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September 08, 2005 - Image 24

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. . ...

,S
4B - The Michigan Daily - Kickoff 2005 - Thursday, September 8, 2005
Are Two Better Than
With All-Everything Braylon Edwards departed, it is up to Jasc
Avant and Steve Breaston to lead the receiving corps
By Matt Venegoni Daily Sports Editor

0

0

The Michigan Daily - Kickoff 2005

raylon Edwards is like that
older sibling who's nearly
perfect. During his time at
Michigan he accomplished practi-
cally all the goals a college player
could dream of: conference titles,
rivalry game wins, All-Big Ten and
All-American honors, Biletnikoff
Trophy - and the list goes on.
Steve Breaston and Jason Avant
are the "little" brothers that must
live up to the standard that Edwards
set for Michigan receivers. They
now bear the burden of scaring
defenses enough to open running
lanes for the ground attack. And
while neither is as imposing, flashy
.or experienced as Edwards, the duo
has the talent and leadership to do
more than just play a role.
They each have their own defin-
ing style. Breaston is the electrify-
ing one. He can start and stop on a
dime and make defenders look like
kids. He sports the same big-play
ability that Michigan legend Des-
mond Howard displayed 14 years
ago. And he knows that, with his
talent, he needs to be the guy to
replace Edwards in creating the
game changing moments.
"He brought the big play,"
Breaston said. "He was the best
receiver in college football. But we
still have high hopes. Me and Jason
have been around, and we've accom-
plished some things so far."
And then there is Avant, he is the
steady one. He may not be the fastest
or quickest, but his hands are some
of the best in college football. In the
same way that Breaston can be com-
pared to Howard, Avant's career
bares a striking resemblance to
that of former Wolverine Marquise
Walker. Both had players overshad-
owing their own accomplishments
and a defining one-handed catch
- Avant's against Northwestern
in 2003, and Walker's was against
Iowa in 2001.
Their styles may differ, but their
friendship should aid their transi-
tion this season.
"We're really close," Avant said.

"He talks to me about everything,
and I talk about problems and things
like that."
Said Breaston: "Me and J are very
close. He's a great person, and he
helps me out.a lot. It's hard for me
to figure out anyone in my life like
him and I'm fortunate to have him
in my life."
The two friends have also had
similar career paths filled with both
highs and lows.

ed about playing in the Rose Bowl
more than probably any other game.
It was a great atmosphere, and I'm
glad I performed the way I did."
Setting a Rose Bowl record for
total yardage with 315 yards could
be the launching point for a season
where he's expected to provide the
big play.
In every publication's list of col-
lege football's gamebreakers, the
North Braddock, Penn., native is

STAFF PICKS
Preseason
selections
Michigan final record
Michigan final AP ranking
Big Ten champion
Big Ten second place
Big Ten third place
Surprise Big Ten team
Michigan Bowl fate
Michigan MVP
Heisman winner
National Champion
National Runner-up
ACC champion
Big 12 champion
Big East champion
Pac-10 champion
SEC champion
Mid-major threat
Most Overrated Player
Most Overrated Team

Gabe
Edelson

Ian
Herbert

Matt
Venegoni

Stephanie
Wright

7
Michigan
Iowa
Ohio State
Michigan State
Fiesta (W)
Mike Hart
Reggie Bush, Southern Cal
Southern Cal
Tennessee
Virginia Tech
Texas
Louisville
Southern Cal
Tennessee
Fresno Statel
Marcus Vick, Virginia Tech Matti
Texas

11-
3
Ohio State
Michigan
Iowa
Penn State
Fiesta (W)
Chad Henne
Reggie Bush
Virginia Tech
Southern Cal
Virginia Tech
Texas
Louisville
Southern Cal
Tennessee
Bowling Green
Leinart, Southern Cal
Miami

10-2
10
Iowa
Purdue
Michigan
Penn State
Outback (W)
Mike Hart
Matt Leinart, Southern Cal
Southern Cal
Georgia
Virginia Tech
Texas
Louisville
Southern Cal
Georgia
UTEP
Devin Hester, Miami
Oklahoma

10-2
7
Michigan
Ohio State
Purdue
Penn State
Sugar (W)
Mike Hart
Reggie Bush
Southern Cal
Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech
Texas
Louisville
Southern Cal
Florida
Bowling Green
Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State
Boise State

I

RYAN WEINER/Daily
Edwards and his big plays may be gone, but Avant and Breaston are ready to take over.

BIT WAIT, LET US EXPLAIN
The football writers break down some of the nation's top contenders outside the Big Ten

Breaston thrilled the crowd dur-
ing the 2003 season when he shared
Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors
with Minnesota's Laurence Maroney.
But last season did not go as smooth-
ly as Breaston - or the Michigan
faithful - would have liked. He had
a stress fracture in his foot, broke his
finger and had a number of nagging
injuries that kept him from making
the impact many expected. The play-
er who fans had nicknamed "Super-
man" looked more like Clark Kent at
times last year. But by the end of the
season - culminating in his scintil-
lating performance in the Rose Bowl
- Breaston showed everyone that he
was not just a one-year wonder.
"(Before) Northwestern, we'd had
a bye week, and I was able to rest
just a little bit," Breaston said of the
end of the season. "I took a whole
month off (before the Rose Bowl),
and I was very healthy. I was excit-

mentioned along with college foot-
ball's best. And although he has a
reputation for being modest and
quiet, he doesn't discount his abili-
ties, even believing he's the fastest
player on the team.
"I feel I can turn a short gain into
a long gain," the redshirt junior said.
"I want to take a five-yard play and
take it for a touchdown. That's the
type of playmaker I want to be."
And while Breaston may be the
gamebreaker, Avant has the sticky
hands and possesses the heart and
determination that keep a team
chugging during the year. When
he sprained both his ankle and his
knee against Ohio State in 2003, he
was moved to tears because he was
unable to play. But as he was carted
off, he pumped his fists and raised
his arms, urging the crowd to cheer
and encouraging his teammates to
keep going without him.
"Jason Avant is the heart and soul
of this team," Breaston said. "He's
what Michigan's about; he goes out
there with a great attitude."
Much like Breaston, Avant's
junior year numbers did not measure
up to those from previous years., but
he showed up when it counted most,
including a five-yard touchdown
catch against Michigan State last
season.
Avant and Breaston clearly have
the -talent, but can they carry the
receiving corps?
Although that is a looming ques-
tion for the Wolverines, neither
Breaston nor Avant has changed his
approach to the season.
"I've been working to be ready
at any point," Breaston said. "I just
think this season is getting condi-

tioning down because I'm doing punt
returns, kick returns, doing all those
things. Now I'm a full-time receiver.
I'm getting my conditioning down."
Said Avant: "I didn't really
approach it different. I work hard
in the offseason. Time goes on and
keep doing the same things I've
been doing."
Their preparation may be the
same but their roles are different.
Avant is leading not only the receiv-
ers but the whole team - his team-
mates elected him offensive captain
this summer.
"I think he has abilities, but I
think you have to start with a com-
petitive attitude," coach Lloyd Carr

said. "He makes it very obvious that
he wants to win. If you really want
to win, you put the goals of the team
ahead of everything."
Although Breaston is not a cap-
tain, he has stepped up his leader-
ship role as well, including helping
the freshman receivers adjust.
"Breaston helped with the trans-
fer from quarterback to receiver,"
freshman Antonio Bass said. "That's
somebody you can follow."
Avant and Breaston have the tal-
ent, attitude and leadership to make
everyone forget - even if only for a
season - that Edwards is gone. It's
time for the younger brothers to grow
up and take charge of the household.

The Favorite:

the definite possibility of a repeat trip to
the Rose Bowl. But most people are not

when your backup is Sugar Bowl MVP
Justin Vincent. The real question will be
who takes the snaps under center. JaMar-
cus Russell is the favorite after playing
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Southern ready to bet thet
Brown just yet.
CaI

house on coach Mack

Yeah, we know,
everyone hates South-
ern Cal, but they are the obvious favorite
for an unprecedented third straight title.
Let's get something straight though:
Matt Leinart is overrated. We're not
saying he's not a good quarterback; he
is in fact a very good one. But we just
don't think he's the straw that stirs the
Trojans' drink. That distinction goes to
dynamic running back Reggie Bush. He
is the player that coaches truly fear and
know they have to gameplan for. The
mismatches he creates keep coordina-
tors and players sleepless. But despite
him and the rest of the Southern Cal
offense, there are question marks that
make the team vulnerable. We're just
not ready to discount them yet.
And the Rest of
the Contenders:

ICI

1'g i i a wll off the bench in lastya'Cpil
One Bowl-
Tennessee

Marcus Vick probably
has too much pres-
sure just by virtue of his name. But then
he went and smoked weed, had sex with
an underage girl and got suspended last
season. Now he's back for his senior year
and can redeem himself by acting as the
catalyst for the Hokies' national title run.
Louisiana
U State
Their stacked back-
field has allowed the
Tigers to lose starting
tailback Alley Broussard for the season
and not even blink. That's what happens

I ; 1: ,

The Volunteers have
rstruggled the past few
seasons, but they have
the right pieces to get to Pasadena: a
great running game (Gerald Riggs),
experience, a talented quarterback (Erik
Ainge) and a stout defense.
Louisville
One of the newest
members of the Big
East, the Cardinals
have weapons every-
where on offense. But will their weak
schedule keep them from really making
a huge impact on the national picture?

Alt

Texas

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It all starts with
Vince Young. He has
his faults an rshort-
comings - such as
not being able to throw an accurate pass
over five yards. But his speed, quickness
and strength make him the most danger-
ous college quarterback since Michael
Vick. If the Longhorns can decide on
a running back and get some support
from a few blue-chip receivers, there is

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