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6B - The Michigan Daily - Kickoff 2003 - Thursday, September 4, 2003
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The Wolverines haven't been national champions or played in a Rose Bowl since 1997, whe
ing losses and disappointing performances have prevented Michigan from getting back to th
for Michigan to once again get back to the top? What are its keys to u
n they did both. Since that season,
e pinnacle of college football. Wh
.nlocking a championship?
Chris Perry staying healthy could be the biggest key
for the Wolverines this season. The running back is
poised for a huge season, evident by his career-best
22-carry, 232-yard performance against Central
Michigan this past weekend. He also ran for a pair of
touchdowns. Backup running back David Underwood
also ran well in the opener, and will be getting some
significant playing time this season if he keeps itup,
but losing Perry could put an end to a very promising
season for the Wolverines. After the departure of the
"A-train" Anthony Thomas in 2000, Michigan turned
into a one-dimensional offensive football team.
Although Perry was waiting in the wings, he did not
make an immediate impact and doubts arose about
who would emerge as a solid running option. Last
season, though, Perry answered all the questions. He
finished the season on a very high note at the
Outback Bowl against Florida, and entered this sea-
son wth very high expectations.
It's only been one game, but Braylon Edwards has already had a cou-
ple dropped passes and is "not on the same page" as coach Lloyd Carr.
But just ~o important is Edwards this season? Desite his limited
playing time against Central Michigan, he still had two touchdown
catches, and is the most talented receiver on Michigan's roster.
Disagreements with Carr, though, could cost Edwards significant
playing, that which would put a major dent in the Wolverines' aerial
The key for Edwards is to stay out of trouble and to hold onto the
ball. Along with several amazing catches last season came the
occasional dropped pass. Edwards says he has corrected that
problem, though, and is ready to wear the No. 1 jersey with
With receivers such as Calvin Bell and Jason Avant, John
Navarre has many options out of the huddle, and doesn't
always need to look in Edwards' direction. But in key
situations, Edwards must be the main option because he
is the big-time playmaker. He's the one who will pull
in the impossible catch, or turn a no-gain
situation into positive yardage.
He needs to be in the games to be the man,
though. If he can resolve his issues with
Carr, Edwards could be catching touch-
down passes in the national
Two words: Maurice Clarett.
Remember him? He's not playin
now, but he will be Nov. 22 when the Buckeyes
come to town. You can bet on that. Clarett is the
most explosive tailback in college football, and last
season, he abused the Wolverines for 122 yards
on 20 carries, and the kid only had half his
body to work with. This season, Clarett
will be well-rested and ready to pick up
where he left off last season in
That means Michigan's run defense must improve
from what was seen Saturday at the Big House,
when the Wolverines gave up 218 yards on the
ground to Central Michigan. They made three
Central tailbacks look like Clarett, Maurice Hall
and Lydell Ross of the Buckeyes, missing crucial
tackles and not filling their gaps.
Michigan will count on its linebacking corps,
most of which is coming back from injury, to get
back to full game speed. Carl Diggs, Zach
Kaufman, Lawrence Reid and Roy Manning are all
returning from season-ending injuries last season,
and the rust showed Saturday. The Wolverines should
have more speed than last year's 'D,' as athletes Alain
Kashama and Pierre Woods should log significant time
throughout the year. Kashama made two run stops in a row
g ust the Chips, showg that he isn't just a pass-rushing
SThe Wolverines will get some prep for Clarett against Notre
Dame's Ryan Grant, Northwestern's Jason Wright and
Iowa's Fred Russell.
For Michigan, it's either buck up, or get bucked by Clarett.
the Michigan E S
football team appears to
have started a new tradition: Lose a
nonconference road game, wiping away the
hopes of a national championship by the beginnir
The Wolverines will have ample opportunity to ex
Notre Dame rolls into Ann Arbor and Sept. 20 wh
a road clash with the Ducks. Those games won't b
unlocking a championship for Michigan will be to
unscathed for the first time since 1999. It's somet
seen yet, and if Michigan was able to accomp
pus would reach an all-time high.
These are the games where Michigan fans
for Heisman" talk is really legitimate, or j
p ability to lead Michigan to victory, but car
Stadium, one of the most ferocious places tc
played the best game of his Michigan careei
season, but he didn't do one thing: Win the g
Of course, none of this matters for the Big Te
it has bigger goals. Like walking away with the national champic
loss, it is possible that Michigan could crawl back into the pictur
loss will keep the Wolverines from taking over Bourbon Street.
Marlin Jackson has a new role infthe
Michigan defensive backfield. After a tremend<
son, in which Jackson broke the Michigan recc
breakups, Carr has decided to move his top def
to safety where he can anchor the Michigan sec
the key here is how quickly Jackson can adjust
role, and if he can be a leader out there.
Jackson was tabbed as the preseason Big Ten Di
Player of the Year. But off-the-field issues ovei
couple of weeks have caused problems for Jack
did not play in the season opener against Centi
he will be playing this weekend, and most are
how the star will do in his new role.
Everyone knows Jackson is not afraid to talk o
his tendency to trash talk to his opponents was
characteristic of his last season. If he can trans
same "communication" skills to talk to his own
mates, Michigan could have its most cohesive
unit in several years.
Jackson is a confident and aggressive player, a
he seems to be a natural leader. But he must
embrace this role, or Michigan will have noth-
ing but a mediocre
secondary once again.
Edwards struggled with
holding on to the ball
at times last season.
But things have
changed, and Edwards
is ready to lead a deep
and talented receiving
corps to a national
Marlin Jackson will
anchor the Michigan
secondary this season.
Jackson, who has been
named preseason Big Ten
Player of the Year, will
have to adjust to his new
role quickly and become
a strong leader out on