August 25, 2009

Michigan's three headed QB "monster" and some thoughts on Terrelle Pryor

Well, I will say this about Rich Rodriguez. The man sure does like to do things the unconventional way. His latest move is his announcement that he plans to play three quarterbacks in the opener against Western Michigan. He hasn't announced a starter as of yet, but he said that Tate Forcier, Nick Sheridan, and Denard Robinson will all be getting snaps in that game.

Either Rich Rodriguez is crazy like a fox or he's setting up Michigan for another subpar year. I mean, I know he doesn't have a lot of good options right now at quarterback, but isn't there something to be said about picking one guy and going with him?? This situation feels very similar Charlie Weis' decision to hold back on announcing a quarterback before the start of the 2007 season. Instead of backing one guy and giving him some confidence, Weis decided to keep everyone guessing and it completely backfired. To this day, I have no idea how Weis came to that decision to start Demetrius Jones, and it was obvious that the team hadn't rallied around him as the QB at all. That decision to waffle on the QB situation and waste all those preseason practices on the spread option was probably the worst decision of Weis' coaching career and one that set this program back for at least a year (if not two).

I'm a big subscriber to the adage of "If you have two starting quarterbacks, then you don't have a starting quarterback." If Rich Rodriguez is planning to play three quarterbacks in the opener against a Western Michigan team that will probably give them a game, then it's a sign to me that he doesn't have confidence in any of his three quarterbacks. It's not like they're going to be winning that game 45-3 and emptying the bench with the backup QBs in the third quarter. Michigan is probably going to have to play their "1s" for most of the game just to pull that one out. That leads me to believe that Rodriguez feels the need to play all three quarterbacks just to see who makes something happen out there.

Then again, I can understand why they are having these QB issues. Look at their roster. Sheridan is a walk-on who was awful last year, and the other two are true freshmen. There's no way that Forcier or Robinson are going to be ready for the rigors of college football right out of the chute.

Still, Rodriguez has had several months to study these guys and think about who would be the best fit for his offense. At some point, you gotta just pick the guy with the best long term prospects and go with him. If you think Denard Robinson can be a stud someday, then just play him and let him take his lumps even if he can't really throw. If Forcier is the dual threat guy that you want, then give him all the snaps. Maybe Rodriguez doesn't think Forcier can hold up with that skinny frame. Or maybe he really is torn and just wants to see them compete in live action before making a final decision.

All I know is that Michigan is most likely not going to have a clear answer at quarterback by September 12 when Notre Dame comes to town. That bodes well for the Irish.

Florida and USC and Texas will eventually attract America's eyeballs as the season goes on, but the two most intriguing teams early in the season are without a doubt going to be Notre Dame and Michigan. Is there any college football fan in America who isn't going to be paying close attention to how ND and Michigan look in those first 2-3 games?? Both teams are complete wildcards going into the season. You could sell me on both teams being really good, and you could sell me on both teams packing it in and firing their head coaches at the end of the season. And everything in the middle is in play as well. The ND-Michigan probably will not have a major bearing on who wins the national title in 2009, but it's going to be quite a compelling game.

---I walked down to the Ohio State open practice event last night at the Horseshoe, and wanted to throw in a couple words about Terrelle Pryor. The stadium was only about 1/3 full, so most of the spectators were able to sit down in the first few rows right up near the players. Anyway, I have not really had a chance to see Terrelle Pryor up close until last night, and I must say that he is one of the more impressive physical specimens you will ever see on a football field. The guy is huge. He's like Jamarcus Russell big. He's listed at 235 pounds, but he looks like he's about 250 or maybe 260. I didn't know he was that big. But he's not some plodding Jared Lorenzen type. He's fast and has these long strides that get him from point A to B in a hurry.

And Pryor is making some strides with his passing. He was throwing fades and slants and out routes and generally was putting the ball where it needed to go. It seems like he's more comfortable throwing the ball this year. Overall, I thought Pryor looked good and should be a much better quarterback this year.

Ultimately though, Pryor's physical gifts can only take him so far, especially if he has aspirations of playing quarterback in the NFL someday. The mental side of playing quarterback is going to be his biggest challenge. Making quick reads, staying in the pocket instead of giving up on a play, and hitting guys in stride are much more important qualities for a quarterback than your 40 time and your athletic ability.

From what I saw, I still think Pryor is going to have growing pains in those areas this year. He still holds the ball a little bit too long and occasionally throws behind receivers or makes them slow down to get a ball. If I was USC, I would bring the house early and often and make Pryor beat you with his arm. If he tries to hold the ball and takes drive-killing sacks or makes slow reads all evening, Ohio State will lose that game by two touchdowns.

If I was Tressel, I would be doing much more to get Pryor out on the run with the threat to throw. More roll outs and throwback screens where teams have to pay attention to his legs and may get caught off guard when he decides to throw. That's where Pryor can be the most effective in my opinion. He's not going to be as effective as a straight drop back passer.

Pryor is still only a true sophomore, and I think he will eventually go down as Ohio State's best quarterbacks in many years. Pryor will have some games where he just overwhelms Big Ten defenses with his physical talents. With his speed and strength and overall athletic ability, I think we'll be seeing a lot of 30-40 yard runs and big plays in the passing game. But he will not be judged by how he performs against Indiana and Minnesota. His final exams will come against USC and Penn State and whoever they play in their bowl game. Stay tuned.

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