August 27, 2009
Between Kevin Craft, Jonathan Crompton, Chris Todd and Kodi Burns, Jarrett Lee, Marc Verica, Robert Marve and the revolving door at South Carolina, 2008 was a banner year for rock-bottom quarterbacking at prominent, respectable programs. Still, it's hard to argue that any of the disappointing signal-callers anywhere achieved quite the same low as Nick Sheridan at Michigan, who in one brief tour as a quasi-starter threw two interceptions in five attempts against Notre Dame, and two more picks against Toledo the next time he stepped on the field; completed 3-of-9 passes for five yards at Penn State; and ended the season by completing 16-of-53 as the full-time QB in losses to Northwestern and Ohio State. His final pass efficiency rating, 81.1, was the worst in the Big Ten by a mile and, as far as I can tell, the lowest in the country for any regular passer. Not that Sheridan bears any unusual burden for the Wolverines' all-around miserable season, but as a walk-on with no recruiting profile or discernible Division I skills thrown into an untenable situation, he played like a walk-on with no recruiting profile or discernible Division I skills thrown into an untenable situation.
All signs so far suggest freshmen Tate Forcier, who looked very competent in the spring, and Denard Robinson, who has looked insanely fast during the first few weeks of practice, will be fine; they were, after all, actually granted scholarships to do this. So I did not believe it when an AP headline showed up on all the wires on Sunday suggesting the Wolverines might play all three quarterbacks against Western Michigan, especially when the story turned out to be 99 percent about Robinson's preference to play with his shoelaces untied with Rich Rodriguez adding what sounded like a joke -- "Maybe we’ll have three starting quarterbacks," Rodriguez said. "That would be neat." -- in the very last line. Coaches and reporters alike have certain vague rhetorical obligations to respect the veterans or something, but it does not compute that Sheridan, off his wretched debut and a broken leg in the spring, could legitimately remain in this mix.
And yet again, the Sheridan-as-starter meme persists:
Ann Arbor -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Wednesday that all three quarterbacks are listed as first team on the depth chart heading into this final half week of preseason camp.
"I don't know what we're going to do yet as far as the order," Rodriguez said Wednesday. "It may depend on the play, may depend on the situation.
"We have an idea in our minds as to which plays they execute well."
Rodriguez also said there is "a separate package of plays" for each quarterback, which in Sheridan's case, based on what he did well last year, must include kneel-downs, underthrowing the deep ball and lobbing multiple interceptions against MAC schools.
I don't want to be unfair or mean to what I gather is a perfectly nice kid. But it was clear by midseason that Sheridan was in over his head athletically, and had it not been for a late injury to Steven Threet in the loss to Purdue, he probably wouldn't have been back on the field for the last three games. (One of which, it must be added, was a passable effort in a from-nowhere win at Minnesota.) His ongoing role in the Michigan Quarterback Saga in the meantime has seemed entirely perfunctory. Before the freshmen arrived, the 2009 depth chart clearly had Threet at the top. When Threet decided to transfer in February, the crown passed directly to Forcier, while Sheridan watched with the broken leg. Five months later, Robinson arrived and quickly fulfilled the hype about his speed. Freshmen starters are never ideal, but given the alternative, here they are. Even if they're not ready, talented freshmen with a future are always preferable to a fourth-year junior with a blaring red siren on his helmet.
The question, then, if Rodriguez is really going forward with a three-pronged gameplan, is how much of that plan really involves Sheridan, and for how long? Can his presence be anything more than an insurance policy, to keep him involved and morale up just in case the freshmen completely implode? Because even a steep improvement from last year would leave Sheridan as one of the least productive quarterbacks in the conference, and if that's the best Michigan can do, it's hard to see how the end result is going to fare any better.