8/26 Press Conference

Rick Neuheisel had his pre-Michigan press conference this afternoon at the Don James Center at Husky Stadium. Wolverine coach Lloyd Carr was also available via teleconference and spoke to the Seattle area press.

"Washington is a great football team. I coached against them in a Rose Bowl when I was an assistant," said Carr, who is in his eighth season as the Michigan Head Coach, and 23rd overall season for the Maize and Blue.

"I'm looking forward to another great game with them."

In last year's lid lifter, Michigan controlled the game for the majority of the first three quarters before lightning struck in the form of an Omare Lowe blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown by Roc Alexander. That was followed just a minute later by a Lowe interception return for a score, and suddenly the Wolverines were done.

Carr insists that last year's game will have no effect in preparing for Saturday. "No, it doesn't factor in. This is a new team and it's a new season."

"Last year we didn't control the line of scrimmage. We were forced into too many situations where we had to throw the ball. You need to be able to run the football against great teams," said Carr.

Washington coach Rick Neuheisel believes that his team will see a steady diet of Michigan's ground game. "They are going to try and cram the ball down our throats," said Neuheisel.

"Our Achilles heel, in terms of experience, is our defensive front. We are going to be battle-tested right away. I feel confident that our linebackers are going to be able to hold up because they run so well and they are very gifted at finding the ball."

When Washington runs the ball, they'll be facing one of the better defensive lines in the Big-10. "It's the best line we've had since I've been here," said Carr.

Local product Larry Stevens is part of the rotation up front on the Michigan defense. "Larry has done an excellent job here in the classroom and on the field. He was about 220 pounds when he got here and he's now around 260," said Carr of his junior defensive end from Tacoma.

"I would've liked to have redshirted him but when we recruited him it was very important to him to play in that first season, so he did."

Washington will attack Michigan's defensive front with a new starting tailback (Rich Alexis) and a new offensive guard (Dan Dicks).

"Rich Alexis will be our starter and he'll get the lion's share of the work, although Chris Singleton has performed well in fall camp and he'll play. Should it be necessary, we've got Kenny James and Shelton Sampson, true freshmen who are ready to handle some chores as well."

Of his two freshman backs, Neuheisel commented, "I'm very pleased with Kenny James. He's very smooth. Shelton Sampson has that great burst when he gets in the open field. The question with Shelton is then how quickly can he acclimate himself to this level of physical football."

Senior Braxton Cleman will not make the trip (hamstring).

The Husky offensive line will be without the services of senior Elliott Zajac. Neuheisel still feels good about the group that will line up against Michigan when compared to the season opener last year. "I feel confident that we have a good front. Last year we went into this game with four out of the five guys having never played. That's not the case this year, even with Elliott (Zajac) being down. The bottom line is, can we keep our pads down, can we move the line of scrimmage and can we give our passer some time when necessary and can we open holes for our running backs. I think our kids are ahead of where they were a year ago at this time."

One match up to watch on Saturday will be that of Michigan cornerback Marlon Jackson, a Thorpe award candidate, and Husky wide receiver Reggie Williams, an all-American candidate. "I think both will make some plays in the game. You expect that when you've got that kind of talent and that kind of energy being exhibited in front of 108,000 people," said Neuheisel. "Reggie is fun to have on our team because he exudes a passion for the game. He loves to play. And it's not just when he has the ball in his hands. He loves to block and he likes to celebrate when someone scores."

Both Williams and Paul Arnold are healthy going into this game. The only concern Neuheisel has about the two is over their conditioning, because both missed workouts.

Both teams will start the same quarterbacks as they did last year. Michigan's John Navarre earned the nod over Spencer Brinton. "John has experience, he's started 12 games. He played well for six or seven games last year, but he threw too many interceptions down the stretch," said Carr.

Washington counters with junior Cody Pickett, who started 11 of 12 games last year. "He'll have a lot more confidence and we as a coaching staff will have a lot more confidence in what he is capable of doing and what we can do as an offense," said Neuheisel.

Notes:
Huskies on the mend: WR Reggie Williams, WR Paul Arnold, DE Kai Ellis, SS Greg Carothers, FS Jimmy Newell, and CB Roc Alexander are all healthy and ready to roll against Michigan.

Depth Chart changes: Dan Dicks will make his first career start against the Wolverines, as he is listed at starting strong guard. He is backed up by RS-freshman Tusi Sa'au, who was moved from defensive line after Zajac went down . . . DE Anthony Kelley will start and Kai Ellis will relieve him off of the bench. The Huskies will wait until game day to name starters at defensive tackle. Jerome Stevens and Josh Miller are both listed as starters, as are ILB Joseph Lobendahn and Marquis Cooper. Both will play a great deal . . . Jimmy Newell will make his first career start at free safety, and is backed up by Evan Benjamin, who will play a great deal. Greg Carothers' backup at strong safety is James Sims, another redshirt freshman.

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