Smith Loves QB Battle

The quarterback battle isn't yet settled, but Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith isn't complaining. The Wolverine assistant breaks down the skill sets of each of his signal callers, discusses necessary improvements, and much much more.

Question:  Does it make it harder (for opposing teams) because the three quarterbacks all have got different skill sets?

Rod Smith: "I think they all fit what we can do.  We can do so many things offensively that I think for our quarterbacks.  Each of them do something pretty good and we're not too far off really.  Tate (Forcier) is more of a thrower and Denard the explosive runner but Denard has also developed some throwing ability.  Devin is kind of a mixture of both.  So we're excited about all three of them."

Question:  Not that you are giving it away by putting in a certain quarterback in, does that mean you are more likely to run with Devin or Denard than Tate or is just…?

Rod Smith: "Not necessarily, because we'll run Tate as well.  We recruit the quarterback here at this position to be a dual threat.  We don't want a guy who just stands in the pocket and he is an oak tree sort of speak.  We want a guy that can hurt you with his feet and his arm as well."

Question:  Does Tate have some value because we saw that thing where he kind of creates stuff even when things break down?  It seems like he has a knack for doing some of that.

Rod Smith: "He does.  He does a good job of extending plays at times.  Sometimes what we've been working on too is because it gets him in trouble sometimes because sometimes he does it too much.  Hopefully, you as freshman make mistakes and you learn from your mistakes and move forward.  That's one of the things that we talked about with Tate is you got to know when to extend the play and when too much is too much.  He has been working hard at it.  The kid wants it."

Question:  How are the three of them progressing in their presnap reads?

Rod Smith: "Better.  We still got a ways to go, but we're better."

Question:  Both fumblers yesterday were the quarterbacks?

Rod Smith: "The quarterbacks did not fumble it."

Question:  Have you been impressed with the ball security?

Rod Smith: "It has been better.  It can get better, but it has been better.  One fumble is too many.  So when you ask that question if we have one, it is too many.  It has been better."

Question:  How do you evaluate Devin's composure during a game?  Say if you throw him into that first game is there a way for you to prepare yourself; are scrimmages the only way to do that?

Rod Smith: "Right now and practices.  We kind of got an idea from the spring when we kept them live.  So all boots were a go sort of speak and they took shots and we wanted to see how they would handle the ball under contact, the decision-making that those guys, that Devin makes.   There is a lot of components that you evaluate to see how he stands in the pocket, is he making the right read, is he seeing coverage, is he carrying out certain steps or measures that he is supposed to be doing. We grade them after every practice after every scrimmage, so all that goes into play."

Question:  How would you compare where Devin is right now to where Tate was last year as a true freshman?

Rod Smith: "Equal at the same point in their career."

Question:  Say Devin was in Tate's position last year and starting the first game of the year; where do you compare?

Rod Smith: "I think they are very similar.  Devin is probably a little more ahead mentally.  He understands defensively better.  Tate was a process early on.  Tate will tell you, he didn't do a whole lot of reading coverages and stuff in high school.  His own progression reading the ball, you have to read coverage, we got to understand fronts.  You got to do a lot of things.  Devin has been well coached in high school by Coach Carter and you can tell.  He picks stuff up very quickly.  He may make a mistake, but he is a kid that I don't see makes the same mistake over and over and over again."

Question:  What's the likelihood that you guys decide to redshirt Devin?

Rod Smith: "Don't know.  Right now, like I said earlier, when I recruited Devin, I didn't tell him that we were going to redshirt, we want him to compete for this spot.  Now if you don't win the spot out, then we'll talk about what our plans are.  But if you are in the hunt, you are in the hunt.  I'm not bringing you in to sit on the bench but I'm bringing him in to compete for the job.  I didn't promise him anything, so I can't tell you that now until game time."

Question:  What is your favorite thing that you've seen?  The last time you saw was the end of the spring and then when you saw them at the beginning of the fall what was your favorite thing that you've seen in terms of progression…jump that they made over the summer?

Rod Smith: "Ball security so far.  Some decision-making has been a bit better.  Both have to get better but there is progress there.  I think being with them now from the spring just in meetings, I can tell they grasping things, starting to fit together with them a little bit better, not just offensively but understanding what a defense is doing.  What they are trying to do to you, what they're strengths are.  That's all part of it. Know where to go with the football.  There is a lot of intricacies with that, but they are getting better.  They are still young.  They still make mistakes and we're hammering, but I think they are better now than they were in the spring in my opinion."

Question:  Denard had the really good spring, how have you seen him carry that over?

Rod Smith: "He's carried it over.  He has picked up right where he left off, I think.  He did a good job so far in camp.  Obviously, during camp guys get tired and you wear down a little bit and you may have a bad day here or there, but for the most part he has played pretty well.  We still got to keep pushing.  We got two more weeks and we still got to get a lot going in terms of his progress, all three of them.  They are all doing good so far."

Question:  What specifically do you have to push with Denard right now?

Rod Smith: "Decision-making.  That's our motto this year, ‘decisions'.  We got to make smart decisions.  In our position every snap is a decision from our quarterback.  We don't go under center and hand it off and just take the play off.  We have to make a decision every snap, presnap, postsnap.  So I got to have a smart guy back there.  I got to have a guy that is a point guard in basketball that can dish it out but still shoot the three once in a while."

Question:  Talent wise these guys are somewhat similar but is there separation between them in the off the field stuff that they are doing?

Rod Smith: "I don't know if there is so much off the field.  We are not able to do anything with them in the summer time.  We were with them in the spring and all three worked hard in the spring and they are all working hard now.  Like I said, it is an even hot race and it is great competition.  I always tell them, iron sharpens iron.  This is making you better.  Not one time does one person have a chance to take one rep off.  I don't want them to look over their shoulder but at the same time they got to understand there is heat behind them baby.  I want that because the makes each individual quarterback, each person better.  We need that at all positions and we're getting it."

Question:  Are you in a position to be more aggressive with the quarterback play?  It looks like Tate might have been a little hurt at the end of last year and maybe not able to run it with an injury risk and Denard was inconsistent through the air.  But now you got three options, can you just have the guys play full out because you know you got backups?

Rod Smith: "We definitely have more options, we're deeper.  I think hopefully, I'm hoping that we can have three guys ready to play.  We definitely need two, but I think we have three but yes I think we can go deeper and if something knock on wood something happens to one, we shouldn't drop off as much as we would have last year."

Question:  Rich said that there are times when you have to remind yourself that Devin is a true freshman.  What has he shown you as a true freshman in what he has done in camp so far?

Rod Smith: "He has got very good composure for a freshman.  He has that knack to just make plays.  He knows where to go with the football.  He makes mistakes but he is a coachable kid.  You can get on him and he is going to take it and correct it.  He is very, very self-worrying in terms of where he wants to be better.  He is a kid that is going to spend extra time in there watching film.  He's a kid that is going to do what it takes to put himself in the best position.  To give himself a chance to play.  You watch him (too much background noise)."

Question:  Are there times that it does not seem like he is a freshman?  Does he maybe play above his years at times?

Rod Smith: "There are flashes at times where you think, hey this kid is going to be special and then there are times when we say, that kids a freshman.  So he has got it in him, it is just a matter of that I think it is going to come with time, going to come with reps.  I'm ecstatic about Devin Gardner.  I'm ecstatic about Tate and I'm ecstatic about Denard.  I think we have three good ones right now.  It is going to be fun to see how it shakes out."

Question:  A lot of people feel like you really need to settle on one guy for the chemistry of the team.  How do you balance that with the need to let them actually determine it and separate on the field?

Rod Smith: "The bottom line is wins. That's the bottom line.  It is a matter of if you are going to move the offense, take care of the ball and put points on the board that's his job.  So whoever does that, whether that is one, two or three, I don't get caught up in that.  I think this team knows that we're strong enough hopefully chemistry wise with each other that we don't have to rely on one guy.  Hopefully, they know if somebody goes down, another one will step in and pick up his own gun and march forward and not miss a beat, so I think that is important.  All three guys have done a good job of working and I think the seniors, I think the upper classman look up to some of those guys."

Question:  Does Tate experience factor (too noisy)?

Rod Smith: "Sure.  We're looking at everything.  Everybody is marking Tate off and marking Denard in; we don't get into all that.  That's everybody else.  It's an open competition and they are working.  Obviously Tate has the experience in his corner.  He is a 12-game starter.  That's tough to replace.  It is a factor.  Denard played in just about every game.  I think he did play all 12 games.  Both of them have it. Tate has got more playing experience.  To me it is all about what they are doing now.  How they are functioning with our football team and are we being productive on the football field."

Question: What do you think the biggest thing that Tate learned from his experiences last year?

Rod Smith: "I'm hoping that he learned….you learn from your failures.  I believe you learn from your failures more than you learn from the positives.  If you take what you did wrong and correct that, you are going to be a better man, better person, better person for that.  Ball security is obviously going to be one and I the other part will be discipline decision-making and I think those are two things that he had to work on just like Denard had to do the same things.   It is not just singled to one guy, but you asked about Tate but that would be my answer for that."

Question:  Where has Denard made the greatest jump from freshman to sophomore season?

Rod Smith: "His passing skills have increased.  His decision-making is getting better.  He is not there yet, but he is making better decisions.  We got to be able to do it all time and got to get all three to get it all the time, but he has gotten much better as far as throwing the football than he was last year.  Is he going to go out there and win the Heisman trophy and throw for 3000 yards that's to be determined.  I'm not saying that, but I'm just telling you that he has gotten better from last year."

Question:  Wouldn't you want a clear #1 guy at this point?

Rod Smith: "Do you want one…ideal world, do you want one?   Yeah you always want one. I'd like to have two.  I want two of them.  If I can get three of them, I'm going to be greedy.  We let it play out.  It is neck and neck man.  We feel good about all three of them that is the bottom line."

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