It’s not often that a one-time walk-on receives some of the wildest pregame cheers from the Michigan Stadium crowd.
On Saturday, that ovation belonged to Nick Sheridan. But this weekend, the home fans may be cheering for last week’s second choice.
After redshirt sophomore Nick Sheridan and redshirt freshman Steven Threet turned in less-than-thrilling performances in Saturday’s 25-23 loss to Utah, the Wolverines still have no clear-cut frontrunner for the job.
“Steve probably came out of that game grading a little bit higher,” Rodriguez said yesterday after watching the game film. “Nick had a little bit of an edge coming into last game, and Steve kind of equaled those things up.”
The quarterback situation has been one of the team’s major storylines for months, and it may have become a little less complicated Monday when Rodriguez announced freshman quarterback Justin Feagin will redshirt. Rodriguez said on Signing Day in February that he had never seen Feagin, the only dual-threat player listed at quarterback on the roster, play in person before he signed.
“He’s not ready,” Rodriguez said yesterday.
Sheridan and Threet came into Saturday’s game with almost the same amount of collegiate game experience — virtually none.
Rodriguez first appeared to lean toward Threet, who started the spring game, as the possible Utah starter before acknowledging Sheridan’s surge in fall practices.
But after Saturday’s loss, Rodriguez wasn’t eager to explain the logic behind his choice of starter.
“It’s in the past. I don’t know why it matters,” Rodriguez said before explaining that Sheridan got the nod because he made a few more good plays in last week’s practices and scrimmages.
The quarterbacks knew they both would see action Saturday, and they received nearly equal time on the field. The two were comparable on paper. Sheridan finished 11-for-19 with one touchdown and one interception, and Threet went 8-for-19 with one touchdown.
But Michigan’s second-half comeback helped Threet’s play look more favorable. In the third quarter, Threet connected on a beautiful 33-yard touchdown pass to Junior Hemingway along the right sideline to put the Wolverines within eight points and electrify the crowd.
And in the fourth quarter, thanks to a pass interference penalty after a Threet-to-Hemingway pass on third down and 12, the Wolverines crossed the goal line on the next play to pull within two.
Rodriguez praised Threet’s calmness and ability to see the field.
Sheridan seemed to overthrow the ball at times on long pass attempts.
A first-quarter Utah interception on an off-target pass was nullified by a pass interference penalty, but the Utes picked off another Sheridan pass late in the first half and capitalized on the mistake to notch a 22-10 lead.
And after the Wolverines’ first drive of the second half, which ended with a botched read run and Michigan fumble, Rodriguez put Threet into the game.
“(Rodriguez) didn’t say anything to me,” Sheridan said Saturday. “We were struggling offensively, so I didn’t blame him at all.”
The decision to redshirt Feagin means either junior running back Carlos Brown or redshirt sophomore David Cone will be the third-string quarterback. Brown took one snap at quarterback in Saturday’s game, gaining four yards on a run in the second quarter.
Rodriguez waited until last Thursday to tell both quarterbacks who would be starting against the Utes, but he said yesterday that the Miami (Ohio) starter could be set as early as today.
Regardless of who it is, next Saturday’s starter likely won’t stick. On his way out of the stadium Saturday, quarterbacks coach Rod Smith was asked for his gut feeling on if both would play again next week.
“Probably, you know what I mean?” he said. “Probably.”