Steve Breaston, WR/KR- There have bigger names over the last several years in Ann Arbor, but no player has given the Hoosiers more fits than Breaston. A year ago, Breaston had a 53-yard punt return and a 47-yard kickoff return to go along with an 11-yard touchdown reception in Michigan's 41-14 win in Ann Arbor. Breaston missed the game in Bloomington two years ago, but in 2003 he had a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 20-yard TD reception in Michigan's 31-17 win.
Breaston leads the Wolverines this year with 45 receptions, although he's averaged only 9.6 yards/reception and has yet to get into the end zone. He's also a threat on reverses, having rushed nine times this season for another 72 yards. He's most dangerous in the return game, where he's averaging 8.9 yards/punt return and 25.5 yards/kickoff return. The Hoosiers can ill-afford to let Breaston have the sort of impact he's had in past contests if they hope to stay close against the second-ranked Wolverines.
Prescott Burgess, OLB - Expect Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr to assign one player to spy on Kellen Lewis throughout the afternoon, and the most likely choice is the 6-3, 246-pound Burgess. Burgess arrived in Ann Arbor three years ago as one of the nation's top-ranked safeties, but has made the switch to outside linebacker in Carr's system. He gives the Michigan defense a tremendously athletic talent on the weakside, someone who can keep up with fleet-footed athletes like Lewis from sideline to sideline.
Burgess ranks second on the team with 44 tackles, and he's also tallied 6 ½ tackles for loss, three sacks and a pair of interceptions. While he'll be given the responsibility of keeping track of Lewis, the Hoosier quarterback will also need to be very aware of where Burgess is on the field at all times as well.
Leon Hall, CB- Michigan has turned out a long list of star-caliber cornerbacks over the years, and the 5-11, 193-pound Hall is the latest on that list. A potential top-10 pick in next spring's NFL Draft, Hall leads the team with 12 passes broken up, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He'll likely draw the assignment of containing James Hardy when Michigan is in man-to-man coverage, and expect him to be as physical as possible at the line of scrimmage to keep Hardy from getting untracked.
While Hall is one of the league's top shutdown corners, he's also not afraid to come up and defend against the run as well. His 31 tackles ranks fifth on the team and he also has two tackles for loss and one quarterback sack.
Jake Long, LT- They don't come much bigger or better than the 6-7, 316-pound senior offensive tackle. One of two team captains along with defensive end LaMarr Woodley, Long was a Freshman All-American in 2004 and is a Lombardi and Outland Award candidate this season. A right tackle heading into the season, Long made the switch to left tackle in the off-season and has anchored a much improved Wolverine offensive line.
Long plays alongside another huge senior – 6-6, 297-pound Adam Kraus – on the left side of the Michigan offensive line. That duo is one of the big reasons why the Wolverines' ground game has enjoyed a huge resurgence this season as well. After averaging only 161.6 yards/game on the ground in 2005, have upped that to nearly 200 yards/outing in 2006.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Matchups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
Four Days and Counting
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