Race for QB 1
At the Big Ten Football Media Days, Coach Rod had a couple of interesting quotes regarding the competition to be Michigan's starting QB. Coach Rod stated, "Somebody asked the question: How many guys will actually touch the ball at quarterback? Good question. I hadn't thought about that. We'll have to figure that out in August. It could be pretty interesting -- this year, anyway." Coach Rod went on to say, "It's going to be fun. We have to be creative, more so now than maybe we'll have to in the future." (emphasis added)
Those statements can be interpreted in a couple of different ways. One school of thought is that Coach Rod was acknowledging that this is a transition year but that once the current crop of quarterbacks get a year under their belts with the system it will not be so difficult in the future. Another school of thought is that Coach Rod was subtly implying that the arrival in January, 2009 of Michigan commit Kevin Newsome (a high school senior) will resolve the current concerns surrounding the quarterback position. The idea being that whoever wins the starter's job this season will likely get displaced in 2009 by the arrival of Newsome who is a prototypical zone option read quarterback. In interpreting Coach Rod's statement, I subscribe to the latter school of thought.
Regardless, until Newsome arrives, there appears to be a three-way race for the starter's job. The current leader is redshirt freshman Steven Threet followed closely by former walk-on Nick Sheridan and true freshman Justin Feagin. (The odd man out is David Cone). Coach Rod plans to make the quarterback competition a three-man race the first two weeks of camp, with each running a team, and he will cut the competition down to two for the final week of camp, leading up to game week. Fall practice commences August 4th, 2008. The first two-a-day practice is Saturday, August 9, 2008. Fall practice will consist of 29 practice sessions prior to the opening game on Saturday, August 30, 2008 vs. Utah.
Assuming that Steven Threet wins the competition for the starter's job, he may be destined to be the next Tom Slade. Slade was a sophmore in 1971 and was the team's starting quarterback following the graduation of two-year starter Don Moorhead (1969-1970). Slade guided the 1971 Wolverines to an undefeated regular season as Michigan went 11-0 and went to the Rose Bowl. However, despite the team's incredible success in 1971, Slade was displaced as the starting QB the following year by the enormously talented Dennis Franklin. Franklin was a freshman in 1971 and was not eligible to play but he took over the starting job in 1972 as a sophmore and remained the starter until his graduation following the 1974 season. For his part, Slade rode the bench for the remainder of his career at Michigan despite the fact that he led the '71 Wolverines to the Rose Bowl. Likewise, Threet is likely to be relegated to the bench following the 2008 season even if he performs well. That is because the enormously talented Newsome (a prototypical zone read offense QB) is a better fit for Coach Rod's offense. Like Dennis Franklin before him, Newsome is likely to unseat the previous year's starter (Threet) and remain the Wolverines' QB for the balance of his collegiate career. Thus, Coach Rod's decision regarding who to name QB 1 will not be so interesting in future years as it will be a foregone conclusion that Newsome is the starter. Go Blue!