Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Michigan's offense: The QBs

Chad Henne is coming off a record breaking true freshman season and Michigan fans are expecting big things in his sophomore campaign. How good was he last year? 60.2% completions, 2743 yards, 25 TDs, and 12 INTs. Not Heisman-worthy numbers, but damn impressive for a true freshman. So how good will he be this year? Well, depends on a couple factors. For one, Biletnikoff winner Braylon Edwards is taking his game breaking show to Sundays in the NFL. He won't be around to bail out Henne on any jump balls this year (I know MSU won't miss facing him). But he does have returning talent to work with at the WR position. Jason Avant and Steve Breaston both battled some injuries last year, but are healthy and looking to put together big years without Edwards around hogging catches.

But let's not forget Michigan's QB coach Scot Loeffler. He's done some impressive work in the past, and now Chad Henne has a full year of his tutelage behind him when he steps under center. Let's also not forget that QBs can make big strides from their 1st to 2nd year out of high school. Take Chris Leak as an example of another highly touted QB that started as a true frosh, and look at the improvements he made as a sophomore:

Leak freshman year: 59.4% completions, 2435 yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs, 7.61 yds/attempt
Leak sophomore year: 59.6% completions, 3197 yards, 29 TDs, 12 INTs, 8.01 yds/attempt

He just slightly improved his completion percentage, and had increases in his TD rate and yds/attempt, with a decrease in his INT rate. Not bad across the board improvements for a guy that had a pretty good season as a true freshman QB in the SEC. Chad Henne had an even better true freshman season than Leak, though he did have Braylon Edwards to throw to, but it's reasonable to assume that he will also make improvements.

Beyond starting WRs Breaston and Avant, there is lots of other talent at his disposal including perhaps the best TE duo in the Big Ten (if not the country). I also fully expect Michigan's ground game to take a lot of pressure off the passing game, but more on that in later posts.


And who's his backup this year? None other than redshirt junior Matt Gutierrez. You might remember him as the heir to John Navarre last year until he suffered a shoulder injury just prior to the season opener which allowed Henne to step in and win the job. He's back and apparently looking pretty good throwing the ball. And while he doesn't have a lot of on the field experience, he does know the playbook inside and out and has a great reputation as a leader amongst the offensive personnel. I'm very confident that the offense would keep rolling if he was pressed into duty this year.

Beyond Henne and Gutierrez it gets a little dicey. Clayton Richard left the program to concentrate on baseball and was subsequently drafted by the Chicago White Sox (I believe in the 8th round). Incoming freshman Jason Forcier is likely #3 on the depth chart, though I cannot imagine that there are any plans for him to play outside of an emergency situation.


Overall assessment: with Henne as a sophomore and a very talented backup, this unit is one of the best in the country. They lack some experience, but that is really the only knock. Henne has a full season under his belt and Gutierrez has done everything but rack up lots of PT. I expect big things out of Chad Henne this year. 62-65% completions and a TD/INT ratio approaching 3/1 are not out of the question.

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