- Associated Press - Thursday, September 23, 2010

Quarterbacks, coaches and playbooks. No matter how good they are, they have to fit together to work well.

Take the story of three quarterbacks: Ryan Mallett, Steven Threet and Denard Robinson, all of whom decided to play for Michigan at one point or another.

Uncomfortable playing in the spread offense Rich Rodriguez brought to Ann Arbor when he became Wolverines coach in 2008, Mallett and Threet didn’t stay for long but have found success at their new schools.

Meanwhile, Robinson, who many schools recruited to play positions other than quarterback, has been college football’s most exciting player so far this year.

In his first season as a starter, Robinson leads the nation in total offense, averaging 410 yards per game.

Two spots behind him is Mallett, averaging 359 yards per game for No. 10 Arkansas (3-0).

Down the list at 17th, in between Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and Boise State’s Kellen Moore, is Threet. He’s averaging 286 yards per game for Arizona State (2-1).

Rodriguez insists a passer such as Mallett or Threet could have thrived in his offense.

“We can fit our offense and playcalling around the skill set of our quarterback,” he said recently. “If we had a guy who was a great drop-back passer we would obviously gear our playcalling and offensive attack to that.”

Rodriguez said pretty much the same thing when he left West Virginia and took over at Michigan after Lloyd Carr retired following the 2007 season. Mallett and Threet were both on the roster then, but Mallett had already established himself as the likely quarterback of the future.

Standing 6-foot-7 with a big arm, Mallett was a hot prospect out of Texarkana, Ark., when he chose to come to Michigan. He grew up as an Arkansas fan, but with Mitch Mustain, another highly touted quarterback, already with the Razorbacks, Mallett decided to head north.

He threw for 892 yards as a freshman, playing behind Chad Henne.

But about a month after Rodriguez was hired at Michigan, Mallett decided to transfer _ and it didn’t take him long to figure out where to go.

Arkansas had a new coach, Bobby Petrino, with an NFL background and an offense designed for a quarterback just like Mallett.

“First of all, I’d always wanted to play at Arkansas,” Mallet said. “I came down and visited with the coaches and we kind of went over offense schemes and when we did that it helped seal the deal.”

For Petrino, landing Mallett was his first big win at Arkansas and he hardly needed to break a sweat to do it.

“Not a very hard sell, I wish they were all like that,” Petrino said.

Mallett sat out the 2008 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Petrino made do with the leftovers at quarterback from Houston Nutt’s tenure, and the Razorbacks went 5-7.

With Mallett starting in 2009, Arkansas went 8-5 while he began rewriting the school record books.

He threw for 3,627 yards and 30 touchdowns last year. This seasons he’s already at 1,081 yards with nine TD passes heading into Saturday’s showdown in Fayetteville, Ark., against No. 1 Alabama.

“To be a great leader you have to be a good follower,” Petrino said. “He’s really able to follow what the coaches want and help the other players get there.”

Threet, from Adrian, Mich., started his college career at Georgia Tech. That didn’t last long; he transferred after spring practice in 2007 to Michigan.

At 6-5, 240 pounds, he didn’t look like the ideal fit for Rodriguez’s spread. But there were no Pat Whites on Michigan’s roster so Threet played 11 games and started eight for the 2008 Wolverines, who won only three games.

After that season, Rodriguez brought in two recruits who played quarterback in spread offenses in high school: Tate Forcier and Robinson.

Threet decided it was time to go again.

“I was looking for the best fit,” he said. “I’m a competitive person and I wanted to have the opportunity to get on the field and help the team win.”

Just like Mallett, he was looking for more of a prostyle offense. He visited Arizona State and Oregon State, both teams that would have wide-open quarterback positions this season, before settling on the Sun Devils.

He won the starting job in the preseason and so far he has boosted an Arizona State offense that was one of the worst in the Pac-10 last season.

“He’s really developed from the spring until where he is now, in terms of what we’re doing offensively, so we like where he’s at,” Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson said. “He’s our quarterback and we’re trying to do things that best fit him in our offense. He’ll get better and better as the year goes on.”

As for Robinson, he came to Michigan from Deerfield Beach, Fla., for a chance to play quarterback.

“We never wavered in our commitment to him to give him a shot to play quarterback,” Rodriguez said. “I think he also realized the system fit his skill set.”

Robinson played sparingly in his freshman season behind Forcier, but won the job heading into this season and has taken off. In each of his first two starts, he set Michigan records for rushing yards for a quarterback. And suddenly Rodriguez’s future in Ann Arbor _ uncertain to start this season _ seems much brighter.

“Offense is a team game, but it certainly starts with that guy who is taking the snaps,” Rodriguez said, “and if you’ve got somebody special it always gives you a chance.”

Special and an especially good fit.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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