VY Conceding Little To Michigan All-American DBs

Imagine Derrick Johnson playing safety and you've got a pretty good idea of how several Longhorns are sizing up Michigan's Ernest Shazor. But from the sound of it, Texas QB Vince Young isn't conceding a thing to a Wolverine secondary that boasts two All-American DBs.

Young said coaches have mentioned that Shazor is comparable in size and stature to Texas' two-time All-American and Butkus Award winner.

"Coach (Mack Brown) says he's as big as D.J. but playing safety," said Young.

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.

"He's the biggest safety we've seen this year," TE David Thomas said. "He's a big, physical guy so it's going to be a really good challenge to go against somebody like that."

Shazor also forced two fumbles while recovering two. His biggest forced fumble of the year preserved Michigan's two-point win 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 seal the 16-14 win.

"He's a great tackler," Young said. "He makes his plays. He does his job."

So, what does Young expect from Shazor when Texas and Michigan tee it up for the first time in the 91st Rose Bowl on New Year's Day?

"I don't think he's going to blitz a lot. I think he's going to come down like a linebacker and take on the run a lot."

If Shazor wasn't enough, the Wolverines field another Associated Press first-team All-American in CB Marlin Jackson. Jackson registered 38 stops on the season, including five TFL and one QB sack. He tallied one INT, three PBU and one forced fumble. In that showdown against Purdue, he held First-Team All-American WR Taylor Stubblefield to just 10 yards on one reception.

Between them, Shazor and Jackson would need a U-Haul to carry their press clippings to Pasadena. That's why Young has been giving SE Limas Sweed an earful. This, in essence, is what Young has been saying to Sweed since the team began Rose Bowl preparations: "Some of the (Michigan DBs) that will be going against you, NFL teams are looking at them .So if you go out there and make a play on them, that's for you to get your name out there as well."

Added Young, "I just say things like that to get those guys pumped up, knowing that they're going up against a great player. It helps a whole lot to get their name out there."

I asked Young if Michigan's secondary will be the best he's faced as a Longhorn.

"Our secondary's pretty good," Young replied..

So, other than the guys you face every day in practice, how do the Wolverine DBs stack up?

"Those guys are pretty good," was about all Young would concede. "All them guys make plays. They're pretty big guys. They're great tacklers and they just play their game out there. We've just got to make plays with our receivers and our tight ends as well. A lot of the teams that we've been playing have great coverage guys and great DBs, so everybody always cautions me that anybody can make a play at any time so you've got to go out there and hit your plays as well."

Young believes he has already seen comparable secondaries on at least a couple of Big 12 teams.

"Oklahoma has a great secondary and Oklahoma State had a great guy," Young said. "A lot of people have a great cornerback, but our receivers have a little edge over those guys because they want to go out there and make that play against their guy."

Longhorn coaches and players are off for Christmas but are slated to arrive in Los Angeles on Dec. 25 and start final Rose Bowl preparations on the 26th.

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