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Published: Tuesday, 2/17/2009

Rodriguez left Threet no choice but to leave

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

It wasn't some simple writing on the wall that caused Michigan quarterback Steven Threet to transfer.

More like a mural, and Rich Rodriguez was holding the paint brush.

Now, before we go any further, this is not suggesting that Rodriguez forced or encouraged Threet to leave UM. Background conversations after Threet's announcement Sunday night don't draw such conclusions.

But for Threet, who was literally born a Wolverines fan, to decide to transfer for the second time in three years after declaring a month ago he had no such intentions, it had to be painfully obvious to him that his career at UM was all but finished.

So obvious that Threet was no longer blinded by his lifelong love for the Wolverines - a love that might've shielded him from ominous early signs about his future.

There was the prolonged position battle with Nick Sheridan last summer, a walk-on quarterback who couldn't have imagined before last season that he would start a game at UM.

Rodriguez dropped hints throughout the season that Threet wasn't necessarily in his plans for quarterback in 2009, and lately has barely even mentioned Threet's name when the topic was broached.

Even worse, though, was Rodriguez leaving Threet home for UM's season finale at Ohio State. Threet was hurt and unable to play, true, but he also was the starting quarterback for eight games and an obvious leader.

Normally in those situations, the injured players make the trip, much like Threet did for a road game at Minnesota and right tackle Stephen Schilling did against the Buckeyes. But Threet was left home with no real explanation from Rodriguez.

Throw in the unabashed fawning over UM's two quarterback recruits - Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson - and it suddenly becomes clear what Threet saw in store for himself.

So, Rodriguez never really thought of Threet as his quarterback of anything other than the here and now in 2008. He was certainly entitled to that opinion.

Rodriguez made no secret his roster lacked quarterbacks who fit his spread-option scheme, and he believes Forcier and Robinson fill that role.

Fine.

Here's hoping in the near future Rodriguez says as much, wishes Threet the best, and they part ways amicably enough.

Because Threet couldn't have wanted to do this.

After all, Threet was born Jan. 2, 1989, the day the Wolverines beat Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl, and spent his first day on Earth watching some of the game with his mom - who, of course, is a UM grad.

His parents had season tickets for Wolverines games long before he was wearing a winged helmet. And being from Adrian, he was living the dream of the local boy who grows up to play quarterback at UM.

Just last week, Threet was sitting with family at the Wolverines-Michigan State basketball game, wearing some UM football clothing.

A few days later, he announces that he's asked for and was granted his release.

Weird.

Few will shed tears over Threet's departure. He came in on Lloyd Carr's watch and was the primary quarterback in the worst season in school history.

But rather than stay with the football program he idolized as a child and try to win his job back, he's elected to again switch schools.

He's risking the loss of a year of eligibility if he goes to another FBS school and the ridicule of transferring at the arrival of two hot-shot recruits and after one bad season.

His parents will have to figure out what to do with those season tickets, and there's still the matter of all those UM stocking caps he handed out for Christmas.

It's a tough road to take. Imagine what Threet must've felt about the alternative.

Contact Joe Vardon at: jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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