July 21, 2008
Position Preview: QBs cramming for fall exams
In 2007, Michigan quarterbacks Chad Henne and Ryan Mallett attempted 419 passes. Both are gone. U-M's projected starter -- redshirt freshman Steve Threet -- has yet to throw a collegiate pass. This could be a very interesting season.
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Starters: Chad Henne (47 career starts).
Returning Starters: None.
Starters: Steve Threet (0)
Top Reserves: Nick
Sheridan (0) and David Cone (0).
Freshman Impact: Justin
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Not since 2004 has so much uncertainty surrounded the position. Add in the transition to a spread offense, with, ideally, an option attack centered around the quarterback, and the next few months could rank among the most up and down of any in the past 20 years for Michigan's signal-callers.
First-year quarterbacks coach Rod Smith doesn't seem fazed by the enormous task at hand, but he would have liked more than 15 practices in the spring to work with his Wolverines.
"It's a situation where you wish you had more time to keep trying to develop them," he said. "They're in a cram session right now."
Smith was counting on his quarterbacks to spend as much time reading, absorbing and practicing plays from the playbook this summer. When Michigan opens camp in a few weeks, the signal-callers must have advanced from the end of spring practices. In fact, the quarterback that has the most probably has the best chance of seeing the majority of the snaps this fall.
Everyone assumes the starter will be redshirt freshman Steve Threet but redshirt sophomore Nick Sheridan could make a push for playing time in the preseason. It's not out of the question, though unlikely, that redshirt sophomore David Cone challenges too while arriving rookie Justin Feagin also should figure into the mix.
Whoever ends up the starter, Smith promises that the coaches will adapt the game plan as necessary. They won't force Theet, a traditional drop-back passer, to run 15 times a game just as they wouldn't force Feagin, a natural runner, to throw 40 times.
"We can mold and adapt our schemes and the philosophy around the quarterback," he said. "That's exactly what we're going to do."
THE PRO: Steven Threet
Calling Threet a pro is like calling Ohio State an academic institution. If you look hard enough or go by the slimmest of standards, it could be true. But if not Threet, then whom? Cone? The man with one career attempt? Sheridan? No quarterback on the roster is yet a pro. Threet has the best chance to be because of his prep background - he's the only four-star of the quarterback lot - but he lacks the experience to be considered much more than a pro-in-training.
"I'm confident," Threet said. "I'm confident in myself and my abilities. That's something you almost have to have in a quarterback. One guy plays, and they're always coming after you."
THE RISING STAR: Nick Sheridan
If Threet isn't under center on opening day, it's quite possible Sheridan has unseated him. The walk-on quarterback from Saline, Mich., possesses better quickness and speed and could run more of the option attack while also throwing passes all over the field. He lacks the arm strength of Threet, but if the coaches want a do-it-all type, he might be better suited to run the offense than his teammate.
THE ROOKIE: Justin Feagin
It seems very likely that this fall Feagin will occupy some sort of role within the Michigan offense. Can he develop into U-M's starter? Potentially. But even if he does not by season's end, Feagin should see at least a few snaps every game because of his ability to run the spread option. And as long as he can keep defenses honest with a few passes here and there, Feagin can play a significant role this fall.
BATTLE TO WATCH: Feagin vs. Carlos Brown
Carlos Brown? Certainly the battle for a starting role will be one to watch but it is well assumed Threet will win it. The more interesting competition could occur between Feagin and Brown as the change-of-pace quarterback. The guy that is capable of running with the football from under center.
A former high school signal-caller, Brown might have emerged from the spring in a much bigger role at the position but an injury sideline him for the majority of the practices. Still, he'll be given every opportunity this August to show that he can run, and throw, out of the spread, and if capable could allow the coaches to redshirt Feagin.
For Michigan's offense to succeed, the Maize and Blue will need consistently strong play from the quarterback position. Obviously, there will be ups and downs, complicated by both a lack of experience and a move to a new system. But the coaches promise they will put their signal-caller in favorable matchups to succeed. With a potentially dominating defense on the other side of the ball, U-M may only need its offense to be good enough, like it was in 1997. Still, that might be asking a lot from a group so young.
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Coach Rod Smith: At A Glance
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College: Glenville State
Experience: 12 years.
U-M Tenure: 1st season.
All-Conference Performers: Frank
Carrico (1998), Marquel Blackwell (2001-02), Matt Grothe (2006) and Pat
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