Saturday, August 16, 2008

2008 position preview: quarterbacks

The biggest question in the Big Ten this offseason has been, "How will Rich Rodriguez's offense perform without Pat White?" Nobody knows. The presumptive starter hasn't thrown a pass in college, the challenger for the position is a walk-on, and then there are two scholarship afterthoughts. Luckily, Michigan has a stable of running backs and slot receivers who should be able to take a lot of pressure off the quarterback position.


Steve Threet (#10 - RS freshman - Adrian, MI)
Threet was a four-star quarterback and the #8 passer coming out of high school in 2007. An early enrollee at Georgia Tech, he spent spring ball fighting for the backup quarterback position for the Yellowjackets. For reasons unbeknownst to the general public, he decided to transfer during the summer of 2007 back to his home state of Michigan. There were rumors that the transfer was due to his fear of competition, but he transferred to the University of Michigan when all-everything quarterback Ryan Mallett was still presumed to be the next great Michigan QB, so that can't be the case. Fortunately for Threet, Mallett was afraid of Rich Rodriguez's spread offense and hightailed it for Arkansas. Threet spent the spring of 2008 as the front-runner for the starting QB position and has a tenuous grip on that spot still. Rodriguez has said repeatedly that Threet needs to be more decisive. At 6'6" and 230 pounds, Threet has some mobility but needs to be able to throw the ball downfield with strength and accuracy to be effective. If he can't be an effective passer, Rodriguez will turn to a more mobile quarterback to run the read option

Nick Sheridan (#8 - Junior - Saline, MI)
At 6'1" and 212 lbs., Sheridan is considerably shorter and lighter than Threet. The word out of Michigan practices is that he's more mobile and runs the read option better than Threet. As a walk-on, it's very surprising to see Sheridan pushing Threet for the starting job in such a prestigious program as Michigan. However, Sheridan was a bit if an unknown quantity when he graduated from Saline High School and walked onto the Wolverines as a freshman. He spent most of his senior year watching from the sideline due to injury. Even if he had played, some observers thought he would only be Division II or Division III material. There was some talk of Sheridan during the 2007 season, especially after Chad Henne got injured during the Oregon game. Mallett stepped in and played pretty well, but against Minnesota, Sheridan was the first quarterback off the bench - not David Cone, the only other scholarship QB on 2007's roster. The rumor at the time was that Sheridan was allowed to play because it was a home game and Saline neighbors Ann Arbor, meaning it might have been the only chance for his family to see him play at Michigan Stadium; this rumor can now be debunked, since it has become more and more clear that Sheridan has outperformed David Cone in practices. It would not be a complete surprise to see Sheridan start at quarterback against Utah on August 30, but if you told Michigan fans that in August 2007, they would have said, "Who?"

Justin Feagin (#3 - Freshman - Delray Beach, FL)
Feagin is a complete and utter wild card for the 2008 season. He chose to compete for the QB position at Michigan instead of play wide receiver in the SEC. When Michigan was in the thick of recruiting Terrelle Pryor, Michigan commit Feagin had stated that he would welcome competing against the #1 recruit in the nation to play quarterback. Many schools saw him as a likely position switcher, either to WR or defensive back. Comparisons to Pat White, who was also recruited to play WR at SEC schools, at WVU are inevitable. Feagin ran the read option against weak competition in Florida. Still, he was named the Player of the Year in his division after rushing for 1,100+ yards and 25 TD's while completing 60% of his passes and another 19 TD's. Watching his highlight film immediately explains the accolades. His talent far exceeds that of the opponents. With the amount of hype fellow freshman Terrence Robinson has garnered for a single play (dubbed the "Dream Shake"), one would think Michigan fans would be gushing over the 6'1", 205 lb. Feagin. He consistently outmaneuvers defenders, and even though he doesn't throw the ball much, he's capable of throwing on the run with some zip. He has been hampered by a sore shoulder during fall camp, causing some fans to vocalize hopes for a position switch. When healthy, Feagin could provide a much different look in the backfield than Threet or Sheridan can. Rodriguez has already stated that Feagin is having difficulty with the mental aspect of the college game so far, but if he catches on quickly or if the coaches can put together a package for him to take some snaps each game, run the option, and roll out, he could be very dangerous. He will not be the full-time starter in 2008, but the coaches should see what he can do. If they hold him out and don't see how he can develop, they'll be starting all over again with 2009 commitments Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver (and/or Tate Forcier and/or Eugene Smith). At least for 2008, Feagin is a quarterback. After that it's up in the air.

David Cone (RS sophomore - Greenville, GA)
A class of 2006 recruit, Cone exited high school as a Wing-T passer. And he remains on that level. The Wing-T is primarily a running offense, and the passes from that offense usually come from rollouts or three-step drops. Many coaches alter their offense when they have good talent at quarterback, but apparently Cone's coach stuck with the system. He averaged 9 pass attempts per game as a senior. The 6'7", 214 lb. Cone suits the spread option even less than Threet and Sheridan, and he had a chance to transfer after Rodriguez was hired. However, he's choosing to stick it out at Michigan. Cone is not a legitimate option at quarterback and likely won't see the field unless Michigan is blowing out an opponent. He'll find himself even more buried on the depth chart when Newsome and Beaver arrive in 2009. At least he's getting a good education.