Who should keep the QB spot warm for Kevin Newsome?
Five star super recruit Kevin Newsome (Chesapeake, VA) is the (likely) future of Michigan Football. However, he will not join the team until after the 2008 season. This, of course, leaves the question of what Coach Rod should do about the quarterback position for the upcoming season. Following are some of the considerations that need to be factored in when making that decision.
- Consideration #1: Installing a long term plan
Coach Rod has repeatedly stated that he can adapt his spread offense system to the personnel available. However, it is readily apparent from reviewing his days at WVU and looking at his recruiting at Michigan, that Coach Rod wants a dual-threat QB to run the Zone Read Option. That is clearly the direction that Coach Rod is taking the program in the long term. In the short term, however, Coach Rod mostly has a roster of quarterbacks who are more suited to run Michigan's traditional pro-style offense. To ease the transition, Coach Rod is implementing a pass-oriented version of the Spread Offense. These pro-style system quarterbacks (i.e., Threet and Cone) are struggling to some extent to adapt to the new offensive scheme. Coach Rod does have a walk-on QB, Nick Sheridan (Jr./So.), who is more mobile than Threet and Cone but who lacks game experience (even from high school) and may not have the talent necessary to play at this level. During the 15 sessions of Spring Practice, Sheridan gave Threet a run for his money but ultimately Threet established himself as the leading QB by the end of the spring. Cone was a non-factor and will be holding a clipboard for the remainder of his career.Although Threet is immensely talented, he is a prototypical pocket passer. He would have likely flourished in Michigan's pro-style offense but he will probably struggle mightily in trying to direct the Spread Offense. Threet is not exceptionally mobile and the offense will have to be adapted to fit his skills (or lack thereof) regarding his running ability. Coach Rod will certainly not be able to run the type of Zone Read Option he ran at WVU or that he plans to run at Michigan with Kevin Newsome as quarterback. With Threet at the helm, Coach Rod will be forced to employ a more pass-oriented version of the Spread Offense than he has used in the recent past or than he will use in the future. This brings up the dilemna for Coach Rod. Rather than install a caretaker QB- Threet- for a season (or two) using a pass-oriented version of the Spread Offense, should Michigan just go with a dual-threat QB right now? The idea being that even though the dual-threat QB might not be as effective immediately as Threet, the use of a dual-threat QB from the start will have long-term benefits for the implementation of Coach Rod's Zone Read Option. If Michigan employs a primarily pass-oriented spread offensive scheme in '08 then it will miss out on a season of experience of implementing the Zone Read Option which is the key to the future of the Wolverines' offensive system.
To run the Zone Read Option in 2008, the Wolverines need to be able to play a dual-threat quarterback. That QB would be true freshman Justin Feagin. This brings us to the second consideration that Coach Rod needs to ponder when deciding who should be at the helm for the Wolverines in 2008.
- Consideration #2: Putting Justin Feagin's talents to their best use.
Incoming true freshman Justin Feagin (Deerfield, Fla.) is the sole quarterback in the 2008 signee class. Feagin was a three-star recruit (according to Rivals.com; two stars by Scout.com) who was being recruited by LSU and Miami (Fla.) to play defensive back. During his recruitment Feagin was viewed as an Athlete/defensive back/quarterback. Michigan, of course, was interested in him for his skills as a dual-threat quarterback. As a senior at Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage High Feagin led his team to the state title. During his senior season, he rushed for 1,313 yards on 160 carries (8.2 per rush) and 25 touchdowns and completed 91 of 151 passes for 1,420 yards with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions. When he originally committed to Michigan it was allegedly with the understanding that he would compete for the QB position but that he would switch to slot receiver if it did not work out. Feagin was originally projected as the #2 QB in the Wolverines 2008 signing class. However, Michigan did not land another QB in the 2008 class as Terrelle Pryor and B.J. Daniels failed to join the Wolverines. This left Feagin as the only game in town for a dual-threat QB for next season.
Although Feagin is talented and athletic, Coach Rod did not view him as the long term solution to the void at quarterback. Coach Rod has recently received verbal commitments from two top notch dual-threat quarterbacks from the 2009 class (i.e., Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver). Many fans view the 5-star super recruit Newsome as the future of the Wolverines' offense. Thus, Feagin would likely not start at QB beyond his sophmore year at most. Most likely he would get buried on the depth chart behind both Newsome and Beaver. It would be a shame for Feagin to burn 1-2 years of eligibilty at QB just to get knocked down the depth chart by Newsome and Beaver by the time they hit their strides as sophmores if not sooner. Even if Feagin were to switch to slot receiver as a junior, he would be so far behind the slew of slot receivers that are part of the 2009 class that Feagin would likely be buried on the depth chart at that position as well.
During 2008 Spring Practice, Coach Rod bemoaned the state of the current crop of slot receivers on the Wolverines' roster. Feagin could come in this fall as a slot receiver and make a positive contribution right away. This would help the team and help his long term future as a Wolverine. If Feagin gains valuable experience and develops in the slot this season then he can continue to progress and compete over the subsequent three years. However, if Feagin plays QB, he will see a lot of action this season (and maybe next) but then will likely be shuffled down the depth chart (either at QB or slot receiver) for the remainder of his career. Thus, Feagin should be placed as a slot receiver as soon as he hits campus in the next few months. However, for this to work, someone has to be able to capably fill the role of a dual-threat quarterback. This brings us to the third consideration.
- Consideration #3: Carlos Brown needs to have the ball in his hands.
Carlos Brown (Jr./Jr.) is a playmaker. He is fast, athletic, and incredibly talented. He also has had a run of bad luck with injuries during his first two years as a Wolverine. His latest injury occurred during a weight room mishap and caused him to miss almost all of Spring Practice. Brown is a running back but he was also a dual-threat QB in high school. During his senior year at Heard County (Ga.) High School, Brown played both running back and quarterback. He completed 27-of-52 passes for 541 yards and 7 passing touchdowns while running for 1,512 yards and scoring 21 rushing touchdowns on 135 carries. During his freshman season at Michigan (2006), Head Coach Lloyd Carr had Brown taking snaps at QB in practice in case Brown had to be inserted into a game to replace an injured Chad Henne.
Brown is lightning fast and is widely considered the second fastest player on the team behind only Morgan Trent. Brown has been stuck behind Mike Hart (Michigan's all-time rushing leader) on the depth chart for his first two seasons. However, Brown did get a chance to show his stuff in a couple of games last year when Hart was injured. Brown rushed for 113 yds. vs. Illinois and 132 yds. vs. Minnesota including an 85 yd. touchdown run (7th longest td run in Michigan history). Nevertheless, the Wolverines are once again loaded at tailback and Brown missed Spring Practice. Although the depth chart will not be set until the week of the first game, Brandon Minor, Avery Horn, and Kevin Grady were all impressive in the Spring. In the fall, super back Sam McGuffie (true freshman) will be added to the mix. It will be hard for Brown to get his touches at tailback with so many quality runners competing for carries. However, if the explosive Brown were to take over at QB, the ball would be in his hands every single offensive play.
Another reason I like the move of Brown (Jr.) to QB and Feagin (Fr.) to slot receiver is how it will set up the Wolverines down the road. Newsome (class of 2009) is the QB of the future. However, if Brown were to start this season and next then the Wolverines would be ready to turn the keys over to Newsome when Brown graduates. Newsome could either redshirt his freshman season while Brown plays his senior season or, more likely, Newsome could learn as a backup and get into some games as a freshman in 2009. He would then would be ready to transition into the starting job which he would have for the next three seasons.
This situation is kind of like the situation the Wolverines found themselves in when Rick Leach finished his career. Leach started 47 of 48 games from 1975-1978. In 1979, John Wangler took over the starting job as a junior and led the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl win the following season as a senior. Then, in 1981, the starting job was assumed by Steve Smith (soph.) who was the team's QB of the future and who started for the next 3 seasons. In this case, Chad Henne started 47 of 50 games from 2004-2007. Carlos Brown (junior) can start for two seasons just as John Wangler did in 1979 & 1980. Then sophmore Kevin Newsome will start for the next three seasons just as Steve Smith did from 1981-1983. Go Blue!