Opinion: Tate Forcier proves he's the most complete option at quarterback
A happy tear, mind you, but if you’re looking for a point where the Californian lost his composure, that’s about it.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said over and over the past month that none of his quarterbacks had separated themselves enough to be the starter. While he stuck with that mantra after the game, one thing became clear.
He’s got a guy who should start. And his name is Tate Forcier.
The kid has moxie. He has poise, shown when instead of taking off when he saw a hole on his first possession as a quarterback he pulled back, directed Junior Hemingway to a deeper route and the first touchdown toss of his career.
Many juniors can’t make that play, let alone a guy playing in front of almost 110,000 people for the first time. On his first series. In his eighth play.
He’d been preparing for this since Thursday night, when Rodriguez called the three quarterbacks - Forcier, Denard Robinson and Nick Sheridan - into his office and told them Forcier would start. When he left the meeting, he immediately called his mother, Suzanne, to deliver the news.
Disbelief came through the connection.
“She was like ‘You’re starting starting?’” Forcier said. “I’m like ‘Yeah, mom, that’s what starting means.’ She’s like ‘So, you’re running on the field?’ I’m like ‘Yeah, mom, that’s what starting is.’
“And, she screamed.”
So did pretty much everyone else in Michigan Stadium on Saturday when Forcier went through pretty much a flawless statistical day, 13 of 20 passing for 179 yards, three touchdowns and, most importantly for a freshman, no turnovers.
Not every day is going to be like this for Forcier this season. He knows that. His coaches know that.
And if he doesn’t, quarterbacks coach Rod Smith already found things to nitpick from his game Saturday, a couple throws he shouldn’t have made, so Smith can become “the reality” for his young quarterbacks Monday.
But if there was something learned from Saturday, it is that Rodriguez has two quarterbacks to fit his spread option system - Forcier and Robinson. And it makes a difference in everything he does.
“It gives you more of the offense you can run,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a big thing, when you have a guy who can run a little bit out there and they have to account for him.
“It’s more of your offense.”
He has a guy who can run in Forcier, who can also keep defenses honest with his arm. He’s the most complete option Rodriguez has.
And then he has a guy who can run in Robinson. The other freshman took his first snap behind center and almost lost the ball. It botched the reverse Michigan was supposed to run and instead, Robinson took off.
He went right. He stopped. He looked left. He went left. He squirted through two defenders and scored.
“I thought he was still going to have time to hand it off, but he goes the wrong way pretty fast, too,” Rodriguez said. “Usually, if you screw up, you go even faster. So he went a little extra fast on that one.”
What will likely happen is Forcier will be the starting quarterback and Robinson will be the change-of-speed option that will actually be faster than the offense teams will normally see. Forcier is OK with that. He thinks it makes Michigan more difficult to prepare for.
And suddenly, they are.
But as much as this was a day of questions for Michigan, its answer at quarterback is a kid with a perpetual smile from San Diego, otherwise known as paradise.
As Forcier basked in his own personal paradise - a win in his first game at Michigan, in his first start - an assistant yelled at him, telling him he had to go.
He disappeared, running through the 50-yard line tunnel with fans chanting his name. And for the only time Saturday, he felt bad. Relatively.
“I couldn’t get out of there,” Forcier said. “I just felt bad, leaving everybody. That was an unbelievable experience. I’m just so happy.”
For a day, so is Michigan. Michael Rothstein covers Michigan sports for Annarbor.com. He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.