Rich Rodriguez's First Michigan Man: Tate Forcier Answers the Call (So Far)

Kristofer GreenSenior Writer IApril 30, 2009

Change dominated the 2008 season for the Michigan Wolverines. 

Lloyd Carr retired, and Rich Rodriguez was hired amid a firestorm of controversy. Rodriguez hired 15 new coaches, installed a new offense, revamped the conditioning drills, and altered the way captains are selected.

For some players, this change was too much. Several players transferred in the first few months of the Rodriguez era. Many of these transfers were understood by Michigan fans. There are always defections when a new regime comes in.

Most of these players were just names on a roster, but when two high-profile players announced their intentions to transfer within a few weeks of each other, the wheels seemed to officially be coming off.

Ryan Mallett, the projected starter at quarterback before Carr's retirement, transferred to Arkansas. Mallett, who started several games in relief of injured Chad Henne for the Wolverines in 2007, is a pro-style quarterback and didn't fit into Rodriguez's system.

Then Justin Boren, the Wolverines' lone returning holdover from the 2007 starting offensive line, announced in a statement to the press that he was transferring because Michigan "family values have eroded."

To add insult to injury, Boren gave up any opportunity for a scholarship by transferring to Ohio State. Big Ten rules stipulate that players who transfer within the conference must forfeit their scholarship and may not be offered a scholarship by the new school.

The season couldn't start fast enough. With all the endless talk about his West Virginia buyout, his break from school tradition on captains, and his initial failure to reserve the No. 1 jersey for a veteran receiver, year one of the Rodriguez era was off to a spectacularly awkward start.

"There were a lot of things," Rodriguez told the Chicago Tribune. "Some were a result of my ignorance and could have been avoided. Everyone's happy to get all that behind us."

This offseason has been a much smoother process for the Michigan football program. Rodriguez landed a stellar recruiting class that included Tate Forcier, a talented dual-threat quarterback that is perfectly suited for the offense.

To Michigan fans, Forcier could be that crucial piece of the puzzle that makes solving it so much easier.

No other player entered the spring with more hope and expectations riding on his back than Forcier, who enrolled early so he could take part in spring camp. After his spring game performance, the rookie signal caller has set Ann Arbor on fire and all but locked up the starting position.

Forcier ran the first team offense, engineering a scoring drive on his first series and running the ball into the end zone for his first TD in the Big House.

"It was fun, there were a lot of people there and it was a great atmosphere," Forcier said.

He was crisp on many of his passes, short and long, hooking up with sophomore Roy Roundtree on a highlight 60-yard touchdown bomb near the end of the scrimmage.

"I saw the coverage and had a feeling it would be there," said Forcier. "He ran a great route, did his thing, and caught the ball."

Still, Forcier has no college game experience, has to learn a complicated system, and carries just 185 lbs. on a 6'0" frame

"It's going to be different in a real game," Rodriguez said. "But he looked comfortable for his first time in that type of setting. He's really progressed well."

Officially, he'll be challenged in the fall by Nick Sheridan, who started some games last season in relief of Steven Threet, and another smallish incoming freshman, Denard Robinson.

Sheridan, who has the system experience, isn't a true Rodriguez quarterback, and Robinson, who is, doesn't have the same heat as Forcier.

The still teenage Forcier has gained the respect of his teammates and, most importantly, the upperclassmen who have paid their dues.

"For a young guy just coming in here, he still has a lot to learn, but when he's been out there he's done a great job learning and leading the offense. He plays like a more experienced quarterback," said running back Brandon Minor.

Forcier seems to be handling the pressure like a pro. He understands he has a lot to learn, but his coach was impressed by his showing in the spring game.

"The biggest thing I was looking for from Tate was [seeing him] playing in an atmosphere with a crowd—was it going to fluster him or was he focused," Rodriguez said. "There was a time or two that maybe his eyes could have been in a different direction, but for the most part, he looked comfortable out there."

As for Forcier, he already sounds like the leader of the Wolverine offense.

"I got great protection all day, and I just had to get our athletes the ball and they'll make plays," said Forcier. "Greg Mathews and Carlos Brown, they're all making great plays. I have to give my whole team a lot of credit."

Spoken like a true leader.


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