An a"MAIZE"ing Preview

You can't blame Wolverine coach Lloyd Carr for sounding somewhat wistful when asked about the 2000 Wolverine offense. "That offense was awfully special," Carr reflects on a unit that averaged 445 yards per game, second-best in school history.

Saturday, September 8 -- 12:30 PM
Husky Stadium - Seattle, WA
Last Meeting: Rose Bowl, January 1, 1993 -- Michigan 38, Washington 31
Series All-Time: Michigan leads, 6-4

The Miami-Ohio/Michigan stat sheet show a typical Michigan offensive performance. 81 plays, 189 yards rushing, 214 passing, no turnovers. Efficient, balanced, unspectacular.

Last year's version of "that offense" included the likes of QB Drew Henson (2,152 yards passing and 18 TDs in nine games), WR David Terrell (1,130 receiving yards and 14 scores), and Anthony Thomas (1,733 yards rushing and 18 TDs), who finished his Maize-and-Blue career as Michigan's all-time leading rusher. All-Conference linemen Steve Hutchinson, Jeff Backus and Maurice Williams helped clear the way.

All but Henson were drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft - and Henson is one step away from the Major Leagues and the wrath of George Steinbrenner.

That's a lot of "that offense" to replace. And coach Carr acknowledges that having a game to prepare for the long trip to Seattle served his charges well.

"I would not have wanted to play Washington today," Carr told the assembled media after Michigan's workman-like 31-13 dismissal of the RedHawks. "Having a game and a win under our belts should help us this week."

"The biggest thing for us is that we can feed and build enthusiasm off a win, knowing that we must improve."

Almost a mirror of Washington's situation, Michigan looks to an experienced defense - 15 of the top 17 Wolverine tacklers return - to get them through the early stages of a schedule that looks to be favorable. After the Huskies, Michigan has another home scrimmage against Western Michigan. The Big Ten doesn't house a truly dominant team (the Wolverines are the conference's highest-rated team in the major polls), and UM has both Purdue and Ohio State at home. They have to play Wisconsin in Madison, but they will have two weeks to prepare for both their Penn State and Iowa visits. And Northwestern, the glamour pick of the Big Ten pundits before the Rashidi Wheeler tragedy, isn't on the Wolverine schedule this year.

Only one of Michigan's last 30 senior classes hasn't tripped to at least one Rose Bowl, and this year it will take a run to the BCS title game to keep from making it two-for-31. Unlike the PAC-10, who for one season will hook up with the Fiesta Bowl to face the BIG-12 champ, the Big Ten has no anchor bowl to stop-gap the Rose. But another January bowl visit is well within Michigan's reach.

Even closer to their grasp is the Holy Grail for football victories - if Michigan can upend Washington here, they will surpass Yale University as the all-time wins leader in all classifications with their 807th triumph.

Hail to the Victors, indeed.
Click here for Michigan Projected two-deeps

Click here for Washington Projected two-deeps

Michigan was one of only three Division 1-A teams to average over 200 yards both on the ground and through the air last year. It was pretty apparent that the Wolverines kept a lot of the playbook closed in their single-back look against Miami-Ohio, and will probably open it more on Saturday. Like the Huskies, the Wolverines have a rebuilt offensive line, and at first glance it appears it might be harder replacing Thomas than Terrell -- but hey, this is Michigan we're talking about.

Unlike Washington's Cody Pickett, who will make his starting debut start against Michigan, RS-sophomore John Navarre (6-6, 236) has some experience, making his sixth career start – he started the first four games of last season while Henson mended from foot surgery. Navarre was efficient enough in the season-opener (19-32, 205 yds, 1 TD). "I felt I did OK," Navarre said of his performance against Miami-Ohio, "but I've got some things to work on. We all do. We know we'll have to have our ‘A' game on against Washington. It will be noisy, and we must prepare for it." Navarre has only thrown one interception in 109 career attempts, though he's done most of his damage in home games against lesser competition. "He was thrust into a very unusual situation," coach Carr said of Navarre's ups-and-downs last year, "and he's learned a lot about confidence." Navarre has a lot of Elvis Grbac in him - which could be a GOOD omen for Washington if they can get him bothered early. Backing him up will be former San Diego State signal-caller Spencer Brinton (6-5, 225). Brinton once started as a freshman for the Aztecs before embarking on a two-year Mormon mission to South Africa. "Spencer does need some repetitions," said Carr of keeping Brinton on the pine last week, "but Navarre needed the work."

The "A-Train" wasn't the only running back casualty the Wolverines suffered. Promising RS-freshman Timmy Bracken will likely miss the season after suffering a broken leg during two-a-days; incoming freshman Kelly Baraka learned that marijuana and cops don't mix and will not be allowed to play this season (though his scholarship was retained); and Justin Fargas up and transferred home to USC. The load will fall to the duo of junior B.J. Askew (6-3, 225) and sophomore Chris Perry (6-1, 235). Askew, last year's starting fullback, had career-highs in carries (20) and yards (94) last week against the RedHawks, while Perry had 429 yards and five touchdowns as the backup tailback last season -- including 102 yards and a score in his Wolverine debut against Bowling Green. "They are both big backs," says Carr about his new tandem, "and we hope they'll just wear down defenses. We plan on continuing to play them both." True freshman David Underwood (6-2, 220) has a bright future, and senior Walter Cross (5-11, 213) also provides depth.

The drop-off at wide receiver doesn't appear to be so deep. Welcome Michigan's latest threat in a long line, senior Marquise Walker (6-3, 215). Walker had the longest Michigan reception of last season at 75 yards while catching 49 balls for 700 yards and four scores overall. He's getting a lot of pre-season award action. Junior Ron Bellamy (6-0, 200) is the speedster, snaring a pair of TDs last year. He was the Wolverine's primary punt-returner last year. Sophomore Calvin Bell (6-1, 190) had a career-best five receptions plus a 12-yard scoring run against Miami, and Tyrece Butler (6-3, 205) should also see action. Like Washington, UM has a pair of true freshmen that were nationally recruited - Braylon Edwards and Tim Massaquoi - and both played last week. Tight end is arguably Michigan's deepest skill position, with senior co-captain Shawn Thompson (6-5, 250) returning after missing all but the season-opener last season with a knee injury. Junior Bennie Joppru (6-4, 245) and senior Bill Seymour (6-3, 252), with 18 career starts between them, also return.

Only one starter returns to the Michigan front five, and fifth-year senior Jonathan Goodwin (6-4, 295) might be asked to shoulder more than one position as the season progresses. Goodwin, on the early Lombardi list, has manned four of the spots at one time or another in his Wolverine career, though most of his starts are at guard. Goodwin was being looked at as a center candidate, but senior Kurt Anderson (6-4, 299) secured the starting role in fall camp. If the name sounds familiar, it is -- he's the younger brother of former Butkus Award winner Erick Anderson, who played for UM against Washington in the 1992 Rose Bowl. Junior Dave Petruziello (6-4, 290) moved over from the D-Line and looks to have won the other guard battle. Senior Ben Mast (6-4, 298) can also answer the bell -- he has 13 starts in his career. Michigan will be exceedingly young and inexperienced at tackle, with sophomores Demetrius Solomon (6-6, 297) and Tony Pape (6-6, 299) expected to step up and deliver. Challenging them will be junior Joe Denay (6-7, 298).

It is a unit that gave up 390 yards per game last season and registered only 21 sacks - failing grades by Michigan standards - yet they only gave up 19 points per game, due mostly to a conference-leading +13 turnover ratio. And after week one, they are already at a +3. Eight starters return - actually ten, if you count two 1999 starters returning from season-lost injuries - and the front seven is as experienced a unit as Washington will face this year. For the second straight week, the Michigan defense will be lining up against a first-time QB starter, and may well do a lot of forcing and stunting at the line of scrimmage.

Like Washington, Michigan starts with three interior linemen and a "RUSH Linebacker", the equivalent of the Huskies' REB position. Defensive end Dan Rumishek (6-4, 277) and tackle Shawn Lazarus (6-4, 297), both juniors, anchor the interior. Rumishek has started 11 games in his Michigan career and is a post-season honors candidate. Senior Jake Frysinger (6-4, 280) also returns to the line after a foot injury in last year's season-opener cost him the rest of season. Sophomore tackle Norman Heuer (6-4, 295) made a huge impression as a true freshman, recovering a team-leading three fumbles on the season and wreaking havoc with a pair of TFLs in Michigan's 31-28 Citrus Bowl victory over Auburn. Heuer last year played under his given name of Norman Boebert, legally changing his name this past spring in honor of his late grandfather. Sophomore Grant Bowman (6-1, 287) also provides experienced depth. Tacoma-Wilson sophomore Larry Stevens (6-3, 265) has added 30 pounds to his frame and is expected to bring heat from the end – he registered sack number one last week against Miami-Ohio. Stevens, who chose Michigan over Washington two years ago in a well-publicized recruiting battle, made four starts at the RUSH as a true freshman.

Linebacker is where Michigan is most dangerous. Lean, mean, and deep, the Wolverines have everyone back this season, led by All-Conference and Butkus award candidate Larry Foote (6-1, 228). The senior has 130 tackles in his career, including 84 last year. Senior co-captain Eric Brackins (6-2, 235) is another Butkus candidate with 95 career tackles. Brackins was held out of the Miami-Ohio contest entirely, while Foote left the game in the first quarter with an apparent injury. RS-Sophomore Carl Diggs (6-1, 245) recorded his first career interception last week in Brackins' stead, and true sophomore Zach Kaufman (6-1, 225) registered a career-high four tackles in place of Foote. Coach Carr offered little on Foote or Brackins' status or availability, but did say "It is day-to-day for now. Zach stepped in there and did a really nice job for us and Carl Diggs was there again. We have gotten young linebackers some experience. Foote and Brackins provide the intangibles as well as experience and abilities . . . I don't know what will transpire." Junior outside linebacker Victor Hobson (6-1, 240) led Michigan last season in both TFLs with 12 and sacks with three, and recorded his 100th career tackle last week. Four different players started at RUSH spot last year, and they all return. Canadian sophomore Alain Kashama (6-4, 235), a RIVALS first-team freshman All-American, and sophomore Shantee Orr (6-1, 246) will both see plenty of snaps at the RUSH end spot. Right now Orr is listed as the starter.

The Michigan DBs took a lot of heat last year for being soft (allowing 242 YPG through the air), though lack of a pass rush probably had just as much to do with it. They return three starters, bolstered by the return of 1999 starter Cato June (6-1, 215) from a one-year injury hiatus. The junior free safety was a pre-season All-Conference pick prior to tearing his ACL, and looks to pick up where he left off. Sophomore Charles Drake (6-1, 204) will interchange with June. Junior Julius Curry (6-0, 190) has 70 career tackles and a pair of interceptions from his strong safety spot. Senior CB Todd Howard (5-10, 185) was second in the Big Ten with six interceptions last year, and needs two pass breakups to eclipse Charles Woodson's career mark of 30. Howard came away unscathed in a head-on car accident this past July 27 that seriously injured another. Sophomore Jeremy LeSueur (6-0, 190) and junior Brandon Williams (5-11, 180) should both should see significant time at corner and in the nickel – both picked off RedHawk passes last week. True freshmen Markus Curry (5-11, 180) -- younger brother of Julius –- and Marlin Jackson (6-1, 182) are both ticketed for early stardom. Jackson started in his first-ever Big House appearance, as the Wolverines opened in the nickel.

The Wolverines are set at both punter and place-kicker, and it's the same guy -- senior Hayden Epstein (6-2, 205). One of a precious few that are listed on both the Ray Guy (punting) and Lou Groza (kicking) award lists, Epstein has averaged just over 40 yards per punt in each of his three seasons. He's got John Anderson range with the tee, too -- his career long FG was a school-record 56-yarder at Michigan State.

Julius Curry was Michigan's punt returner last week, but coach Carr wasn't too pleased with the results. Ron Bellamy handled that chore last year. Charles Drake will most likely line up with Todd Howard as the primary deep men, though Perry and Markus Curry could also get looks at it. Fifth-year senior Jeremy Miller (6-0, 255) returns for a third season as an exclusive long-snapper.

Washington holds a 38-35-1 record all-time against Big Ten opponents. They will return the favor by visiting the Big House in next year's season-opener. That game will be Michigan's 166th consecutive home game with 100,000 or more in attendance . . . As far as playing on FieldTurf goes, the Michigan indoor facility has it, so coach Carr doesn't see it as a problem. "We've practice on it quite often," said Carr, "so we should be fine" . . . Obscure trivia: On the list of Division 1-A coaches who began their head coaching careers in 1995, Lloyd Carr (57 wins) and Rick Neuheisel (51 wins) rank 1-2 in career victories . . . Nice Tie: Washington cornerbacks coach/recruiting coordinator Chuck Heater is a Michigan graduate, having started on three Big Ten champion teams in 1972-73-74, and won the school's Fielding Yost award for academic and athletic excellence in 1975 . . . Where the Husky are they now? Terry Tharps had one reception for 19 yards in Western Illinois' 17-13 upset win over 3rd- ranked (Division 1-AA) Western Kentucky. J.K. Scott didn't play in Liberty's 46-26 loss to Appalachian State. Ryan Porter saw his first game action for SW Missouri State against Kansas, carrying the ball once for two yards in reserve role in a 24-10 loss. Porter didn't attempt a pass. Jabari Johnson had 13 carries for 26 yards and caught a six-yard scoring toss in UNLV's 14-10 loss to Arkansas . . . Only rushing for 42 yards against Fresno State on Sunday, Ken Simonton still moved past Napoleon Kaufman into fourth on the all-time PAC-10 career rushing list. With a 1,000-yard season, Simonton will become the first player in PAC-10 (and fifth in NCAA) history with four 1,000-yard seasons. But with 4,115 career yards, he's still got a ways to go to catch Charles White (6,245 yards) as the conference career leader. Simonton is the top returning Heisman Trophy vote getter in the nation . . . Maybe just a little ahead of ourselves? Before UCLA's 20-17 win over Alabama in Bryant-Denny stadium, this prophecy from UCLA's DeShaun Foster: "We're looking forward to playing at home on January 3". Which, of course, is the date for the BCS title game in the Rose Bowl. And were those really SEC officials in Tuscaloosa? Alabama was flagged for a school-record 15 penalties, while UCLA had zero. None. Nada. One presumes that at least tied some sort of NCAA record . . . Oregon QB Joey Harrington's take on why his Ducks are making such a conference racket: "How many players have ever left Oregon early to play in the NFL? Kenny Wheaton is the only one, in 1996. How many guys have left SC early? SC and UCLA are springboards to the NFL. The guys who come to Oregon come to play college football. We have four years to grow as a team. Some schools have two" . . . Top Stories