ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Tate Forcier was oozing with confidence before he took a snap for Michigan last year.
Then, he started every game.
Instead of being even more sure of himself, the quarterback seems a little shaky entering his sophomore season.
Denard Robinson was more impressive than Forcier during the spring, when highly touted freshman Devin Gardner was added to the mix, a teammate publicly took a shot at him this summer and coach Rich Rodriguez didn't let him practice with wings on his helmet.
Forcier did his best to stay quiet Sunday during media day, until he asked for and received permission from Rodriguez to talk to reporters. After posing for pictures with Robinson and Gardner, the returning starter said he didn't know what his chances were to keep his job when he was peppered with the first of many questions.
"It's way too soon to tell," Forcier said. "Coach Rod keeps it as open as possible and I don't think he's close to a decision."
The three QBs each had a chance to impress the coaches Saturday during a scrimmage at the Big House, but Rodriguez wasn't saying much about the competition less than 24 hours later.
"It's a race that is not going to be settled in the next couple of days," Rodriguez said.
A couple days before the scrimmage, Forcier practiced with the school's famed wings on his helmet for the first time in camp after being relegated to wearing one without the maize decals.
"I saw it more as a challenge," Forcier said. "The majority of our team had their wings. I didn't. It made me work a little harder to get them back. I got them back, so I'm happy."
He was challenged earlier in the month when defensive back Troy Woolfolk said Forcier was falling short of the senior's expectations during summer workouts.
"I'm happy he did call me out because it's about the team," Forcier said. "There's no 'I' in team, and that's something Coach Rod likes to get across to everybody on the team. All I did was keep working and gained the respect back from the coaches and everybody.
"I felt like I was working with the team, just not as much as I should've been," he added. "Part of that is maturity."
Robinson is much more mature as a passer. The player known as "Shoelace" because he doesn't tie the laces on his cleats showed he was fast enough to make plays with his feet as a freshman last season, but couldn't prove he was polished enough to beat teams with his arm.
Now, he can throw.
"Denard has worked on his passing extremely hard," quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said.
Robinson has also gained 15 pounds of muscle since last season. He insisted his dreadlocks, which haven't been cut since he was a sophomore in high school, that flow out of the back of his helmet won't give defenders something to grab when they're trying to tackle him.
"They've got to catch me first," he said with a smile.
While it seems unlikely a true freshman will start at QB for the second straight year — ahead of two talented and experienced options — Gardner says he has a shot to take the first snap on Sept. 4 against Connecticut.
"I think it's pretty equal," he said. "The competition is making them better and me better."