6 - The Michigan Daily - Football Saturday -- November 19, 2005
He Shal Overcome
Things haven't always been easy for Prescott Burgess. If they had been, he might not be who he is today.
By Gabe Edelson * Daily Sports Writer
The Michigan Daily - Football
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Predictions against the
spread for 11/19/05
No. 9 Ohio State (-3) at No. 17 Michigan
prescott Burgess had been aching all season
for an interception.
"Just wait for one of those days when I get
a pick," Burgess said after Michigan beat Iowa 23-
20 in overtime on Oct. 22. "I'll show you all what
I'm really about."
His chance came last week against Indiana.
Burgess dropped into coverage and snared an
errant pass from Hoosiers quarterback Blake Pow-
ers. The linebacker sprinted 21 yards toward the
end zone, but 315-pound Indiana left guard Adam
Hines squared up and leveled Burgess 16 yards shy
of the goal line.
"I wasn't expecting it," the junior explained. "I
was a little tired the play before, but in this day and
age, you have to play through tiredness.... I hadn't
gotten (an interception this year). I was (thinking
touchdown). My teammates said I should've cut all
the way back, but things happen."
Many things have happened to Burgess in his 21
years. Some have been tragic, others uplifting. But,
no matter how great the odds stacked against him
have been, Burgess has managed to remain resilient.
So when the Warren, Ohio, native found himself
on his back, courtesy of Hines, on Saturday, there
was just one thing Burgess knew how to do: hop back
up. That's exactly what he did, jumping around and
celebrating with his teammates. After all, it wasn't
the first time he'd found himself on the ground. And
he certainly wasn't going to stay there.
Ghosts and Heroes
Burgess played basketball under Frank Bubba at
Warren G. Harding High School. Player and coach
quickly formed a strong and meaningful bond.
"He changed my whole life," Burgess says.
"Helped me be the person I am today. He just
helped me out by showing me the ropes and
He also kept his pupil out of trouble.
"When Prescott got (to high school), Coach
Bubba took a real big interest in him," says Anthony
Morgan, Burgess's 31-year-old cousin who played
for Bubba's Raiders teams in the early 1990s. "He
was like a father figure to him, a second father fig-
ure to him. He helped him out, and he was there
All that changed on Jan. 24, 2002, in the middle
of basketball season during Burgess's junior year
at Harding. Bubba, who had been suffering from
cystic fibrosis, died at the age of 52 from complica-
tions stemming from pneumonia. The death devas-
tated Burgess and the rest of the community.
"That was a big blow," Morgan says. "Coach
Bubba was a great man.... (The team) had a cou-
ple more games to go. They pulled through. They
still made a playoff run, but it was hard on the kids.
Somebody is just there, physically teaching you,
and, the next day, he's not. It was hard."
Burgess considers himself lucky for the time he
had with Bubba, whom he calls "a mentor in life
It might be fair to say that Bubba has, to a great
extent, helped make Burgess who he is today.
On the other end of the spectrum is Korey String-
er, another of Burgess's cousins. Burgess never got
to know Stringer very well, but his impact on his
younger relative remains deep. Stringer played
offensive tackle for Ohio State and the NFL's Min-
nesota Vikings before dying from heatstroke in
2001 at age 27.
"I planned on getting to know him like I
should've," Burgess says. "By me playing football,
I'm just trying to follow in the right footsteps. And
(Korey's) footsteps were some of the footsteps
I would like to follow in. Hopefully, I can get to
where he was at."
a member of Michigan's front seven. The newly
minted linebacker transformed from a wispy
215-pound freshman to a formidable 232-pound
sophomore to his current rock-solid 243 pounds
through lifting and eating right..Learning to cook
was made easier living with 331-pound defensive
tackle Gabe Watson.
Burgess also shifted from inside to outside line-
backer this season.
"It was hard at first," says Burgess of shuffling
positions. "Being at safety, you weren't used to get-
ting a blocker on you right away. But I got used to
it, and I'm loving it now. It really doesn't matter to
me (where I'm playing), as long as I'm on the field
and out there having fun."
The experiment has been a smashing success.
Burgess has made a name for himself this sea-
son by laying out opponents with explosive hits.
Despite having trouble shedding blockers early in
the season, he currently sits third on the team with
67 tackles - just five behind co-leaders David
Harris and Grant Mason - and ranks tied for first
among Wolverines with two forced fumbles. Pretty
good for a player who had a combined 42 tackles in
17 games heading into this season.
"Prescott is a playmaker," linebacker Chris
Graham says. "He's a hard guy who's going to go
in there and fight each play. When Prescott's out
there, I believe he's going to do his job. He's going
to fight with all he has."
Burgess seems to know what's expected of him.
"My role is to bring some swagger and hard-
nosed football into the program," Burgess says.
"I am happy just bringing liveliness to the defense
and just making plays when I know that it counts."
There's No Place Like Home
Though he spent all last year away from home,
Morgan told Burgess not to come back to Ohio
"He really didn't need to be back there in War-
ren," Morgan says. "It's too much commotion.
Somebody with his type of name, or just any kid,
can get in trouble - just by hanging with the wrong
people. I didn't want that for him, and I don't think
he wants that for himself."
Burgess had plenty of doubters in his hometown
when he left for college. According to Morgan, some
said Burgess would fail. That he wouldn't make it
at Michigan. That he wouldn't "grade out." For his
part, Burgess doesn't want to hear any of it.
"I really don't pay attention to negative com-
ments (in Warren)," Burgess says. "I do what I want
to do. I make my own decisions, and my decision
to come here was the best decision I ever made."
Burgess still has his fair share of supporters
back home, though. His football coach at Harding,
Thom McDaniels, is a diehard Ohio State fan, but
he's remained loyal to his former star player.
"Every time I go home, I go see him," Burgess
says of McDaniels. "The first thing he tells me is
what I need to work on or the things I'm doing
good. He's still behind me."
Morgan is proud of his cousin's determination
since coming to college, both in the classroom and
on the field.
"He's doing better than a lot of people thought
he would," Morgan says. "He's got his grades
together, (and) he's finally on the field playing. So
everything is looking up for him. He's proving (his
In spite of all the adversity, Prescott Burgess has
persevered. He's managed to fight through trying
times and emerge as a success story.
If he happens to fall to the Michigan Stadium
turf on Saturday, you can bet he won't take much
time to pick himself up.
No. 16 Fresno State (+23.5) at No. 1 Southern Cal Southern Cal
Georgia Tech (+17.5) at No. 3 Miami
No. 4 Louisiana State (-17) at Mississippi
No. 5 Penn State (-7) at Michigan State
Syracuse (+34.5) at No. 6 Notre Dame
No. 7 Virginia Tech (-7) at Virginia
No. 8 Alabama (+7) at No. 11 Auburn
Oregon State (+13) at No~. 10 Oregon
Kentucky (+27) at No. 14 Georgia
Oklahoma (+7.5) at No. 21 Texas Tech
Clemson (-2.5) at No. 19 South Carolina
UAB (+7.5) at No. 24 UTEP
Minnesota (+5) at Iowa
Northwestern (-14.5) at Illinois
Lou siana Sta
. . ...... ..
........... . . ....... ......
Henne key to 'The Game'
Linebacker Prescott Burgess intercepted Blake Powers in last week's win over Indiana.
Burgess has been privileged to have admirable
role models to look up to. Unfortunately, two were
taken from him too soon.
"They're gone, they're passed away, but I feel
them right by my side, every time I'm going through
hard times or when things are good," Burgess says
of Bubba and Stringer. "They keep me motivated,
knowing how good of people they were. (They)
keep me motivated to keep going."
A Young Buck
Growing up in Warren, Burgess found himself
in the heart of Buckeye country. Naturally, the
son of Prescott Walters and Leslie Burgess was an
Ohio State fan.
"He loved Ohio State," Morgan says. "That's
all he talked about, was, 'Ohio State this, Ohio
State that.' "
Burgess himself admits that he wasn't interested
in Michigan until his junior year of high school.
His cousin, Alfie Burch, played cornerback at
Michigan from 1991-93. Burch made sure to plant
Maize and Blue seeds in Burgess's mind with an
eye to the future.
"(Burch) used to tell me things about Michi-
gan," Burgess says. "Back then, I was worried
about playing high school football. But, after I was
all done, it started to pop into my head. He helped
me lean toward Michigan."
The Wolverines pursued Burgess relentless-
ly. According the Morgan, Michigan recruiters
attended his football and basketball games, show-
ing substantially more interest than the Buckeyes
did in the five-star prospect. Strange, considering
Burgess was ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's
top safety and the sixth-best player in the entire
country. Morgan, who claims to despise Ohio
State, lobbied for his younger cousin to choose
Ann Arbor over Columbus when it came time to
pick a school.
"I said, 'You ain't going nowhere but Michigan,' "
Burgess ultimately selected Michigan over
Ohio State, Florida, Notre Dame and Tennessee.
He cites the University's academic reputation as a
"I visited both (Michigan and Ohio State),"
Burgess says. "My family sat down with me and
told me, 'Pick the school where you know you'll
get the best education.' And Michigan was the
place for me."
Hitting All Over the Field
Another obstacle awaited Burgess when he
arrived in Ann Arbor as a freshman. Coach Lloyd
Carr decided to switch the standout safety to inside
linebacker. It wasn't an easy transition.
"(Moving) from safety to linebacker, that's a
different world," Carr said in October. "He had a
lot to learn. He had a lot of things to fight through
because everything was new, and yet, he has fought
through. I think he is learning how to play from the
snap of the football to when the whistle blows."
Burgess worked with strength and conditioning
coach Mike Gittleson to bulk up so he would be
able to sustain the extra pounding he would see as
It's the 102nd meeting of the greatest rivalry in college sports.
You don't have to be a native Midwesterner to appreciate what it
means when these two storied programs meet. Ohio State comes
in averaging over 40 points per game in its last four contests and
sporting one of the best defenses in the country. But Michigan is
on its own hot streak, winning four in a row and establishing a
solid defense to go with a balanced offense.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Ohio State rushing defense:
In last week's 41-14 victory over Indiana, the fact that Mike Hart
sat out the whole game was lost in the blowout win. Resting his
myriad injuries, including a sprained ankle and sore hamstring,
Hart tried to get back to 100 percent for the all-important rivalry
game. If right tackle Jake Long returns from injury, he should cre-
ate big holes for Hart to run through.
All that sounds great, but the Buckeyes sport one of, if not the
best, linebacking crews in the country. A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpen-
ter and Anthony Schlegel represent a formidable task for the Wol-
verines offensive line. Hawk and Carpenter blitz often, but their
true abilities lie in stuffing the run and running sideline-to-side-
line to chase down ballcarriers. But these are the games that make
Michigan running backs. If Hart can be close to 100 percent, he'll
have the ability and will to get 100 yards against Ohio State.
Michigan passing offense vs. Ohio State passing defense:
The key to this weekend's game probably will be the play of
sophomore quarterback Chad Henne. If he can keep the Buckeyes
honest, preventing them from placing an extra safety in the box, it
could open running lanes for Hart. More importantly, he needs to
go through his progressions rather than locking in on his primary
target senior receiver Jason Avant. Part of Michigan's success
depends on if the line can pick up the blitzing Ohio State lineback-
ers. Henne has shown that, if given time, he can make the throws
necessary to win big games. Hopefully for Michigan fans, redshirt
junior Steve Breaston will be on the receiving end of a couple of
Starting safety Donte Whitner is questionable for the game,
which could be a help to the Michigan passing attack. But the
Buckeyes are giving up just 198 yards through the air and just 14.8
points per game. Nate Salley provides big hits from the secondary
while also helping with run defense. If Henne can get the ball to
his playmakers, the Wolverines will be able to move the ball effec-
tively against the stout defense.
Ohio State passing offense vs. Michigan passing defense:
Last year in Columbus, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith
torched Michigan for 390 all-purpose yards. He's got the legs to
beat the Wolverines if they let him, but he also has all the weapons:
three receivers who are a threat to go deep every time they touch
the ball. Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez
have combined for 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns this season,
giving Smith plenty of options. The Michigan secondary is as
healthy as it's going to get - and the group has played exception-
ally so far this year (see performances against Northwestern and
Iowa and even Notre Dame as examples) - but the Ohio State
receivers would be a test for just about any defensive secondary.
Edge: Ohio State
Ohio State rushing offense vs. Michigan rushing defense:
At the beginning of the year, it looked as if running the
ball with someone other than the quarterback was going to be
a difficult chore for the Buckeyes. But running back Antonio
Pittman has proven everyone wrong, running for more than
1,100 yards. Still, you have to figure that if the Wolverines
can stop Smith from running, they should be able to control
the ground attack. Last year, that would have seemed like an
impossible task, but Michigan has been superb at containing
mobile quarterbacks this year.
As much as everything else matters, this game could
end up coming down to a long kickoff or punt return at
a crucial moment. Last year, Ginn destroyed the Wolver-
ines' dreams with a punt return for a touchdown. Last
week, Breaston racked up 201 all-purpose yards, most of
See MATCHUP, page 7
Quarterback Chad Henne's play may ve
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