Davis Wary Of Michigan's All-American Secondary

How good is Michigan’s secondary? Consider this: two of its four first-team All-Americans are defensive backs. So, how many times will Texas Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis put the ball in the air when the Longhorns face Michigan in the Rose Bowl on January 1?

Those who say the Wolverine secondary is second-to-none in college football point to senior CB Marlin Jackson and senior SS Ernest Shazor, named earlier this week as AP first-teamers. A Thorpe Award finalist, Shazor led his team with 77 tackles (51 solo), including 10 TFL. He posted two INTs this season, including an 88-yard return for TD.

"Shazor is involved in a lot of their blitz work and he’s a great tackler," Davis said. "They’ll be very solid against the run."

Shazor also forced two fumbles while recovering two. Most college football enthusiasts will quickly recall one of them. Michigan held a two-point lead at No. 12 Purdue with little more than two minutes remaining. The Boilermakers were driving when Shazor stripped WR Durien Bryant of the ball that sophomore CB Leon Hall recovered to preserve the 16-14 win.

Jackson was credited with 38 stops on the season, including five TFL and one QB sack. He tallied one INT, three PBU and one forced fumble. While his numbers aren’t as eye opening as Shazor’s, Jackson is more of a quiet assassin. In that showdown at West Lafayette, he held First-Team All-American WR Taylor Stubblefield to just 10 yards on one reception.

In other words, Davis’ scheme begins by taking those two All-American DBs into account.

"I think you have to mix it up with those guys," Davis said. "Shazor is a guy, if left unattended, can make a bunch of plays. He’s a great tackler and he’s very physical. Marlin is a guy that put in various places because he’s a great cover guy and also is good on run-support. But you’ve got to mix it up. I don’t think you can run just at them or just away from them. You’ve got to try to keep them on their heels."

So, what was (then) unranked Ohio State’s secret in knocking off Michigan for the third time in four seasons last Nov. 20?

"Ohio State’s quarterback got loose on some plays and many of his plays were not by design," Davis said. "Things just broke done and he was just athletic enough to make some plays."

An athletic QB who can ad lib his way to positive yards when things break down? Remind you of anyone? Fair or not, the rub on the Wolverine defense is that it is susceptible to mobile quarterbacks. But it’s no stretch to say that Michigan has yet to face a QB as mobile as Vince Young.

"Hopefully we can get (Young) into some open space so he’ll be able to make some plays," Davis said. "We’ve got to keep hammering the run and the zone read and hopefully be able to make some plays in the passing game."

For now, the thrill of playing in Texas’ first BCS bowl is providing a conspicuous spark to practice, coaches noted following Wednesday's workout.

"For four straight years we’ve had ten or more wins and so an opportunity to play not only in a BCS game but also in the Rose Bowl, our players are excited," Davis said before adding, "It’s just a game where two great programs get to play on a huge stage and we’re excited about it."

Texas is scheduled to practice at noon, Thursday, at Denius Fields.

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