Mon Aug 16 03:52pm EDT
Michigan's first week of practices have been off-limit to the public, and interested observers will read too much into the preseason tea leaves that come out of the closed sessions at their own peril. But if you insist, the speculation on the Wolverines' quarterback is turning out some pretty one-sided tea leaves so far: Already, incumbent Tate Forcier has been called out by a teammate for lackluster attendance at offseason workouts, slowed by a nagging injury, relegated to a plain blue helmet sans the customary wings and curiously cut from the "Countdown to Kickoff" videos coming out of practices.
None of that would mean much of anything in and of itself for a guy who built an early reputation for "moxie" as a true freshman, especially if Forcier has been too dinged up to go full-speed with the first team for the last few days. Except that the competition, spring star Denard Robinson, still has optimistic clippings piling up around his feet, the latest from Sunday's Detroit Free Press:
The Big Ten Network's studio crew was permitted access to practice Friday morning, and the two analysts agreed about one key point: Denard Robinson looks like Michigan's quarterback.
"Denard Robinson really stood out to me," BTN analyst Howard Griffith said. "Seeing him in the spring and seeing him again (Friday), he's starting to make that next jump to becoming the starting QB."
Griffith noticed a significant leap in Robinson's throwing, pointing out that it wasn't just a learned skill but also improved body language.
"There was probably so much thrown on him when he got in," Griffith said of Robinson's freshman year, when he had spot duty behind Tate Forcier. "They needed to be able to put him on the field to do something (last year). ... Young kid, I'm sure he got overwhelmed. He seemed more ... confident [on Saturday]."
The Twitter consensus inside the gates more or less agreed, lauding Robinson's improvement as a passer – the former high school track star couldn't hit the broadside of a barn at 20 yards last year against teams that weren't Delaware State – and even finding better things to say about hyped true freshman Devin Gardner than about Forcier, who by all accounts has been very limited. After the tentative enthusiasm for Robinson's surprisingly competent turn as a passer with the first team in the spring, that has to be exactly what Michigan fans want to hear: If his arm is good enough to keep defenses honest enough to open up running lanes in Rich Rodriguez's zone read/spread option attack, Robinson's potential could conceivably reach stratospheric, Pat White-like levels, providing precisely the kind of big-play pop the Wolverines have so sorely missed over the last two years.
Despite the fast start last year against awful defenses, Forcier's best-case scenario is ... less exciting. But he still has the benefit of having played, a lot, which at this point is still likely to count for more than tea leaves on Sept. 4. Even taking the practice buzz at face value, whatever distance Robinson has made up or possibly put on Forcier since the end of last season, he remains a one-note player until he proves otherwise in a real game. The odds seem to be increasing, though, that he'll have ample opportunity.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.