Birk's Eye View: Should Tate Forcier sit or play against Delaware State?
Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier is expected to start for the Michigan football team against Delaware State if he’s cleared to play by Wednesday, but maybe a week off would do him good.
Concussion aside - if his headaches continue, Forcier won’t be on the field; there’s never a good reason to take a chance with a head injury - Forcier hasn’t looked like the same quarterback since spraining his throwing shoulder on a touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Indiana.He led a game-winning drive in the final minutes against the Hoosiers, and directed another adrenaline-filled comeback against Michigan State. But Forcier is not quite a 50-percent passer since the injury (26-of-53) and has as many turnovers (three) as touchdowns.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference that Forcier’s shoulder is not “very limiting at all.”
“At least it wasn’t an issue at all in the ball game,” Rodriguez said. “When I saw him (Monday) he didn’t complain at all about the shoulder, and it has not been much of an issue with his trainer.”
A person familiar with the injury said Forcier’s sprain was barely considered Grade 1- the least severe - but it still appears to be affecting his mechanics. His release point is lower than normal, and he isn’t fully loading his arm before throwing, the person said.
In Saturday’s loss to Iowa, Forcier had several balls batted down at the line of scrimmage and seemed especially cognizant of avoiding hits. Michigan’s leading rusher on the season with 61 carries, he dove short of defenders or veered out of bounds nearly every time he ran.
“He and (backup quarterback Denard Robinson) aren’t real big guys yet physically,” Rodriguez said. “They’re not 220-pound guys, so you want to limit the amount of hits they take.”
Forcier, listed generously at 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds, has been limited in practice each of the last two weeks and did not work out Monday because of the concussion. Rodriguez said that lost developmental time has contributed to his recent inconsistent play.
For that reason, Forcier could benefit from playing Saturday against Delaware State (noon, Big Ten Network). Reps are always valuable to a young quarterback, and a 1-3 FCS team should, in theory, provide ample opportunity to learn.
But that’s all the more reason to play Robinson this week, or at least keep Forcier on the Eli Manning quarter-and-a-half plan.
As Michigan’s only legitimate backup, Robinson needs as much work as possible in case the vulnerable Forcier goes down. So far, Robinson’s six-game career consists of mostly designed quarterback runs - not read-options, straight quarterback sweeps and dives - and three interceptions in 15 pass attempts.
He’s beyond raw, not totally unexpected for a freshman, and playing a full game would do him a world of good.
More importantly, it would do Michigan good. The Wolverines (4-2) need Forcier healthy to navigate their grueling final five games (at Illinois and Wisconsin, home against Penn State, Purdue and Ohio State) and make a respectable bowl.
After a 4-0 start, the last thing the program needs is to spend December in Detroit dining on Hot-and-Readys because its quarterback got clipped in a meaningless October game.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.