Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dual Threat

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

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4 Comments:

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Matt R. Horon said...

Kevin Newsome is not a "run first quarterback". Watch his tape, this guy is a 6-5 gunslinger who also happens to be built like a tank and has great speed. His first instinct is to drop back in the spread and find someone down field (ala Tom Brady and the Patriots).

Pat White was the #55 ranked athlete and a 3 star recruit. Rich Rod wasn't able to get the type of plyayer Newsome is so he adapted his offense to fit Pat White.

I have no doubt that when Newsome (currently the #4 QB according to the rankings) is QB he will be running more than throwing. He reminds me a young Dante Culpepper, with the monster arm, great size, and good speed.

 
At 10:29 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Newsome has said he plans to enroll early. He is a very good student so it shouldn't be a problem.

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger mzgoblue said...

Thanks for the comment Matt. You bring up a good point about my remark regarding Coach Rod looking to recruit a "run first quarterback". It probably would have been better if I had used the term "dual-threat QB" instead. In Kevin Newsome (a five star player per Scout.com) Coach Rod landed someone who has- as you pointed out- the skills to throw AND run. Newsome is considered to have a very strong passing arm. (In comparing Newsome to the '08 super recruit Terrelle Pryor analysts say Newsome has a much better arm and is just behind Pryor in the running department). As for watcing video of Newsome, you can check him out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExJDDlWeJz0

Even with Newsome at QB, however, I believe that Coach Rod intends to use a run-dominated version of the Spread Offense. The Zone Read Option play was his "bread-and-butter" play at WVU and I don't think that will change even if the QB can throw. In fact, it will just make it more effective by keeping the defenses honest. Defenses will not be able to stack 7 in the box because QB has the ability to throw well and when defenses only have 6 in the box the offense has numbers to run the spread option play. See video of Coach Rod doing chalk talk explaining this point at: http://mvictors.com/?p=667

Go Blue!

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger Markus said...

I think the last time Michigan ran an option play was during the last days of the George H. Bush administration with Michael Taylor, and even then Taylor rarely if ever read the end and pitched. It was basically a feigned 38 or 32 belly option play- QB bootleg. A QB run every time.

I think a lot of UM fans forget that during the Schembechler, Stobart, Nehlen, Hanlon offensive days of the mid-late 1970s, Michigan was usually ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing the football. This was mainly due to the fact that the college game was run-oriented anyway and only just discovering the merits of the forward pass around 1977 and after. But it was also due to some peerless, passless meatgrinder triple-option offense executed and made famous in the upper midwest by Ohio State and Michigan.

By 1978, 7 of 10 Big Ten teams (except for Northwestern, Michigan State and Purdue) were running option-I style offenses. By 1980-1981 this trend changed dramatically in the Big 10 with new coaching additions and philosophies like Mike White, Hayden Fry, Earle Bruce, Jim Young and Joe Salem. Actually Darryl Rodgers at MSU and Jim Young at Purdue were the main pioneers of the forward pass in Big 10 country.
Before that, cloud o' dust my friends, cloud o' freaking dust.

 

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