One of the main reasons the University of Michigan football team is predicted by so many sports media outlets, college football experts, pundits and fans to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten conference in 2008, is because the Wolverines simply don't have a quarterback to lead them.
That's right. Michigan is officially quarterback-less for the 2008 college football season. Chad Henne, who became the Wolverines' starting quarterback the very second he first arrived on the Michigan campus back in 2004, has finally graduated and has been drafted by the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr had landed five-star recruit and top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the nation Ryan Mallett back in 2006. But Mallett left UM after the 2007 season to play for new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.
So with no Chad Henne and no Ryan Mallett, who in Sam Hill is going to lead the Wolverines' new spread option offense in 2008?
Outside of Rich Rodriguez's staff, including new UM quarterback coach Rod Smith, nobody really knows the answer to this question with any degree of certainty.
There will no doubt be multiple factors that weigh in on RR's decision: Leadership skills, arm strength, throwing accuracy, understanding of the new offense, reading of defenses, mobility, timing and field vision.
But one factor that neither Rodriguez nor Smith need to consider in their decision is experience, since Michigan's 2008 roster effectively has none at quarterback.
Actually, it's not the first time that Michigan has entered a college football season with zero college game experience at quarterback. It's happened many times before:
1975 Michigan vs. Wisconsin in Madison. Result: Michigan 23, Wisconsin 7. The UM quarterback? Freshman Rick Leach made his UM start in this game. Not the first dual-threat quarterback for the Wolverines, but undoubtedly one of the most decorated. Michigan finished 8-2-2 in 1975.
1981 Michigan vs. Wisconsin in Madison. Result: Michigan 14, Wisconsin 21. Sophomore quarterback Steve Smith in led No. 1 ranked Michigan in this game, but couldn't overcome a vicious Badger defense.
Smith went on to become one of Michigan's finest career dual-threat quarterbacks. Michigan finished 8-4-0 in 1981.
1984 Michigan vs. Miami (Fla.) in Ann Arbor. Result: Michigan 22, Miami (Fla.) 14. Sophomore Jim Harbaugh in his first start led 14th ranked Michigan vs. top ranked Miami (Fla.) in his first start for the Wolverines.
Jim Harbaugh overcame a broken arm injury in 1984 to become the next in a long line of great championship quarterbacks. The injury-ridden Wolverines finished 6-6-0 in 1984.
1987 Michigan vs. Notre Dame. Result: Michigan 7, Notre Dame 26. Junior UM quarterback Demetrius Brown never started a game prior to this season opener against the Irish.
Brown was soon much maligned by UM fans during 1987 due to his inopportune interceptions. But Brown steadily improved at the helm and led Michigan in big wins over Alabama in the Hall of Fame Bowl, and over Ohio State in Columbus in 1988 and in the 1989 Rose Bowl over USC.
Michigan finished 8-4-0 his first year as starter in 1987 sharing time with Michael Taylor.
1990 Michigan vs. Notre Dame. Result Michigan 24, Notre Dame 28. UM quarterback Elvis Grbac's career commenced with a loss to Notre Dame in Ann Arbor, but his name is synonymous with Big Ten championships at Michigan.
Grbac then played in the NFL. Michigan finished 9-3-0 his first season as starter.
1993 Michigan vs. Washington State. Result Michigan 41, Washington State 14. Star QB Todd Collins started his first game and lead the Wolverines to 8-4-0 his first season.
1995 Michigan vs. Virginia. Pigskin Classic. Result: Michigan 18, Virginia 17. True freshman Scott Dreisbach led Michigan to a thrilling last second win in Ann Arbor. Wolverines finished 9-4-0 in 1995.
1998 Michigan vs. Notre Dame. Result: Michigan 20, Notre Dame 36. Michigan quarterback Tom Brady started his first game in defeat, but went on to become one of the finest UM quarterbacks ever and an NFL great. Michigan finished 10-3-0 in 1998.
2001 Michigan vs. Miami (OH). Result: Michigan 31, Miami (OH) 13. Sophomore QB John Navarre started his first game for Michigan, then proceeded to break every single passing yardage record ever at UM. Michigan finished 8-4-0 in 2001.
2004: Michigan vs. Miami (OH). Result: Michigan 43, Miami (OH) 10. Freshman Chad Henne led UM in a decisive win in his first start for the Wolverines. Michigan wound up 9-3-0 in 2004.
Could 2008 be pretty much like previous Michigan seasons above? Could an inexperienced, no-name quarterback at the helm, an experienced backfield, talented receivers, and a veteran defense in 2008 again lead Michigan to success on the gridiron and maybe a bowl?
The answer to that question is that such a result has certainly been accomplished before.
Below are all of the candidates for quarterback at Michigan for the 2008 football season. It is a subjective, all-inclusive list ranked in order of likelihood for the UM depth chart:
QB Steven Threet, Soph., 6'5", 228, four-star, ninth ranked QB in nation.
QB Carlos Brown, Junior, 6'0", 190, four-star, 24th ranked RB in nation (played QB senior season of H.S., 1,512 yards and 21 rushing TDs, 546 yrd passing and seven TDs)
QB Justin Feagin, Fresh., 6'1", 195, two-star, 93rd ranked S in the nation (plays QB and S)
QB Brandon Smith, Fresh., 6'2", 210, four-star, fourth ranked S in the nation (played QB and WR). 4.5 speed.
QB Nick Sheridan, Soph., 6'1", 201, walk-on
QB David Cone, Soph. 6'6", 210, three-star, 23rd ranked QB in the nation. Ran option offense in high school.
It's almost always better to have a seasoned, veteran quarterback under center. No question. But the Michigan Wolverines appear to have some talented and rather dangerous characters available to Rodriguez and Smith at the quarterback spot, which no one knows much about.
The question is whether any of the above players would step up and contribute successfully under the new offensive system.
Michigan is indeed thin at QB in 2008, but not anymore so than other teams in the Big Ten.
Actually, an argument could be made that had former head coach Lloyd Carr and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord remained in charge for 2008, the UM quarterback position would likely have been equally mysterious, since Ryan Mallett would probably have stayed at UM, his heir apparent status not an automatic given the 2007 performance, and Steven Threet would have competed well against Mallett for the starting role in a pro-style offense.
Is Michigan OK at quarterback for 2008? The jury is still out. Way out.
But Michigan football fans and detractors alike should at least know that a new, no-name quarterback at the helm is a serious challenge that many college teams must deal with. It's also an opportunity to set the stage for future success.
2008 just happens to be Michigan's turn to introduce a new quarterback.
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