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September 06, 2001 - Image 31

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-09-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


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Thursday, September 6, 2001-]

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By Jeff Phillips
Daily Sports Editor
While most of the Michigan defense
struggled last year with inexperience and
injuries, the heart of the defense - the line-
backers -- remained intact. The linebacking
corps of Eric Brackins, 2000 All-Big Ten
selection Larry Foote and Victor Hobson led
the defense in almost every statistical cate-
gory, including tackles for loss and sacks.
Now with another year of experience, the
trio of Brackins, Foote and Hobson will be
leading a Wolverines' defense that has high
expectations.
"We've got a lot of guys back and we are
definitely going to be the strength of the
team," Foote said.
The reason that Michigan's defense is
believed to be the strength of the team is not
a secret - it's because of the sensational
play of the linebackers last season and the
hype surrounding them this year.
In their preview issues, both Lindy's and
Athlon magazines rank the Michigan line-
backers as the No. 1 unit in the nation.
Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr praised
his talented trio during his media day press
conference.
"Larry Foote Jr. is back for his last year,
and he has developed into an outstanding
football player. He and Victor Hobson both
finished the year very well," Carr said. "I

think both will provide good leadership."
Although the high expectations are some-
times too obvious to ignore, the players
remained focused in their goals for the sea-
son.
"It is exciting, but we try not to focus on
(the hype) too much," Brackins, a senior co-
captain, said. "What takes place on the field
is what matters."-
In order to prove their worth, the lineback-
ers have to help the defense improve upon
the 19.1 points and 389.9 yards per game
allowed last season -- especially with the
question marks on the other side of the ball.
"That experience, with the ups and downs,
is what you are going to get in football sea-
son, but you just have to keep coming out
and playing consistently hard," Brackins
said. "That's what I've learned here at
Michigan - no matter how bad things go, as
long as you keep coming out and playing
your hardest, that's what is important and
things will change."
The Wolverines especially struggled with
the spread offense. Michigan dropped games
to Northwestern and Purdue after bl-owing
18-point leads in each game.
"Last year we had a lot of trouble with the
wide-open offense and that hurt us a little
bit. We concentrated on that in the offseason
so we are ready to go after it," Foote said.
"There are a lot more teams going to the
wide-open offense - you've got to be ready

for it."
-Beyond potential All-Big Ten selections
Brackins, Foote and Hobson, Michigan has
depth at linebacker. Sophomores Carl Diggs,
Larry Stevens, Alain Kashama and Shantee
Orr each started at some point last season.
The unit will also be bolstered by the
return of seniors Anthony Jordan and Evan
Coleman..
"We've got quality depth (at linebacker),
and that's one of the reasons why I'm excit-
ed about the potential of this defense," Carr
said.
That depth has already been tested in the
first game of the season, when both Brackins
and Foote went down with injuries. Diggs
and Kaufman stepped in and played well in
replacement. Each has a tackle-for-loss and
Diggs got the first of Michigan's three inter-
ceptions.
As per his policy, Carr was mum on the
injuries to Foote and Brackins.
"I don't know what will transpire. It is
day-to-day for now," Carr said. "Zach
Kaufman stepped in there and did a really
nice job for us and Carl Diggs was there
again.
"We have gotten young linebackers some
experience, but we are a banged-up football
team."
Orr also played well, recording blocked
extra point on the first Miami (Ohio) touch-
down.

MARJORIE MARSHALL/Daily
John Navarre has a new job title - he's Michigan's starting quarterback.
Naare assumes Q
d e fe

FILE PHOTO
Junior linebacker Victor Hobson is expected to be one of the
anchors of the Michigan defense this fall.

By Arun Gopal
Daily Sports Writer

Michigan football is known for a few
things -- strong defense, a power run-
ning game, and middling special teams.
Superstar quarterbacks are conspicu-
ously absent from this list, and for good
reason.
Although Michigan has sent a number
of signal-callers to the NFL - including
Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac, Todd
Collins and Brian Griese - the school is
still not considered a haven for the for-
ward pass.
That changed a bit last year, with the
emergence of Drew Henson as a bona
fide star. Henson directed one of the
most prolific offenses in school history,
as the Wolverines rolled up over 400
yards per game and broke the 30-point
barrier on multiple occasions.
Granted, Henson benefited from the
presence of All-America wide receiver

David Terrell, stud tailback Anthony
Thomas and three offensive linemen
who were NFL draft picks.
But Henson still demonstrated consid-
erable ability and appeared to be a
Heisman Trophy frontrunner for this
season.
With Henson's somewhat surprising
decision to leave school in favor of the
New York Yankees' organization,
Michigan was sent back to square one at
football's most important position -
who would take over at quarterback?
Enter soohomore John Navarre.
When Henson missed the first three
games last year with an injury, Navarre
filled in capably, leading Michigan to a
pair of home wins and tossing seven
touchdown passes in the process. Once
Henson returned, Navarre promptly
resumed his prior role as a clipboard
caddy, but this year he is the undisputed
starting quarterback.
See NAVARRE, Page 15C

The Michigan Daily: Di you
think John Navarre's ready? Do
you anticipate a controversy?
Kirk Herbstreit: At this point, I
don't see a controversy yet. It's his
job - I think he needs to go out and
play well and if there's any contro-
versy brewing, he can put an end to
it by going out and putting up some
numbers.
I know that any time you look at
Michigan's offense over the years,
they're most dangerous when they
have a quarterback that's multi-
dimensional and John Navarre
reminds me so much of a Todd
Collins or an Elvis Grbac type
and they've had successful years....
with that type of quarterback
as well, so we'll just have
to wait and see how
things play out.
But the fact that he
has game experience
gives him a huge advan-
tage over any of the other
quarterbacks.
TMD: The
defense, is it as good as people are
saying? It seems like just a year
has passed since it was one of the
weakest Michigan defenses in his-
tory.
KH: To me, the Michigan defense
hasn't been a Michigan defense
since the '97 season. That's three
years now that they have not been
the kind of defense that you expect
from them.
I think it all has to do with the cor-
nerback. Since they lost Andre
Weathers and Charles Woodson,
they've had undersized corners -
guys like James Whitley and Todd
Howard.
I remember being at a game in
East Lansing and Plaxico Burress

went up against Whitley
and just went up and over him. TI
tried to put David Terrell on him a
he couldn't stop him.
I hear people saying they're go:
to be better. I know the front seve
going to be better but I think they
going to need to see the corners p
at a higher level.
If you look at their pass defense
they weren't last last year in p
defense, then they were proba
10th. The passing-efficiency defe
could not have been ranked v
highly.
You could also blame some of t
on the pass rush. I don't know h
many sacks they came up with bi
don't think it was among the lead
in the conference.
It's a two-way street. It's not 1
you can have great corners and
average pass rush and have gr
pass defense. You have to get pr
sure on a quarterback to give the
cornerbacks a chance to make pla
Maybe this year we'll see so
more pressure on the quarterbacks
make the lives of those corners a
easier.
And, you get Cato June healt
and even though he's not a corner,
can help out with leadership.
I think the linebackers are so]
with Brackins andsHobson. The
three areyas good as anyone int
conference.
TMD: True or false: Michigat
offensive line, young or old, w~
always be strong?
KIT: I think anyone who follo
the Big.Ten would say that Michig
- every' year - has a disciplir,
offensive line, an athletic offensi
line.
These guys are good looks]
offensive linemen. They're always

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