on the first in other positions when Tate is at the helm).


April 12th, 2010 at 10:32 AM ^

Lord willing, there will be no injuries to our QB's, but based on last year that is wishful thinking. Having Tate and Denard capable of starting gives us a huge advantage over where we were at last year (Tate playing with a bum shoulder). Add in that Denard will most likely get more PT at other positions, the potential for injury only increases.

My point is, I am very excited that Denard is excelling at QB and I hope Tate continues to do the same, giving us multiple options at the QB spot, IN CASE of an injury. In my opinion (which means nothing), I would like to see Gardner red-shirt, with the expectation that he will see the field if Tate or Denard get injured; thus negating his red-shirt status..

On a side note, I am very excited to see the new and improved Denard this Saturday. Go Blue!


April 12th, 2010 at 10:30 AM ^

god dammit. i had a long post all set and then i lost it.

in short, if i had to make a prediction, Tate's history at UM if he falls behind Denard and/or Devin.

So many coaches/schools would welcome with open arms a guy who has a year of full-time starting experience and 2 more years of eligibility. Given Tate's confidence, competitiveness and (imo) underrated ability, I don't see how he'd be willing to ride the bench.

While it's too early to tell, for sure, it really seems like Rich is just merely entertaining the idea of Tate as his starter until either of the 2 taylor-made athletes he's recruited to run his dream-offense step up and snatch away the job.

Like I said, it's early... too early. These are just thoughts/predictions. If it takes Devin a season or more to get up to speed to the point where he's a better option for Rich, and Tate continues to progress, then things should be fine. Devin redshirts, and Tate/Denard continue on like they did last year.

I don't see that happening. I just have a feeling Devin will see the field at some point this year, and once that happens, I have a hard time seeing him leaving the field.

It will be Very interesting to see how this all shakes out.

I like Tate Forcier. I think what he did last year was largely underrated. Yes, he played like a Freshman at many points, but he's got a lot of desirable attributes. It's great for the team if he raises his game to meet the challenge from his competitors. It's also great if Devin and Denard pick it up and become legitimate full-time QBs.

Win, Win, ultimately.


April 12th, 2010 at 10:47 AM ^

it's THE TEAM. However, in this day and age, it seems as though college players are a bit more egocentric than in decades past.

I agree with your assessment of Tate last year. He was way up on the "plus side" before he hurt his shoulder, in my opinion. I haven't seen Devin play, but the one attribute Tate seems to possess is his ability to improvise. (Think back to the Jr. Hemingway pass for a score early last year.)

Having said that, I hope Denard and Devin emerge quickly and can contribute, too. (A Devin redshirt would be best for the program if we can move the ball effectively with Denard and Tate.) I think the coaches know it's in their best interest to eventually give all of them PT as situations dictate. A transfer would be unfortunate.

Just hope the players are buying into the notion of "THE TEAM" and not "THE EGO."


April 12th, 2010 at 10:38 AM ^

When it's all said and done come the end of fall camp - I honestly don't see how RR starts Denard over Tate. It's only spring ball now - and I think some of the hype is blown out of the water about Devin / Denard being on Tate's level or higher.

It's all in good fun and to spur the level of competition at the position right now. Tate's your starter on Sept. 4.

Troy MiIler

April 12th, 2010 at 1:31 PM ^

RR has said that along the lines of no one is guaranteed the starter spot. Even though Tate started last year, he isn't guaranteed the starting position or even the #1 QB. Although I want him to be the #1 QB, but if Tate isn't, than so be it. I trust RR fully and I know he'll make the right decision.


April 12th, 2010 at 10:55 AM ^

Personally, I think we are closer to Devin starting on 9/4 than any of us realize.

Unoffical Odds of starting the opener at QB:

Tate -160

Devin 4/1

Denard 6/1


April 12th, 2010 at 11:11 AM ^

The whole point of this post was NOT to debate who would start this year, but what the overall strategy might be regarding the QB's and their progression.

We do NOT need another thread arguing over who is the best/most likely starter.


April 12th, 2010 at 2:00 PM ^

He's not even a true freshman yet.

Which means, he'll have gotten six months of practice experience before he's even in camp with the other freshmen.

I wonder whether Devin really wants to stick around on campus for 5 1/2 years with a redshirt.

I am coming around more to the thinking that, if Gardner is as good as we may think he is, you may as well figure out a way to give him time this year, because if he hits that upside, you'll never see that redshirt senior year.


April 12th, 2010 at 2:07 PM ^

you don't take into account the fact a year in the program with a RS working on the scout team, etc., will help way more than wasting a year of his talent in a throw-away game or risky situation. i still wish we had been able to RS robinson but it wasn't in the cards.

it's a very solid possibility he could be playing behind Tate this year AND next year. but that would mean he only lost one year in which he could/should have played. if he has the upside, he would usurp Robinson/Forcier in their senior year as a Sophomore. not as a Junior. HUGE difference.

Troy MiIler

April 12th, 2010 at 4:23 PM ^

It would be better for the team in the long term for him to RS. Two years of splitting time with Tate and Denard and two years of starting, versus, three years of splitting time and one year of starting. Devin would benefit greatly from Red-shirting this year.


April 12th, 2010 at 11:08 AM ^

is that the Forcier clan does not have a good track record of staying content without the full limelight ( The older Forcier's i.e., not Tate at least not yet).

I am not sure that is even reasonable for us to expect, given that he is unquestionably one hell of a QB.

Apart from all the if's and but's, this will be a major wrench in your dream scenario.


April 12th, 2010 at 11:21 AM ^

I know you said this is a "dream scenario," so you probably don't expect it to be 100% certain of happening.

But as someone said above, this would require all three of our stud quarterback recruits to pan out and be studs. I do not think this is likely. I also do not like the idea of rotating quarterbacks (whether it's Forcier-Gardner, Forcier-Robinson, or Robinson-Gardner). Historically, a quarterback rotation has not worked. I very much believe that the random insertions of Denard last year bogged down the offense and prevented the team from getting into a flow.

Denard has to have a "role", whether it's the starting QB or the Percy Harvin-type jack of all trades. But when you put him in the game for a couple plays every third or fourth series and just run QB draws, that messes with the offense's timing.


April 12th, 2010 at 11:38 AM ^

To go along with your point on timing, I wonder if the rotating of Tate and Denard creates any emotional change in the players on the field (confidence, frustration..etc). I wonder if the players are like.."here we go again". From a purely personal standpoint, it would feel to me like in-game experimentation that should have taken place in practice. Too many times last year it seemed as though RR would throw Denard in there when Tate was struggling. Why not let the team work through it and throw Denard in as part of the game plan and on a situational basis( certain packages, down/yard/field position type). Last year was hectic for sure, as both of our qb's were true freshmen, but I would hope we don't see the same thing this year. May the best guy win and let him be "the guy".

pee on freep

April 12th, 2010 at 11:49 AM ^

Great post first of all. I have a prediction. Game One-UConn, all three quarterbacks see action like last year. Devin will be limited to mop up once game is in hand in second half. Versus the tiny irish fairies its a Tate/Denard show to close the deal. Once they get past that Devin will start to see more PT versus the non-conference foes, to get him ready for Big Ten games. Eventually by the end of the year (or perhaps early 2011 season) Denard starts at QB, but Devin begins to play QB for majority of game. Tate comes in to relieve Devin (somewhat of a change of pace move) (slower, but deadly), and Denard is running out of backfield, slot, wideout. Eventually the dynamic of Devin at QB and Denard running pitch sweeps with the option to throw or run, with Devin able to also keep defenses guessing and honest, will provide such a unstoppable offensive attack the only negative will be our defense not getting enough rest. Soon, perhaps by end of this year this Devin/QB, Denard/Ninja, Tate/crazy good backup, will find its home. RichRod, UM, the universe needs the best dynamic on the field. I believe this as stated above is it, and i believe it will happen. 2010 = bowl, 2011 = BCS bowl, 2012 = NC.....

El Jeffe

April 12th, 2010 at 3:26 PM ^

@ Magnus and other coaches: does it make sense at all that because the strengths of Tate and Denard are so different, that signaling that they will both definitely play in a game forces the DC of the other team to essentially prepare two separate game plans?

And, given the scarcity of practice time ([rosenberg]except at UM[/rosenberg]), that would seem to reduce the amount of time any one scheme can be focused on by the defense.

By contrast, in ye olde dayes of statuesque QBs at UM, it didn't much matter whether Dreisbach/Griese or Henson/Brady or Gutierrez/Henne was starting, the game plan was the same.


April 12th, 2010 at 4:19 PM ^

If I were an opposing coach, I would definitely have to design and implement varying game plans if I had someone like Forcier and someone like Robinson alternating series/plays/quarters. But if the entire Robinson playbook consists of ISQDs, then the defensive game plan isn't extremely difficult when he's in the game.


April 12th, 2010 at 11:32 AM ^

I think Tate deserves to be the starter until he proves otherwise. He deserved the starting job with the way he played when he was healthy last year.


April 12th, 2010 at 12:04 PM ^

If you ask me, a lot of this business over the quarterback battle between Tate and Denard is RR's chicanery. My unfounded epinion: Denard is getting more work because he needs more work, and because RR wants to keep using Denard as a change-of-pace quarterback with Tate as the primary, only this season with Denard actually quarterbacking so it's a dangerous option rather than "hey look, it's #16, bet he runs."

Long story short: I think Tate continues to be the primary QB.