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August 5, 2013

Top 20 U-M recruiting stories: No. 10 Tate Forcier

On Signing Day in 2009, Michigan signed two four-star quarterbacks both ranked among the Rivals250. That in itself is not a story, but the fact that 10 months earlier two different signal-callers were committed to U-M, leads us to today's recruit, Tate Forcier.

No. 10 - Tate Forcier - 2009

The Recruitment

When Michigan missed out on five-star Terrelle Pryor in the spring of 2008, it immediately turned its attention to the 2009 class and a horde of talented dual-threat quarterbacks that would be able to run Rich Rodriguez's read-option offense.

The Wolverines locked their sights initially on Kevin Newsome, and after some wooing, landed the talented QB on April 24, 2008.

"It was the only visit that my family and I left without any real questions and felt happy about," the quarterback said, before offering the opinion he would not be the lone signal-caller in the class.

"I know they want to take two and they're looking at Tate Forcier, Eugene Smith and some others. I'm not really worried about that. They told me I was their top guy and I know I have to compete. I just think the school and the football situation fit me right."

Ranked the No. 163 prospect nationally, Newsome was 6-3, 217 pounds, and though he was a runner, he wanted to be more of a drop-back passer that ran versus the other way around. Thus, U-M still needed a runner that could also pass.

Enter Shavodrick Beaver. The four-star out of Wichita Falls, Texas, had put up big numbers with his legs as a junior, and was exactly the type of Pat White clone the Maize and Blue were looking for.

He committed on April 29, giving Michigan its two desired targets.

"I just felt like it was the right decision for me," Beaver said. "Coach [Rod] Smith was in our school and we had been talking over the phone because I had been calling him. He was like, 'Welcome to the Wolverine Family.'"

With those two in the fold, Michigan could focus on filling the rest of its class, but it wasn't long before Forcier began generating headlines, consistently dropping U-M's name among the schools he was most interested in and planned to visit.

After a terrific performance at the Elite 11 QB Camp in July, Forcier suddenly found himself a hot commodity nationally, and U-M fans were asking themselves if the coaching staff jumped the gun on Newsome and Beaver, and if Forcier would not be the more perfect quarterback to run Rodriguez's offense.

Feeling both unwanted, and also rising up the ranks, Newsome was the first to decommit, telling Rivals.com of his decision on Aug. 18, 2008.

"We called and left a message for Coach Rodriguez, unfortunately we couldn't reach him but we'll talk to him when he calls back," said Kevin Newsome Sr. "We just want to be certain and make sure we're making a good, solid choice here. We're still considering Michigan and Kevin really likes the school and the coaches, but we felt it wouldn't be fair to look around and be unsure while still staying committed."

With Newsome off the board, the road was paved for Forcier, who was not bashful in declaring his heavy interest in the Maize and Blue.

He visited for the 2008 opener - a 25-23 loss to Utah - and committed while in town.

"I was talking with my brother and telling him how much I liked it and I talked with my dad about it, and they both asked me the same question, 'Is this the place?'" Forcier recalled. "I've been to several schools and you feel good after you visit every school, but they both said it's not that type of feeling, it's a different feeling. The feeling that you know this could be the place for me.

"I told my brother that's the feeling I got and he said, 'Don't second guess it, go with your first thought.' I listen to my brother. He went through the same decision himself, so I walked into Coach Rodriguez's office and gave it to him - a full-on commitment. All the coaches heard it and came running in and were congratulating me. I felt real comfortable and I think that's the place for me."

That was it. Until it wasn't.

Rumors began circulating that Beaver was looking around, but on Dec. 17, 2008 he told TheWolverine.com, he was still planning on enrolling early.

"The plan is to come in Jan. 5th for orientation," Beaver said. "This is the last week of school and I've got finals to take. I've got to make sure I maintain good grades on those.

"People were saying I wasn't coming, but I'm coming. I chose Michigan because they really need a quarterback who can run that system and they need leaders out there."

Two days later, he was a Tulsa Golden Hurricane, dropping a pretty strong hint that he had received the cold shoulder from the Maize and Blue.

"I have changed my commitment to Tulsa," Beaver said. "It was important to my mother that I go to Tulsa."

"It's about family, faith and friends. I needed to go to Tulsa. Tulsa is all about family. They have great support there with the coaches, team and university. Picking a school is not all about the logo."

A few weeks later, four-star Denard Robinson pledged to the Wolverines on Signing Day, providing that second QB Michigan desperately needed.

In the end, U-M traded the nation's No. 163 (Newsome) and No. 206 (Beaver) players for the No. 164 (Forcier) and No. 188 (Robinson), but even in an era of decommitments, nothing like that had ever taken place and hasn't been seen since.

At Michigan

In 2008, Rodriguez's first year, Steven Threet (eight starts) and Nick Sheridan (four) combined to complete just 48.8 percent of their 338 attempts, good for 1,718 yards with 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. It marked the first time since 1987 that Michigan's QBs had failed to complete 50.0 percent of their passes.

Threet left after the season, Sheridan remained (but was relegated to backup), and Forcier beat out Robinson to start the 2009 season opener against Western Michigan. In his debut, the San Diego native completed 13 of 20 attempts (65.0 percent) for 179 yards and three touchdowns.

A week later, he guided the Maize and Blue to a comeback victory over Notre Dame, completing 6 of 7 passes for 56 yards, including a five-yard TD pass to receiver Greg Matthews with 11 seconds on the clock, in driving U-M 57 yards in 2:02 for a 38-34 win.

Like that, the Forcier legend took off, earning him Heisman consideration early in the year. When he led Michigan to wins over Eastern Michigan and Indiana the next two weeks - the latter also in come-from-behind fashion - Forcier became almost god-like in the way he was revered on campus and by U-M fans.

However, under the surface, there was growing discontent among the staff and in the locker room as the wunderkind embraced his hype a little too much and wasn't putting in the effort in practice, film study, the weight room and the classroom to endear himself to those that needed to believe in their huddle leader.

We saw the fruits of that began to blossom when Rodriguez chose to use Robinson, not Forcier, on Michigan's final last-gasp drive at Iowa in week six, and when Forcier threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in the end zone against Ohio State (in a 21-10 loss) it was clear that those that once loved him no longer did.

A true competitor, someone that feared his job was on the line and was determined to make good on his promise, would have doubled his efforts in the winter, spring and summer. Forcier took the opposite approach, rankling teammates and coaches.

By the time fall camp began, Forcier was practicing without wings on his helmet, a decision made by Rodriguez to punish the insubordination of his starting QB. It didn't work. Robinson, who had moved into a tie for the starting job in the spring, was outworking his classmate and began the 2010 season under center.

Forcier was third-string, behind even freshman Devin Gardner.

After U-M beat Connecticut 30-10 in the rededication of Michigan Stadium - after Robinson set the single-game record for total offense with 383 yards - Forcier told a reporter he "was out" indicating he would be seeking a transfer presumably after the season (but potentially during the season).

The kid calmed down (after a stern talk from his father) and played the good teammate the rest of the year, even moving back up to No. 2 on the depth chart where he took over for an injured Robinson against Bowling Green, Iowa, Illinois and Ohio State, but it was clear the marriage between Michigan and Forcier was headed for a divorce and the only question was when.

As it turned out, earlier than expected. Forcier was ruled academically ineligible for Michigan's bowl game against Mississippi State, and with that, he was gone.

He romanced Miami, and then Hawaii, and actually did enroll at San Jose State. He sat out the 2011 season and was in line to start in 2012 but he was kicked out of school for academics. He then reported he would play in the Canadian Football League but after one exhibition game, in which he was 0 for 4, he was cut.

His football playing career was over with. There are rumors he is trying to get into coaching.

Top 20 Recruiting Countdown Stories
No. 20 - Thomas Rawls
No. 19 - Junior Hemingway
No. 18 - Prescott Burgess
No. 17 - Ray Vinopal
No. 16 - Adrian Arrington
No. 15 - Max Martin
No. 14 - Steve Breaston
No. 13 - Demar Dorsey
No. 12 - Devin Gardner
No. 11 - Donovan Warren


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