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Posted on Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:07 p.m.

A top priority for Michigan quarterbacks - hold on to the football

By Michael Rothstein

CHICAGO - Rich Rodriguez knows the Michigan football team needs to do at least one thing better this season to succeed - hold on to the ball.

Michigan fumbled 29 times last year (2.4 times a game), losing 13.

Nowhere was the problem more prevalent than at quarterback. So as Michigan opens its preseason camp today, limiting turnovers is a major emphasis. It might also determine who ends up winning the quarterback job between sophomores Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier.


Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier fumbles after being hit by Eastern Michigan University's Andre Hatchett last season.

Lon Horwedel |

Robinson, who touched the ball far fewer times than Forcier, had five fumbles and lost three. Forcier fumbled 10 times, losing four - most notably against Illinois where he fumbled three times, losing two of them.

“We had too many turnovers,” Rodriguez said. “That’s why it was a point of emphasis with Tate and Denard in the spring.”

Both quarterbacks, Rodriguez said, are better prepared to handle the constant beating. Both Robinson and Forcier are bigger, stronger and more comfortable in the read-option system. And when they know where to go, there is less chance of them being blindsided with a big hit.

There is also freshman Devin Gardner, but Rodriguez said he wouldn't burn Gardner's redshirt if it was for a couple of plays a game.

The spring proved more of a barometer than normal, too, because Rodriguez allowed his quarterbacks to be tackled except during the spring game. In doing so, he could see whether or not they’d hold on the ball.

In August, though, he doesn’t want to do that for fear of injury. Instead, he’ll create situations to test his quarterbacks.

“I’m going to put as much as you can, pressure on the guys in August, try to put them in pressure situations in practice to see how they perform,” Rodriguez said. “So the team can get confidence in them and they can get confidence in themselves.”

Michigan’s players have seen that in summer workouts, especially out of Robinson.

“Denard has gotten more confident,” Michigan senior offensive lineman Steve Schilling said. “And I think it has kind of helped him settle in. He’s a guy you want to be around you and you want to play for him because he’s always got a positive attitude.

“I think that’s something that’s important for him as a leader and a quarterback. He’s definitely the type of guy you want to play for.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.



Wed, Aug 11, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

Uhhh... folks... I believe Dave Krieg (sp?) at one point had the record for most fumbles by a QB in the NFL. It was attributed to the fact that he had small hands. There is a correlation. It doesn't mean that they are bad QBs... just when big D linemen are swatting at the ball, it is easier to knock the ball out.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 4:21 p.m.

Nobowl4blue made no mention as to how the ball is carried. He just said Tate and Denard's hands are too small and prone to fumble when the weather gets cold and the ball is wet. You can read if for yourself. It's the first post on the page. Now, do you believe nobowl4blue is correct, in light of the size of Mike Hart's hands? You can admit that nobowl4blue is wrong. Jesus TrueBlue, are we in court now? on count one, I testify that when a Quarter back Holds the ball in his hands, and at times in just one hand that a Quarterback with small hands would be more prone to ball droppage in the cold and rain than a quarterback with larger more powerful hands. On count two, I do not think the size of mike harts hands has been quantified in your previous posts, you just said it was so and expect me to believe it is a factual statement. but i do ascertain that a running back by nature of his ball carrying style is not nearly as vulnerable to ball droppage exclusively due to the size of hand. It is my finding in the matter of hand size that small hands can be a detriment to a QB's performance especially when wind cold snow and rain are factored in.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 2:41 p.m.

Actually, he isn't a good offensive coach. Michigan scored only 20 points per game in Big Ten play each of the last two seasons. That's not going to get you into the upper division - a place the Wolverines resided each of the previous 40 years. He's a one-trick pony, and defenses with good athletes and discipline can stop him. Meanwhile, he has presided over by far the two worst defenses in Michigan history. Hand size is more related to the ability to throw the ball in bad weather conditions, or late in a physical game. Fumbling is a matter of proper ball positioning at all points during a run - you can't let a defender get a direct hit on the ends of the ball. I'm surprised we're allowed to comment on poster histories now - I've seen that twice today from the pro-OSU/MSU crowd, and that stuff used to be deleted immediately.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 10:03 a.m.

Well, I think that it will be a good season. Anyone who knows college football knows that RR is a very good offensive coach. The obvious problem is on defense -- remember the Purdue game?


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 9:31 a.m.

boyfriend - Nobowl4blue made no mention as to how the ball is carried. He just said Tate and Denard's hands are too small and prone to fumble when the weather gets cold and the ball is wet. You can read if for yourself. It's the first post on the page. Now, do you believe nobowl4blue is correct, in light of the size of Mike Hart's hands? You can admit that nobowl4blue is wrong.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 4 a.m.

Mike Hart also held the ball with both hands and elbow, he tucked against his body tight to keep it from being swatted away, thats not exactly how a QB holds the ball now is it.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 11:02 p.m.

nobowl4blue - Mike Hart was 5'8" with miniature hands. Tell me, how many times did he fumble in his career? Your logic never ceases to amaze.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 9:50 p.m.

MetricSU, Macabre Sunset and rightmind250... Speaking of hands - On behave of Michigan Footballs fans everywhere I would like to thank you three for your continued support, insight, and devotion pertaining to all things Michigan Football. During these trying times it's good to know that Michigan Football is always on your mind, and never far from your heart. If fumbles are Michigan articles without your 2 cents... You three have yet to lose a single one. I applaud you all... Go Blue 2010... Little hands and all!


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 9:10 p.m.

The offensive line had as much to do with the fumbles as Tates little hands. In the OSU game Tate was done after the hit in the end zone in the first quarter. That hit turned him into a scared qb. He went on to throw 4 interceptions. That boy is going to have to toughen up if he is ever going to be a mediocre B10 quarterback. If you think Denard will hold up any better as a first year starter you might want to look at the history of 1st year Qb's in RR's system. They will take a beating. They have the ball 75% of the time in the spread offense. Tate and Denard do not have the bodies or the hands to hold up in an offense like that. Why do you think RR is prepareing 2 starters and a spare?

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 9:03 p.m.

RR would be better off recruiting running backs who can throw. That kind of beating is a recipe for massive turnover amounts. First, the emphasis on quarterback runs (about three times as much as the NFL record for quarterbacks) means the quarterback has to be an exceptional running back to begin with. And second, the pounding, over the course of the game, will result in a quarterback too banged up to throw all that well in the fourth quarter if he isn't used to that kind of running. We saw both problems with Forcier last season. Which is why Michigan was bottom five in the entire FBS in turnover ratio last season. Honestly, I don't see how making this a "point of emphasis" is going to mean a darned thing this fall. The Fraud's gimmick offense leads to turnovers, plain and simple.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 8:55 p.m.

umgoblue: RR did recruit Forcier, didn't he? Knowing about hand size would seem to be part of recruiting a QB. Forcier had only played in the relatively pleasant weather in Southern California. I've lived in San Diego. Believe me, November in San Diego is not like November in MI. tater: The ND game was early in the year, before the weather got bad. Sean T.: You're confusing necessary and sufficient here. Of course having large hands is not sufficient to avoid fumbling. But small hands absolutely contribute to not being able to hang onto the ball as well in cold or wet weather. If Denard starts, look out. Tate will either transfer or be disruptive. Devin Gardner will become the backup, and if Denard gets hurt, another inexperienced freshman will have to step in. Yikes.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 8:02 p.m.

What you guys are overlooking is how much RR runs his QB's in his high school system after they get pounded in the big physical Big Ten they will fumble that has been consistent no matter who is at QB. They will probably be trying to survive the season. Their is a reason they protect the QB's in the NFL I doubt RR will ever get it.

Sean T.

Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 7:51 p.m.

Honestly, hand-size has very little to do with fumbling. The emphasis should be on concentration and technique. Adrian Peterson's(Min) hands are probably considerably larger than Tate's and he still fumbles a lot. Hand-strength is also a large component of carrying the ball but that's it pretty much. If Denard starts and plays the non-conference schedule I hope Tate transfers to a school that can use his talents.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:33 p.m.

why do you care??? your not even a michigan fan....


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:28 p.m.

Small hands are small hands and if your savior were smart Devin Garner would be your starter and Robinson a flanker or RB. Tate will transfer back home where the weathers warm and oh BTW Rich IS the worst thing to ever happen to Michigan football and I intend to point that out until he's booted at year end.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:24 p.m.

Focus and confidence... that's what it's all about. Good times, and plenty of wins ahead. And thanks to NoBowl4Blue for your continued support of all things Michigan Football. Your unwavering dedication to the maize and blue is unmatched!


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:21 p.m.

so what's your point nobowl? so now your blaming rr for how little the player's hands are. maybe we should blame rr for the earthquakes that happpen... or i no about world hunger... you try to put a negative spin on everything michigan is doing but the hands thing takes the cake. could you post anything more stupid? (stay tuned) for as the bowl turns... lol...


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:12 p.m.

Young or not, does it seem like the coaches should have been emphasizing this to the QBs last year (and the kick returners, the running backs, etc)??? It's always easy to blame the players, but when you see the same thing over and over, at some point the coach has to buck up and say "I should have been coaching this team better". Sometimes, a certain game goes poorly, but we have seen this for 2 years now.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:04 p.m.

Denard's going to be the starter. It's coming.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 3:58 p.m.

OK... with insight like this... next thing the headlines will read... "Team that scores the most points will win".


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 3:55 p.m.

I heard an ex-player talk about how little Tate's hands were and how he will be prone to fumble when weather gets cold and ball wet. From what I can tell Denard's hands are similiar. The last thing this team wants to do is fumble given how difficult winning has become under Rich Rod. Oh I know cupboard was bare and Rich Rod is the greatest coach ever at Michigan LOL.