The Wolverines are in the throes of 2009 Spring Practice and true freshman QB Tate Forcier is taking snaps with the first-team while high school senior QB Devin Gardner (Inkster) just officially announced his committment to the Wolverines for 2010. The dream scenario already laid out by some excited Wolverine fans is that Forcier has a wonderful career as a four-year starter (a la Chad Henne) and Gardner red-shirts in 2010 and becomes the starter in 2013 as a redshirt Junior with two years left of eligiblity. The problem with that dream scenario is that even the best laid plans can go awry.
It was just two years ago at this time, while the Wolverines were in the midst of 2007 Spring Practice, that "the future" of Michigan Football had everyone abuzz: QB Ryan Mallett. Just two years ago, the plan was that Henne would finish out his senior year of 2007 as the starter and Mallett would assume the starting job in 2008 whereupon he would launch an extraordinarly successful three-year career. That plan was quickly scuttled when Coach Carr left after the 2007 season and Mallett announced his plans to transfer shortly after the bowl game was played.
Going back a few seasons, the plan in 2004 was for Matt Gutierrez to ascend to the #1 QB spot and be the starter until he graduated. An injury to Gutierrez prior to the first game of the 2004 season led Coach Carr to name true freshman Chad Henne as the starter in Gutierrez' place and Henne never relinquished the spot for the next four seasons.
Looking back a few seasons even further back, the plan for 2000 was that Drew Henson would return for his senior season as the starting QB. However, Henson left the program unexpectedly and John Navarre was suddenly thrust into the role of starter that year.
As is demonstrated by the above examples, injuries, transfers and departures can change the best laid plans of who is going to be Michigan's "quarterback of the future." In fact, if it was not for a transfer, a different Forcier might be the Wolverines starting QB right now. As everyone recalls, Tate Forcier's older brother Jason was a QB on the 2006 team behind Chad Henne. Jason announced during 2007 Spring Practice that he was transferring to Stanford as he did not want to be stuck behind Mallett on the depth chart. Ironically, with the change in coaches and the departure of Mallett, the job is open for Jason's brother Tate.
Tate Forcier is the leading candidate for the starting QB job for 2009. However, recent history teaches us that it is much too early to tell if he will be another short termer (like Mallett and Threet) or if he will be a four-year starter like Henne. It is interesting to note that both of Tate's QB brothers are transferring this year out of situations where that did not allow them to start. Jason is transferring from Stanford (his 2nd college transfer) and brother Chris just announced he is transferring from UCLA. That shows me the Forcier family is not shy about pulling out of what it deems to be an unfavorable situation. As for the excitement surrounding Devin Gardner's verbal commitment, we went down this road twice last year with highly regarded QB recruits Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver both of whom de-committed from Michigan before signing day. Let's get Gardner signed on the dotted line before assigning him a jersey number. History shows us that plans can change drastically and you can't count on things remaining static. Go Blue!