|Tate doesn't seem to have much to|
dance about these days.
When Tate first came to campus he was stepping into a very tenuous quarterback situation. The options from the previous year, Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet, had proven largely ineffective in the spread offense that Rich Rodriguez had installed. Adding to the woes of the offense was the failure of Rodriguez to bring in a quarterback who fit his system. The previous year he had lost out to Ohio State for the gem of the 2008 recruiting class, quarterback and top prospect Terrelle Pryor. The 2009 recruiting cycle saw the decommitment of Shavodrick Beaver, a highly rated QB prospect who decided to play football for Tulsa instead, a serious blow to the confidence of a Michigan program that was unaccustomed to losing out on recruits to schools from Conference USA. Steven Threet's transfer added fuel to the fire already brewing below a dangerously thin quarterback situation. The last minute committment of touted athlete Denard Robinson helped fill out the depth chart, but his lack of any real quarterback coaching in high school was sure to relegate him to a small role in the offense. The fate of the offense in 2009 would almost assuredly rest on the shoulders of Forcier.
Tate quickly established himself as the clear front runner during the spring game by putting together an impressive highlight reel on 11 of 13 passing for 141 yards and four touchdowns through the air and another rushing touchdown, inspiring the following youtube video:
That Forcier was the "weapon of choice" was clear to the Michigan blogosphere. Fall practice confirmed these feelings. Forcier spent the most time with the first team, Sheridan struggled as he had the year before, and Robinson came in just as raw as had been anticipated. There was really no choice, Tate Forcier would lead the Wolverines on the field against Western Michigan in the home opener.
Coming out of fall camp this year, despite the wealth of options with two quarterbacks returning and highly touted recruit Devin Gardner being thrown into the mix, there was still little doubt who would take the first snap against UConn. The job was Denard Robinson's to lose, and he had done nothing since an impressive performance in the spring to warrant any controversy. Forcier on the other hand, had as tumultuous an off-season as was possible. First, it was discovered that he had played most of the previous season with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, meaning there was no cartilage to hold his shoulder in its socket. In April, as Robinson wowed the spring game crowd with the first team offense, Forcier played with the second team offense and struggled to get much of anything going against the first team defense. As reports of Robinson's improvement began to multiply over the summer, others came out about Forcier's apparent lack of effort in optional workouts with the team. Senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk on Forcier's participation during the offseason:
"And Tate, he tries to come out, but he's not as consistent as Denard is. And that's allowed Denard to jump a little bit ahead of Tate and I think that Tate's going to have to do a lot of work to catch back up to Denard in camp this year."Woolfolk quickly backpedaled from the quote, but Rodriguez seemed to indicate that there was some truth to the rumor in his comments to the media. Things looked bad for Forcier, a far cry from where they had been just a year before.
|Top of the world.|
Western Michigan was no match for the Michigan offense in the first game. Forcier tossed three touchdowns on 179 yards passing with a 65% completion rate and looked poised even when his pass protection broke down. After dropping two straight home openers, the Wolverines finally looked like they were back on track. The next week would be a true test of the team's ability. A ranked Notre Dame team rolled into town with a high powered offense led by Jimmy Clausen and a trio of dangerous receiving options. The shootout that ensued was one of the better games of 2009 and started the legend of Little Man Tate when Forcier engineered a drive in the closing minutes of the game to put the Wolverines ahead with seconds to play.
Any question's surrounding the quarterback situation before the showdown with Notre Dame were thoroughly dismissed. Some envisioned Tate as the next four year starter, and some even began talk
|This spectacular diving touchdown would lead to a torn|
labrum which would impact Forcier the rest of the season.
|Always feed the hot hand, and nobody was hotter than|
Denard Robinson against UConn.
By halftime the writing seemed to be on the wall. I threw out a comment on an MGoBlog live chat to the tune of "bring Tate in for a drive after the half to throw off UConn's halftime adjustments", and it drew ire from the rest of the board almost as soon as it was put up. Denard was the man. Everyone else was convinced, and it began to look like Rodriguez felt the same way.
|This summarizes how his day went.|
Forcier had his struggles during the later stages of the season as well has his share of costly freshman mistakes, but these were matched by the equally costly mistakes by the rest of the team. In his first road game Forcier played very well against MSU, but received little help from the rest of the offense until late in the game. Quoth Brian from his UFR of the game:
Goddamn. You wouldn't know it because of all the pressure and the drops killing his stats, but Forcier had a spectacular day. His downfield success rate* was 71%, which is up there with Chad Henne's best game. Chad Henne's best games didn't come with game-killing overtime interceptions, sure. He made three and a half terrible decisions throwing the ball (with the half being the bomb to Koger) and some additional ones in the ground game.But does anyone remember the "Sheridan Might Start!" meme? Will anyone own up to actually advancing that point of view? No? No.
The fact is, crippling drops by the receivers, the inability of the offensive line and running backs to establish any sort of offensive production on the ground, and David Moosman's idea that the level of difficulty wasn't quite high enough in this game, so he should sling a snap five feet over Forcier's head were all driving factors in the first fifty-five minutes of offensive suck that we witnessed. That Forcier led the team back from down two touchdowns, in the rain, with an injured shoulder should be a testament to his grit, moxie, (insert generic white guy compliment), and determination.
Iowa? Not so much. Forcier looked off all day, and eventually got pulled for what looks like it could be the first of many Denard Robinson backbreaking late game drives (and hopefully the last of the crippling interceptions sailed 10 yards past everyone to a safety who probably had to pinch himself as the ball was in the air
|Was this the last start of the Tate Forcier Era?|
Questions began to pop up regarding Forcier's ability to be truly effective in the spread and shred offense. Did he have the speed to make the zone read the type of weapon that would hurt defenses? How long would it take uber-recruit Devin Gardner to supplant Forcier in the starting lineup? Would Tate transfer if he saw the bench? Could Robinson ever become a legitimate option at quarterback? Answers from the beginning of the season were long forgotten.
The questions have been swirling ever since.
When Denard Robinson went down in the third quarter of the UConn game, the air rushed out of the lungs of 113,000 people. This had the potential to be a game changing moment. Robinson was the whole offense up to that point, and nobody knew how the other quarterbacks would fare. In fact, no one even knew who would take the next snap. Forcier was listed as third option on the depth chart even though he came in with a huge advantage in game experience, on top of Gardner seeming like an obvious candidate for a redshirt. However, once we saw Gardner warming up, the writing was on the wall. Rodriguez was going to burn his redshirt for what would most likely be a couple snaps
There aren't any photos of Tate Forcier's 4th quarter on the bench circulating online today. As the clock wound down on the opening victory of the 2010 season, the cameras turned to the forgotten man of the afternoon. There he sat, alone on the back of the aluminum bench, a towel wrapped tightly around his head, only leaving his eyes exposed. When you are at the center of 113,000 people it isn't easy to find a place to hide. Trying as hard as he could to be invisible, Tate couldn't avoid the cameras as they closed in looking for signs of breakdown. The legend of 2009 was no more. Forcier had been replaced, and in wild and dramatic fashion. Records had been broken, a defense had been thoroughly beaten, and the performances of a year ago might as well have been ancient history.
As he left the field, Forcier was approached by Mike Rothstein of AnnArbor.com who got one cryptic quote as the quarterback wandered around the field alone and uncomfortable:
How true those words feel upon reflection a day later. I don't know what the future holds for Tate Forcier. Rumors of his impending transfer were quickly squashed by comments from his father that laid out in no uncertain terms that he would not support a hasty exit by Tate from this football team after one game. But the fact remains, Forcier is now solidly third on the depth chart, and the lure of another Pat White running this offense has shifted popular opinion firmly behind the man they call Shoelaces. However, anyone who doubts Forcier's ability to lead this offense need only to refer back to the highlights from last year. When Tate was healthy and surrounded by a healthy offense he was just as capable of hanging 30 or more points on a defense as Denard Robinson. The way they do it might be different, Forcier will never have the home-run ability with his feet that Robinson has, but Forcier still remains the superior passer, no matter the stats Robinson put up against a young secondary that was routinely torched last year.
So everyone will go about their weeks, check MGoBlog for the UFR and the injury report and listen to the talking heads on the radio jump back on the UM bandwagon. Maybe we hear news of the transfer that we all expect. Maybe not.
Tate Forcier is still a productive D-I quarterback, whether he is wearing the maize and blue or not. Don't think for a minute that his comfort with the passing offense and his playmaking ability won't come in handy later in the year, if he is still around. For all Robinson's success, he did it against a weak defense with a simple playbook. These things won't be so easy against the Iowas and Ohio States of the world.
What does the future hold? I don't even think Tate Forcier knows the answer to that. But if anyone can comeback from being knocked down like this, it would be Little Man Tate. After all, he has a history of improbable comebacks. Lets just hope there are still chapters to be written in his story, and that Little Man Tate can find the happy ending he deserves.
|Passed over, wingless, and forgotten.|
How will his story end?