NCF Nation: ichigan Wolverines

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg 

 
 Charles LeClaire/Getty Images
 Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has to choose among four inexperienced signal-callers to run his spread offense.

The third installment of quarterback conundrums could be the league's most intriguing, more so because of the coach and the system than the candidates. Offensive innovator Rich Rodriguez was brought to Michigan to shake up a program that had grown a bit stale under Lloyd Carr. Rodriguez's high-octane spread offense doesn't resemble anything the Wolverines have used in the past, and he must install it for a quarterback who doesn't resemble Pat White. Here's a look at the uncertain situation under center in Ann Arbor.

The candidates

Steven Threet (6-6, 230, Fr.): Transfer from Georgia Tech could be throwing his first pass in a college game this fall. Has good size and most likely the strongest arm of the candidates. He's hardly the prototypical Rich Rodriguez quarterback, but he's a solid athlete who ran the spread offense as a high school senior.

Nick Sheridan (6-1, 212, So.): Walk-on appeared in two games last season as a redshirt freshman, but didn't attempt a pass. A little undersized, and his arm strength has been questioned. But he came on strong toward the end of spring practice before throwing three interceptions in the spring game. Son of former Michigan assistant coach has good knowledge of the game.

David Cone (6-7, 214, So.): Only candidate who has thrown a pass in a college game, completing his lone attempt for 21 yards against Minnesota on the final play. Fell behind both Threet and Sheridan during spring practice but could gain some consideration this summer. More of a pro-style quarterback who might struggle in the spread, but has some size.

Justin Feagin (6-0, 190, Fr.): Feagin's skill set could fit the system better than any other candidate, but he's a true freshman. Dual-threat QB didn't generate much buzz as a Florida prep player, mainly because he competed against smaller schools. Has excellent speed and could be used in packages, but the only freshman who could have started on Day One for Michigan is playing for Ohio State.

Who they're replacing

Chad Henne: Four-year starter set school records for passing yards (9,715), completions (828), attempts (1,387) touchdown passes (87) and interceptions (37). He finished second in Big Ten history in touchdown passes and went 33-14 as the starter. Consensus first-team freshman All-American struggled as a sophomore before taking Michigan back to the Rose Bowl as a junior. Fought through injuries last fall and led Wolverines to a Capital One Bowl title in his final game (named the game's MVP).

Spring skinny

All of the quarterbacks struggled at times during spring ball, though Threet emerged as the early favorite to win the job. Threet displayed a strong arm and threw only one interception in the spring game, while Sheridan tossed three. Rodriguez identified Threet and Sheridan as the front-runners after spring ball, but the competition is far from finished.

Summer storylines

  • Threet took snaps with the first-team offense during the spring and reportedly looked the least shaky of the candidates. His familiarity with a version of the spread in high school should help his cause in camp. Intelligence is a key component for Threet, the valedictorian of his high school class and a player who should grasp Rodriguez's system quickly.
  • The strong play of Michigan's running backs during spring ball could lighten the burden on the new starting QB this fall. Both Brandon Minor and Kevin Grady performed well, and Carlos Brown will be back from a broken finger. Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee produced an All-Big East running back in each of his seven seasons at West Virginia. If he gets similar production from Minor, Brown or Grady, Michigan could live with an average runner taking the snaps.

Prediction

Threet enters camp with a slight edge, but it could be several weeks before the starter is named. Rodriguez is open to using more than one quarterback, and that could very well be what happens with Threet and Sheridan. Both will see the field during a challenging August/September slate. If both struggle, Feagin could get a shot.

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