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10B - The Michigan Daily - KICKoFF 2002 - Thursday, September 5, 2002
The Michigan Daily - KICKOFF 2002
DEFYING ALL LOGIC
Shantee Orr is becoming a force quietly
but he makes loud statements on the field
Navarre can win, he
just needs some help
JsShantee Orr man or myth? Some-
, .> times, he makes you wonder.
Like the time he was driving his
Denby Tech Prep football team down
the field during his senior season - as
a quarterback. With the score tied 14-14
S. and the seconds quickly rolling off the
... Y fourth-quarter clock, Orr willed his
team to the red zone with his uncanny
fig ability to run the option. But as soon as
f he could smell the white chalk of the
«. goalline, Orr fumbled the ball at the
kone-yard line, turning it over to the
That's where the fun started.
On the ensuing play, lined up at line-
backer, he sacked the opposing quarter-
w back for a safety, winning the game for
. AUhis team, 16-14.
"He played just about everything,"
". said Don Stuckey, Orr's coach at
w'Denby. "He's a very, very versatile
. y Stuckey did everything he could to
get Orr on the field. He was so multi-
talented that Stuckey used the Detroit
native as quarterback, offensive guard,
tight end, linebacker, long-snapper and
--gasp - punter.
"When the punter was sick, he took
'.over the punting," Stuckey said. "He
can kick it far. I don't know about his
Everyone has at least one Orr story.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr distinctly
remembers a practice when his starting
defensive end was just a freshman.
"We had a bar out there that was ele-
vated about 11 feet, and Shantee
jumped up and touched it," Carr recol-
lected. "Everybody was amazed
because he was flatfooted, and he just
Orr was the unanimous choice for
toughest defensive lineman to block at
media day last month. Tackle Tony
Pape tabbed him "the human motor"
because he never stops attacking.
"That's a great comment from Tony,"
Orr said; laughing. "When I go out
there, I have the type of mindframe
where I'm going to make the play. It
doesn't matter if the ball's going away
from me or if it's coming to me, I feel
like I should be able to make the play
on every play."
Some may say that's a lofty goal for a
defensive end, but Nov. 3 in Spartan
Stadium in the Wolverines' controver-
sial 26-24 defeat, it seemed like Orr
accomplished it. He almost single-
handedly kept Michigan in the game as
star linebacker Larry Foote struggled to
make his usual impact. Orr left a lasting
imprint on Spartan quarterback Jeff
Smoker, sacking him twice for a com-
bined loss of 13 yards. He also led the
team in unassisted tackles with seven
on the afternoon.
"I love big games," said Orr, who
finished third on the team with six
sacks and 11 tackles for loss last sea-
son. "If you're a player here at this uni-
versity, you should love big games. I
want to have every game to be like (the
Michigan State game)."
But producing in every game was a
problem for Orr last season. In the two
biggest games of Michigan's season
against Ohio State and Tennessee, he
practically disappeared, recording just
three tackles and no sacks combined in
the two heart-breaking losses that
ended up driving him in the offseason.
Orr made sure that his drive extended
to his teammates in spring and fall
practice, going to a lot of trouble to let
everyone know that last season's 8-4
record was an aberration from the rule.
He designed his own practice shirt:
on the front, "8-4," and on the back,
"45-17" - the score of last year's Cit-
rus Bowl debacle against Tennessee.
"It was to remind us to push our-
selves in the weight room," Orr
explained. "To show everybody that
what we produced last year, we have to
do better. Don't settle for mediocrity.
We have to push ourselves to that next
level. It did push a lot of guys. It didn't
let us forget where we were last year."
Orr "busted his butt" to become
stronger and is now up to 255 pounds to
go with his 6-foot-1 frame. His size is
something that some thought may hin-
der him at Michigan, with the mon-
strous offensive lines he'd face.
"I'm as strong as our offensive line-
men, so that's all I can say," said Orr,
who had six sacks last season as a red-
shirt sophomore. "I know, hey, if it was
a whole bunch of guys in a group,
you're going to pick the little guy (to
block). Hey, bring it."
The Washington offensive -line
brouht it Saturday, stifling the play-
maker for just one tackle as quarterback
Cody Pickett fired away from a three-
step drop all afternoon.
But his teammates know what he's
Offensive tackle Courtney Morgan
remembers well the first day the coach-
es asked him to play left tackle. Orr, the
first defender Morgan was assigned to,
was also the best from his point of view.
"I don't think I'll go against anyone
as talented as Shantee Orr," Morgan
said. "A lot of guys who are pass rush-
ers are going to try to go through you or
go around you. Shantee can do both, so
you never know what he's going to do.
He's got long arms, and that helps him
also in terms of grabbing and pulling.
You have to be on your game when you
go against Shantee."
Stuckey said that the thing which
separates Orr from an average defen-
sive player is something he couldn't
teach his player: Instinct.
"He has a knack of being able to see
where he is," Stuckey said. "He has
great vision. He takes advantage of
people that way. I think he can see
after a few plays where he can go and
therefore I think it makes him very
Carr couldn't agree more.
"We knew he was a great athlete, but
that doesn't always translate into a great
football player. That's what he's been
able to do."
But while Orr has shined on the field,
his Michigan career was in jeopardy
because of off-the-field trouble in March
of 2001. He was accused of third-degree
sexual assault for allegedly raping his
former girlfriend in her campus dorm
room. It was a tough time for the sopho-
more, who wrote to her following the
reported incident in an e-mail: "I was
just thinking to myself and I violated
something that I never thought I would
do," the police report stated.
Stuckey also found the situation con-
fusing and unfathomable.
"I didn't believe it," Stuckey remi-
nisced. "I didn't believe it. It proved out
correctly, because he's just not that type
of person. There's no indication of him
being anything but a genuine person,
certainly to everyone. I didn't believe it
and staff members at Denby didn't
believe it either."
Believing it is tough for anyone who
has sat down and had a conversation
with Orr. His personality is bright, as
his cackle of a laugh can be heard echo-
ing above everything else. He's a team-
first guy, who would rather talk about
freshman Gabe Watson's size (358
pounds) or redshirt freshman Pierre
Woods' abnormal eating habits than his
innate ability to make plays.
"He doesn't flaunt it," Stuckey said.
"He's just a nice guy. He knows he's an
excellent ball player, but he doesn't
throw it around people."
Stuckey remembers one day when
the physics teacher at Denby told him
that "Shantee was the best physics stu-
dent he's ever had."
When you've defied physical logic
like Orr has, it shouldn't come as any
st by walking down the steps at
Michigan Stadium in the waning
minutes of the Wolverines' dramat-
ic win on Saturday, one could hear the
unyielding sounds of criticism by fans
directed at quarterback John Navarre.
And they didn't quite evoke an
image of confidence.
"You suck Navarre!" one
fan yelped, leaving his seat.
"We're in trouble," an
older man stated, almost like
he's been there before.
Navarre has been there
before, too. He's heard the
criticism, and says he tries to
ignore it. But its hard to avoid
hearing the complaints by the JOE
fans, the media, his coaches SMITIH
and even his friends about
him not having enough pock- The on
et presence, his interceptions, and on
his lack of mobility and his
habit of focusing on one receiver.
Yet on Saturday, Navarre led Michi-
gan down the field when he needed to,
with a certain sense of calm not evident
last year, and put the Wolverines'in
position to win against a top 10 team.
Isn't that all anyone could ask for?
This is a guy who was never sup-
posed to be a three-year starter for the
Wolverines. A guy who was supposed
to be holding the clipboard for Golden
Boy Drew Henson last year, and instead
was thrown into the fire a year early.
"John Navarre had it tough because
he had to follow up a senior season that
he wasn't supposed to play - and the
defense wasn't good and his receivers
were average," said Gary Danielson, a
television analyst and 13-year NFL vet-
To a man, Navarre's teammates
agree. Just as Navarre doesn't win
games on his own, he doesn't lose them
by himself either.
Navarre does not have the worldly
talent of a Henson, or the immeasurable
intangibles of a Joey Harrington.
Navarre is the type of quarterback that
needs playmakers on his team to win.
Just like Saturday, when he needed
Chris Perry to break that 57-yard run to
give Michigan an early lead. He needed
receiver Tyrece Butler to make several
clutch third-down catches and to fall on
Braylon Edwards' fumble late in the
The bottom line is that while Navarre
has his faults - such as a lack of
mobility and raw talent - Michigan
can still win with him as quarterback.
He just needs help from others.
And he's Michigan's starter, for bet-
ter or worse. If Spencer Brinton was
that great of a quarterback, he'd be
starting. Freshman Matt Gutierrez is
still a year or two away from starting.
So if Michigan is going to win, its
going to win with No. 16 calling the
shots. And that may not be so bad.
"I always felt John had a lot of poten-
tial and I really thought he was further
along his sophomore year than Tom
Brady or Brian Griese or other players
I've seen in that situation,"
said Danielson. "He has a lot
of potential to be a great
People forget that Navarre
has started 16 more games
than Tom Brady did at this
time in his career. Danielson
said he also remembers the
Michigan coaching staff
wanting to run Griese out of
town his junior year. The
next year, Griese led Michi-
gan to a national title.
It's understandably hard
for Michigan fans to instantly think of
Navarre as one of Michigan's great
quarterbacks, even though he'll proba-
bly rank among the top five in yards
and completions. People just remember
last year's promising start and down-
ward spiral to end the season -
Navarre threw nine interceptions in the
final five games. They remember him
falling short against Michigan State, his
four interceptions against Ohio State
and his fumbles against Tennessee.
Several Wolverines have stated that
people don't remember the inefficient
running game, the inability for
receivers to get open, the struggling
"I think the whole team under-
achieved, not just Navarre," Danielson
Navarre said that a quarterback is
not everything to a team winning -
just one piece of the puzzle. But, fair
or not, people often measure the suc-
cess of a quarterback by wins and
championships. Not many can rifle
off how many 300-yard passing
games Brady threw for, or Griese's
completion percentage. But they
remember Brady leading the Wolver-
ines to a dramatic Orange Bowl victo-
ry in 2000 and Griese riding off in the
Pasadena sunset with a national title
Navarre's legacy will be determined
the same way. If he can lead Michigan
to a Big Ten Championship or Rose
Bowl victory in the next two years, crit-
ics may forget some of his faults and
He just can't do it all by himself.
THE "NEW" OFFENSE?
What's so new about the revamped Michigan offense? Not much. At least
from how much of the new scheme was unleashed in Saturday's opener
against Washington. Michigan was still persistent in running the ball and
utilized a short passing game. But the
offense did prove to be more effi-
cient, balanced and productive. Michigan receiver
Some key parts of the "new" Braylon Edwards
offense the Wolverines promise to -
Spreading the ball around
- No, it's not the spread
offense, but Michigan did
show several four-wide receiv-
er sets. Quarterback John
Navarre shared the wealth, con-
necting with six different receivers
(as opposed to his insistent focus-
ing on Marquise Walker last sea-
son). Three receivers caught more
than five balls, an improvement over
a year ago.
An "attacking" offense - Passing the ball on first down? While such a
thought may send a chill down the spine of Bo Schembechler, short passes or
dump-offs to tailbacks are quite possible in this offense. Navarre calls it an
"attacking" scheme, which isn't as predictable as in years past. "We're not
going to run on first down, run on second down, and then pass on third down
- if that's what you mean," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
We'll see about that one.
Short passing game - Call it the "West Coast" offense or whatever you
want, but expect to see more short, crossing routes and screens out of
the backfield. Malone said this is goingto be an offense that takes care
of the ball and puts its playmakers in the best chances to utilize their abili-
ties. Now who are these playmakers? That's another question entirely.
Establish the run - Carr's team still wants to pound the ball at you,
gaining enough yards to keep the defense honest on a handful of play-
action passes. Running back Chris Perry broke the longest run Michi-
gan has had in two years on Saturday with his 57-yard scamper, and
scored one more touchdown than he did all last year with three scores.
Braylon Edwards - The sophomore
wide receiver can make the stoic Carr
geeked. Carr compares Edwards' play-
making ability to former Michigan stand-
out and current Chicago Bears' wide
receiver David Terrell. At 6-foot-3, 200
pounds, Edwards has the size. And
according to star corner Marlin Jackson,
he's got the skills.
"He's the best receiver we have," Jack-
son said matter-of-factly.
Said Terrell of Edwards: "He's got to go
out there and make plays, and he is."
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U Marlin Jackson - The lock-down cor-
ner has received props from both super-
star wideouts Michigan State's Charles
Rogers and Washington's Reggie
Williams. Michigan safety Charles Drake calls him "The real deal." Jack-
son showed he can shut down top receivers and could be the first corner
since Charles Woodson to legitimately take half the field away from oppo-
NEW AND IMPROVED?
John Navarre - Teammates insist Navarre is
"amazingly" different than he was last season,
when he threw nine interceptions in the final five
games and folded down the stretch. Navarre said
he has more confidence in himself, the offense,
and his teammates than he did last year.
The defense - With a stellar front seven that
includes All-Big Ten linebacker Victor Hobson and
defensive ends Shantee Orr and Dan Rumishek,
can Michigan rely on its defense to carry it to the
Big Ten title or beyond? Kicker Philip
Kicking game - After losing kicker Hayden
Epstein to graduation, walk-ons Philip Brabbs and Troy Nienberg combined
to go 1-for-4 on field goals on Saturday. Brabbs hit the game-winner, but
can these two solidify this position, or will it be a Weagkp-ss?
IN GOOD COMPANY
While Michigan quarterback John Navarre has been much maligned for his play,
in truth his numbers for his first two years are comparable to his predecessors.
Drew Henson John Navarre
6 II § 9 S 5