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Quarterbacks in spotlight at Michigan media day

8/23/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- If there was any doubt about Michigan's primary concern entering the 2009 season, it got put to rest at the start of head coach Rich Rodriguez's media day news conference.

Nearly 12 minutes passed before Rodriguez received a question that didn't have to do with his signal-callers. When a reporter finally asked how Michigan's talented group of running backs will assist the quarterback this fall, Rodriguez pumped his fists.

"Good," he said, smiling. "Eleven guys."

Whether Rodriguez likes it or not, the spotlight will remain on only one guy -- actually three candidates for one job -- who will have the biggest impact on bringing Michigan back from a 3-9 season in 2008. Freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are competing with junior Nick Sheridan for the position, and no decision on a starter is imminent.

Here's a summary of what Rodriguez said about his quarterback situation:

  • All three players are expected to appear in the season opener Sept. 5 against Western Michigan. All three have practiced and scrimmaged with the first-team offense, and all three have made explosive plays. "I don't want to say it's fun," Rodriguez said, "but most people say, 'Geez, they don't have a starter.' Maybe we'll have three starting quarterbacks. That would be neat."

  • Sheridan isn't out of the running. Not even close. When Michigan scrimmaged Saturday, he took the first reps with the starting offense, followed by Forcier and Robinson, who made several big plays. Though many continue to link Sheridan with the problems of 2008, his familiarity with the system continues to help his cause. "Right now, mentally, I think Nick's ahead of me," Forcier said.

  • More on this later in the blog, but Robinson has really turned heads so far this preseason, mostly because of his track-star speed. Forcier has been surprised at how quickly Robinson is progressing, which intensifies the competition. "He's making me play a lot better, because I see the competition," Forcier said. "During the spring, when Nick got hurt, I caught myself kind of just walking through it. Now that the competition's here, there's no more taking the easy way. You've got to work."

  • Quarterbacks coach Rod Smith is purposely having all three quarterbacks work with the first-, second- and third-string units in practice. "I want to see who's going to have some leadership ability, who has the ability to make plays," Smith said. "I have them go with the [third string] because those guys aren't playing as [much] as the other guys, but I want to see them be able to take something on their shoulders and do it themselves."

  • None of the three quarterbacks are physically imposing, which doesn't mean much in Rodriguez's system. But all three seem to welcome the spotlight and the pressure that will be placed on them all season. They might be short on experience, but not on swagger. "I enjoy the suspense," Robinson said. "Just waiting to see who's going to start. ... I don't feel pressure at all, not at all."