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Thursday, May 30, 2013
Fresh ideas: Quarterback

By Chantel Jennings

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Can a true freshman really contribute at the college level? Is it easier at one position than another? Over the next two months WolverineNation will be breaking down the probabilities of playing time and projections of the Wolverines’ freshmen, position-by-position.

What it takes for a true freshman QB to play: Even if a true freshman quarterback enrolls early and is physically and mentally ready for the speed of the game at the college level, several other chips need to fall into place in order to get that player on the field. First, the freshman needs to beat out the players in front of him, or the players in front of him need to struggle/get injured. Second, the coach has to have a heck of a lot of trust in that player. Stepping on the field in front of 110,000 screaming fans requires a large amount of confidence, not only from the quarterback himself, but also his coach.

Tate Forcier
Tate Forcier had a breakout freshman season but couldn't sustain that level of play.
True freshmen who’ve made an impact at the position: Even with those steep steps, there are a few freshmen who have contributed greatly at Michigan. In 1975, Rick Leach accounted for 1,232 yards, eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions. It started a career that would end with 37 starts and three All-Big Ten accolades.

Almost 30 years later in 2004, Chad Henne more than doubled those stats with 2,606 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his freshman season. In 2009, Tate Forcier burst onto the scene in what would be a short-lived Michigan career, but he made the most of his freshman season with 2,290 passing yards and 16 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.

Obviously, the success levels of each of those three quarterbacks varied -- having a great freshman season doesn't ensure or exclude any future possibilities. Players such as Tom Brady, who’ve had incredibly successful pro careers, didn’t make much noise as freshmen. Brady attempted five passes the entire season, completing three with one interception.

And on the other side of the coin, there are players who were huge recruits coming out of high school, such as Drew Henson, who had his moments but never established the sustained success of someone like Brady.

Commit projections: This will be interesting to watch. With Devin Gardner granted his medical redshirt, if all goes well for him, he should be the starter for the next two seasons.

However, Shane Morris will get to Michigan this June. His battle for playing time as a true freshman caught a break with Russell Bellomy’s injury. However, Morris likely won’t see the field this season on important downs, unless Gardner falters hugely or is injured.

The most interesting part of all this should happen next spring when 2014 commit Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate School) enrolls early and tests Morris in what will be the first spring practice for both quarterbacks. Whoever wins that should be the primary backup for the 2014 season, and that player likely would have a leg up in the competition for the starting position in 2015.