Nowhere to go but up
Michigan's offense struggled mightily in 2008. The passing game was especially atrocious. The transition to Coach Rodriguez' Spread Offense was rocky to say the least. However, the team has a year with the system under its belt and there will likely be a new QB at the controls for 2009. Hopefully, the team will show improvement this season. Below are the team's 2008 rankings (of 119 Div I-FBS teams) in some key offensive categories:
- 109th in Total Offense (290.75 ypg)
- 108th in Total Passing Offense (143.17 ypg)
- 118th in 3rd Down Conversion % (27.27%)
- 112th in Passing Efficiency (95.13 rating)
The key to Coach Rod's Spread Offense is the Quarterback position. As became painfully evident last year, the Wolverines did not have the right personnel (i.e., Threet &/or Sheridan) to run the Spread Offense. This year, the likely starter is true freshman Tate Forcier. If Forcier starts the season opener, he will only be the third true freshman in the 130-year history of the Michigan Football program to start at QB in a season opener. (Rick Leach in 1975 and Chad Henne in 2004 were the others). As Coach Rod stated, the key to being a QB in the Spread Offense is that you have to be able to "think quickly and make good decisions in space to make good things happen." That is a lot to ask of a true freshman quarterback. However, Forcier seems to have the attributes that Coach Rod is looking for in a quarterback. At QBForce.com (the Forcier family website), the welcome page of the site states, "Quarterback mostly comes down to SPEED, Ball Speed, Foot Speed, Decision Speed + Heart will put you over the-top and add the 'Magic' -which very few athletes have- (Not to be confused with dumb luck) you've got a SUPER-STAR!" The welcome page goes on to define Decision Speed as "the knowledge offense, opponents defense and execution speed there of." Although Forcier's chutzpah is admirable and his physical talents far exceed last year's starters, he is still only a true freshman. The learning curve will be steep and Forcier's decision speed in 2009 will be nowhere near what it will be in future seasons. The Wolverines will no doubt improve this season but by how much largely depends on how quickly Forcier develops. Expect some potholes this season on the road back to respectability. Go Blue!