The more things change, the more things stay the same. Back in the late 1970s, Rick Leach (1975-1978) was a dual-threat quarterback. During his career, Leach ran for 34 touchdowns (#5 on Michigan's all-time TD rushing list) and passed for 48 touchdowns (#4 on Michigan's all-time TD passing list). In the mid-1980s, Michigan switched to using tall, pocket passers in a pro-style offense. Now, however, thirty years after Leach's graduation, the Wolverines are back to playing a dual-threat quarterback in an option-style offense. Although the offensive system employed by Coach Rodriguez (i.e., the Spread Offense) is much more advanced than the old run-option of the 1970s, both systems rely on a quarterback who presents a dual-threat to the defense.
Coach Rod has repeatedly indicated that he will adapt to the talent (or lack thereof) that he has on the roster. Coach Rod inherited a Michigan team of pro-style quarterbacks that are somewhat ill-suited to run his spread offense. It has become apparent through his recruiting that Coach Rod prefers a run-first QB (in the Pat White mold) to run the Spread Offense. Coach Rodriguez has stated that he wants to carry five (5) quarterbacks. He has also stated it may take a couple of years to straighten out the numbers at each position as the transition to his regime is completed. The Wolverines currently have four potential quarterbacks on the roster for the upcoming season: Steven Threet (So./Fr.), Nick Sheridan (Jr./So.), Justin Feagin (Fr./Fr.), and David Cone (Jr./So.). Coach Rod wanted to sign two quarterbacks for the 2008 class but only came away with one (i.e., Feagin). His lack of success in recruiting the QB position was largely attributable to the late start he and his staff got due to the timing of his hiring at Michigan.
Coach Rodriguez has already received verbal committments from two dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2009 class: Kevin Newsome (five stars on Scout.com) and Shavodrick Beaver (four stars). These two top notch recruits are just the kind of quarterbacks that Coach Rod is looking to play. The problem is that they will not arrive for another year. The Wolverines will have to make due for the '08 season and even when Newsome and Beaver arrive, they might not be immediately ready to take over in '09 as true freshman. It would be helpful if one or both can early enroll at Michigan after the fall semester of their senior year in high school. Either way, the Wolverines may struggle at the QB position for awhile. Too bad Rick Leach used up all his eligibilty as the spread offense is tailor-made for him. Go Blue!
*Note: Sports Illustrated (9-6-76) cover photo of Rick Leach by Lane Stewart
Labels: Rick Leach