QBs must lead in word, deed

Michigan's strong lineage at position marked by vocal leaders, good passers

Updated: July 30, 2012, 5:25 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

To preview Michigan's football season this year, WolverineNation takes a look at each position through the spectrum of the expectations of the position set by head coach Brady Hoke and the coordinators -- along with those who have played the position at Michigan in the past.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Scott Dreisbach had a twisting, turning career at Michigan, filled with the high of leading the Wolverines to a come-from-behind win over Virginia in his first start as a freshman quarterback but then suffered injuries and lost his job to Brian Griese and then Tom Brady by the time his career concluded.

Throughout it, he learned quarterbacking at Michigan was bigger than him. Playing quarterback -- whether one is on the bench or the field -- is about commanding respect throughout the team.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson and Al Borges
Icon Sports MediaEntering their second year together, Denard Robinson and Al Borges know expectations will be even higher.
Brady Hoke often preaches about the expectation at Michigan being for the position instead of the individual player. Nowhere is this more important than at quarterback, where the lineage is long and the expectations high for every player who steps under center for the Wolverines.

"It was a decision I could make which way I wanted to go," Dreisbach said. "I could be the guy who is last in running because I knew I wasn't going to play or I could be the guy who is first in running and trying to push the other guys.

"Halfway through my career, [I realized] it's bigger than the position and it taught me to become a better man."

From Rick Leach to John Wangler to Jim Harbaugh to Elvis Grbac to Griese, Brady and Chad Henne among others, the line of successful quarterbacks at Michigan is long.

"The expectation has been that for Michigan to be successful, you have to have a first-team All-Big Ten quarterback," Griese said. "There's a lot of ways to do that. It doesn't mean you have to be a pocket passer, as Denard has illustrated very well.

"But you have to be the best quarterback in the conference."

There are physical expectations of a quarterback at Michigan as well -- toughness being among them and with this group of quarterbacks, being able to run as well as pass -- but more than anything he does on the field, the expectation of the quarterback at Michigan is simple.

The quarterback has to lead. He has to be composed and poised, offensive coordinator Al Borges said. Otherwise his team is going nowhere.

"I talked about leadership and leadership by example is a given, yet I think one of the most overused things I hear today is leadership through example," Borges said. "It's a copout not to lead. I've never heard anybody say that, but I've heard too much of it.

"I want guys who are willing to take the bull by the horns and sometimes drag people through the finish line if that's what it takes. You can't do that leading by example. So I think there's more to it than leadership through example if you're going to be a great leader."

This is a lesson current Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson learned early in his career -- one reinforced throughout his first two seasons as a starting quarterback and now entering his third. It wasn't always a role Robinson was comfortable with.

As he matured, he learned he needed to speak more. He needed to learn how to take charge -- something he figured out throughout last season and displayed during the off-season, when he led workouts and decided he had to show more of himself, starting with being the keynote player speaker at the Big Ten Football Luncheon.

While some of the expectations deal with the physical attributes of Michigan's quarterbacks, leadership is the main component. Other players look to the quarterback to be both a calming influence and an on-field leader more than any position on the field. The way the quarterback carries himself will often translate to whether the team will have success.

"You have to be that guy when you see him, you know he is about business," Robinson said. "When you step on the field, it's about business. He's the guy you can look to for anything.

"If something is going wrong, you can look to him and he'll have that confident smile that everything will be OK."

After three seasons, Robinson now feels comfortable doing it.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter