6 - The Michigan Daily - Football Saturday - November 12, 2005
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By Stephanie Wright
Daily Sports Editor
Evensin this era of oversized players,
Ythere's still a place at Michigan for line-
backer Chris Graham.
The sophomore doesn't have great
size - at 5-foot-l and 224 pounds,
he's much smaller than the prototypi-
cal inside linebacker. But over the years,
coach Lloyd Carr has learned that size
doesn't always matter.
Carr said there was a time when his
coaches looked almost exclusively at
high school linebackers who weighed at
least 235 pounds. Then the Wolverines
recruited Ian Gold and Dhani Jones,
two players who weighed in at no more
than 205 pounds when they arrived in
Ann Arbor. Carr now refers to Gold and
Jones as "two of the finest linebackers
we have had at Michigan."
Graham certainly hasn't played
enough to be considered a member
of that exclusive club just yet, but the
success of Gold and Jones did lead
Carr to look at the undersized line-
"It's still a game of instinct and
toughness and quickness," Carr said. "I
think any time you put a player in any
position in a mold that he can't do this
or he can't do that because of physical
measurements - I think that's where
you can make a mistake."
In Graham's case, his cornerback-like
speed made his coaches forget about his
small stature. The sophomore ran the
40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and also
bench-pressed 360 pounds. His natural
A native of Indianapolis, sophomore linebacker Chris Graham has recorded 37 tackles for Michigan this season.
Continued from page 3
Indiana rushing offense vs.
Michigan rushing defense:
The Hoosiers' run offense ranks
dead last in the Big Ten, averaging
fewer than 140 yards on the ground
per contest. Senior tailback Chris
Taylor has gained just 609 yards in
nine games. Even worse for Indi-
ana, Taylor has scored four rushing
touchdowns all year - and the rest
of the team has scored just three.
Michigan has struggled against
the run all season, but it has
improved in recent weeks. The
Wolverines currently rank sixth in
the conference in terms of rushing
yards allowed, giving up 146 yards
per contest. After letting a string
of the Big Ten's top running backs
gain more than 100 yards, Michi-
gan held Wildcats tailback Tyrell
Sutton - the conference's third-
leading rusher - to 50 yards two
weeks ago. The Wolverines should
have no trouble shutting down the
Hoosiers' sub-par running game.
Indiana is mediocre at best in
terms of kickoff and punt returns.
Junior Lance Bennett ranks seventh
in the Big Ten in kickoff returns,
averaging 23 yards per return.
When it comes to fielding punts,
Bennett places just 10th in the con-
ference. Michigan's Steve Breaston
has been inconsistent in the return
game, but his 25.7 yards per kickoff
return ranks fourth in the Big Ten.
Even though Michigan punter Ross
Ryan has dropped out of the top 10
in terms of yards per punt, Breaston
should pose enough of a threat for
the Wolverines to win the special
A team with a losing record on the
road against a ranked opponent is
never a good combination. The fact
that Indiana hasn't beaten Michigan
since 1987 and comes to Ann Arbor
with a weak defense makes mat-
ters much worse. The crowd won't
be as rowdy as it will be next week,
but any game at Michigan Stadium
can be intimidating. With an extra
week of rest and preparation before
facing the Hoosiers and a Big Ten
Championship still on the line, the
Wolverines seem to have everything
in their favor and more to play for.
Predictions against the
spread for 11/12/05
Indiana (+24) at No. 21 Michigan
Rutgers (+21.5) at No. 23 Louisville (Friday)
No. 1 Southern Cal (-19.5) at California
Kansas (+34.5) at No. 2 Texas
No. 3 Miami (-16.5) at Wake Forest
No. 5 Louisiana State (-2.5) at No. 4 Alabama
Navy (+23.5) at No. 7 Notre Dame
No. 15 Auburn (+3) at No. 9 Georgia
No. 25 Northwestern (+17) at No. 10 Ohio State Northwestern
No. 11 Oregon (-4) at Washington State
No. 12 Florida (-4) at South Carolina
No. 13 Texas Tech (-23.5) at Oklahoma State
Arizona State (+4) at No.14 UCLA
No. 17 Florida State (-1) at Clemson
Iowa (+2.5) at No. 19 Wisconsin
No. 22 Colorado (-2) at Iowa State
No. 24 Georgia Tech (+5) at Virginia
combination of strength and speed was
enough for Rivals.com to name him
the top college prospect in Indiana his
senior year of high school.
It was also enough to lure Graham
away from his home-state school. Even
though Graham wanted to go to Michi-
gan, he said Indiana always remained
an option. He visited Bloomington for
a recruiting trip - where Indiana line-
backer Jake Powers was his host - and
some of Graham's high school team-
mates currently don the red and white.
"I had the opportunity to meet a
lot of those guys, and they're very
good," Graham said. "It is going to
be a good reunion, being able to see
those guys again."
To be sure, it would be an even better
reunion for Graham if he can repeat his
season-opening performance - as long
as punter Ross Ryan stays out of his way
When Ryan recovered a fumbled punt
in Michigan's season opener, it seemed
as if everyone in the Big House was sud-
denly enamored with the senior punter.
That is, everyone except Graham.
After the game, Ryan described how
he watched the ball come loose, sprint-
ed up the field and dove into the pile.
In all his excitement, Ryan said he may
have snatched the ball away from Gra-
ham - securing the fumble recovery
Understandably, Graham was a little
"It's the first thing he said coming off
the field," Ryan said at the time. "But I
think he was just happy that we recov-
ered it as a team."
Even though that particular play
didn't work out for Graham, the sopho-
more had little to be angry about that
In 2004, Graham was one of eight
true freshmen to earn playing time, but
he spent most of it on special teams,
where he finished the year with five
tackles. But when linebacker Lawrence
Reid was diagnosed with a career-
ending nerve condition last season, a
starting spot opened up in the lineup.
Graham got the job and didn't disap-
point against Northern Illinois, notch-
ing a career-high 10 tackles, including
two for loss.
"For a young guy getting a first start,
I thought he played really hard," coach
Lloyd Carr said at his weekly press con-
ference following the season opener.
"He made a lot of plays."
Graham has yet to replicate his
impressive debut. In seven contests, the
Indianapolis native has tallied 27 tack-
les, an average of four per game (He
started against Iowa but missed most of
the game with an injury.) But Graham
has still made his share of key plays. In
the Wolverines' win over Penn State, he
got a hand on a Nittany Lion pass in the
end zone to record the first pass breakup
of his career. Against Minnesota a week
earlier, Graham recovered a fumble.
"He's got great instincts," Carr said.
"He gets off blocks extremely well, and
he does a great job of diagnosing plays.
He has an instinctive ability to know
where the ball is going."
Carr doesn't care how big - or
small - Graham is, as long as he gets
the job done.
....... .... .................................
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Varsity looks to run away
with vi4ctorty over Hoosiers
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Well, there's another week before Michigan's annual
slugfest against Ohio State. But before the Wolverines
meet the Buckeyes at the Big House, Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr and his players will have to deal with Indi-
ana. The Hoosiers sit near the bottom of the Big Ten with
a 1-5 conference record and a 4-5 overall mark. Terry
Hoeppner is in his first year as head coach. Indiana looks
to snap a four-game losing streak, during which the Hoo-
siers have been blown out in each game. That might be
hard to do against the Wolverines, who have beaten Indi-
ana 13 straight times and in 28 of their last 29 meetings.
Michigan needs a win and a Wisconsin loss to Iowa in
order to keep its Big Ten title hopes alive.
Michigan passing offense vs. Indiana passing
Chad Henne has had his share of struggles this sea-
son, but his numbers still look pretty solid. He's thrown
for nearly 1,900 yards with 16 touchdowns and seven
interceptions. Receiver Jason Avant has remained solid
all season. Avant needs just 166 more yards for 1,000
on the season, but he probably won't get it against
the Hoosiers. Michigan will likely rely heavily on the
ground game on Saturday to control the clock and attack
Indiana's biggest weakness. The Hoosiers rank fourth
in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing just 210 yards
per game. Still, that statistic is a bit misleading, since
most teams choose to run all day on Indiana. Even with
an aggressive defensive backfield of Leslie Majors, Will
Meyers, Troy Grosfield and Tracy Porter, Michigan will
make mincemeat out of the Hoosiers through the air.
Edge: Michigan -
Michigan rushing offense vs. Indiana rushing
Mike Hart is probably healthy and rested after last
week's bye gave him a chance to rest his sprained right
ankle. But even if he's 100 percent, it's likely that he
won't get too many carries, instead resting for the Ohio
State game on Nov. 19. With or without Hart shoulder-
ing the bulk of the load, the Wolverines should dominate
the Hoosiers' front seven. Indiana ranks 10th in the Big
Ten, allowing 205 rushing yards per game. Backup run-
ning backs Kevin Grady and Jerome Jackson are playing
their best ball of the season, and they've certainly been
good enough to expect a big showing on Saturday.
Indiana passing offense vs. Michigan passing
Indiana wide receiver James Hardy ranks fourth in
the Big Ten with an average of just more than six catch-
es per game. But Hardy has made each of those grabs
count. The freshman leads the conference in receiving
yards with 95 per contest. Even more important for the
Hoosiers, Hardy has scored 10 touchdowns this season
- more than any other receiver in the Big Ten. Thanks
to Hardy, sophomore quarterback Blake Powers has
passed for more than 2,000 yards this year.
The Wolverines' defense is third in the conference in
terms of yards allowed each game, giving up 208 yards
per contest. Even with the week off, Michigan has to
be confident after it held Brett Basanez to just 62 yards
in the second half of Michigan's win. Hardy has been
impressive, but the Wolverines' experience should be
enough to shut down the Hoosiers' air attack.
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Even though tailback Mike Hart is lik
probably rely on backups Kevin Grady a