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Published: Tuesday, 9/16/2008

Rodriguez, Wolverines forge on in bye week

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has settled on a quarterback and a battle plan.

Rodriguez yesterday announced redshirt freshman Steven Threet as his starting quarterback, essentially ending the season-long competition between Threet and Nick Sheridan.

He also discussed some of what ails the 1-2 Wolverines as they enter their bye week before opening Big Ten play against Wisconsin on Sept. 27 and how to solve those issues.

Some of it s obvious, Rodriguez said. You can t get experience overnight and you re slow to get it each game. We ve got to get faster in some areas and execute better.

Rodriguez then went back to a comment he made following UM s six-turnover, 35-17 loss to Notre Dame last Saturday, when he said: Michigan football will be back.

Some were unaware Michigan football had ever left.

What I mean is this program has had a lot of success playing error-free football, playing tough, physical, and not beating yourselves, Rodriguez explained yesterday. And those are things you can do immediately. That doesn t mean automatically you re going to win championships like we re accustomed to, but those are things we can get corrected.

One area Rodriguez is taking a hard look at is UM s return game. Two of the Wolverines seven fumbles against the Irish were on kickoffs and another was on a punt, and UM is averaging just 2.7 yards per punt return this year.

Some of the Wolverines mis-takes on special teams and elsewhere are due simply to inexperience. Surrounding novices Threet and Sheridan are only one returning starter on the offensive line (Stephen Schilling) and one senior who plays at all (tight end Mike Massey).

Rodriguez said the mistakes those young quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and linemen are making are correctable some sooner than others.

If you have an inexperienced quarterback coming in with eight or nine returning starters, it would be a little different, Rodriguez said. That s not excuses, that s just what it is. Y all have seen that. In the next three, four, five years you ll never go through a situation where you have this many guys that are new, first-time starters on offense.

That s a good thing, but it doesn t help me right now.

Of Threet, Rodriguez said: He s going to be the starter, yeah. He played well enough [against the Irish] for us to have confidence in him.

Though he lost a fumble that turned into the Irish s final touchdown, Threet completed 16 of 23 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. He has yet to throw an interception in three games.

Sheridan, now clearly the backup rather than Threet s equal competitor, was intercepted twice in limited duty against Notre Dame.

Nick was in a tough situation, Rodriguez said. We were behind, and I think he maybe tried to force a few things. Nick is still in our thoughts a little bit.

Sheridan started the season opener against Utah but played in relief the last two weeks.

NO HUDDLE: UM s game against Wisconsin is set for 3:30 and will be televised on ESPN. There is a chance left tackle Mark Ortmann (dislocated elbow) and guard Mark Huyge (ankle sprain) could return to play against the Badgers, giving the Wolverines depth and perhaps an entirely different look on their starting line. Ortmann is their regular left tackle and Huyge would ve had a chance to start as a guard if not for his injury suffered during camp. Tight end Carson Butler will not be suspended for his ejection in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame.

According to a school spokesman, Butler was ejected for a flagrant foul and not a fighting foul, which would ve resulted in a half-game suspension. Rodriguez said the incident was a case of Butler retaliating against a Notre Dame player in the wrong way, and it shouldn t have happened a lack of poise. He apologized, and we ll move on. Freshman safety Brandon Smith recently had his appendix removed and will likely be redshirted. Rodriguez said he wants to see senior safety Charles Stewart on the field more, though he said junior starting safety Stevie Brown was not at fault on all of Notre Dame s deep passes.

Contact Joe Vardon at:jvardon@theblade.comor 419-410-5055.



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