February 16, 2009

The eyes of Michigan turn to Forcier

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - High expectations and intense scrutiny are considered job requirements for quarterbacks at Michigan, but freshman early enrollee Tate Forcier hadn't given it much thought on National Signing Day.

"It's weird," he said of being a Michigan quarterback. "That's something I don't realize. It hasn't hit me yet."

Chances are it has now … as brutally as being blindsided by a blitzing corner.

With redshirt sophomore Steven Threet announcing Monday that he would transfer, Forcier has become the apparent No. 1 heading into spring ball (though walk-on Nick Sheridan might disagree) and the learning curve just got shorter.

Forcier isn't lacking for confidence, and he came to Michigan fully expecting to contribute as a freshman. But with Sheridan the only other option until fellow freshman Denard Robinson arrives this fall, the heat in the pressure cooker just rose exponentially.

"When you watch Michigan on TV and you see the tradition, you don't realize you're part of something big, the tradition you are going to be part of," he said. "You can go anywhere and say you played for a certain school, but if you go somewhere and say I played for Michigan, you get a different look.

"I'm sure it will hit me once we're going through spring ball, and definitely right before the season starts."

And especially now.

One thing he's learned quickly, though, is that he won't have to do it all by himself. Guys like Greg Mathews, who "catch everything I throw at them, Forcier said, have replaced his 5-foot-10 high school receivers. Forcier has also bloodied two noses already with his quick release and his strong arm, proving he's got the tools, and impressed teammates with his accuracy.

Though he's able to run, he labels himself a passer first. That's the way he prefers it.

"Always throw the ball first. The receivers are the ones that are supposed to make the play, not you," he said. "You're supposed to get them the ball. I only run when needed.

"Something I was always taught was take what the defense is going to give you, don't try to do anything too big. If the plays aren't there, move on to the next play; don't push it. That's something I'm going to try to do this year, get the athletes the ball and let them do the work. That's their job."

Which is why it's so important to get them the ball in position to make plays, he continued.

"Accuracy is everything," he said. "That can be the difference between squeezing the ball over a corner's head or through a safety and getting it picked. Everybody goes too much off arm strength and release rather than accuracy. You look at a lot of great quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Brian Griese, they might not have that strong of an arm but they're real accurate. That's one of my goals, to get the ball to the receivers and let them do the work with it."

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez continues to recruit the kinds of receivers and backs who have made his system successful everywhere he has been. For those who believe it won't fly in Ann Arbor … well, think again, says Forcier.

"I know it will work. You're doing a 100 percent turnaround. Coach Rodriguez has been successful everywhere he's gone, and it takes a year or two, but he's getting the right guys in here," he said. "That's something he's got to do.

"He didn't have all the athletes he needed to run this type of offense. I'm not saying we don't have athletes, but for this system you need certain receivers and running backs. He's doing a great job of getting those just looking at this recruiting class."


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