Saturday, March 31, 2007

Michigan quarterbacks' record vs. OSU

The 2007 season will be the fourth and final season of a stellar college career for quarterback Chad Henne. He has started every game (37) the Wolverines have played since he arrived on campus in 2004 and he is set this season to break most of the all-time Michigan passing records. However, during his three years as starting quarterback, the Wolverines are 0-3 versus the Ohio State Buckeyes in their regular season-ending showdown. Although Henne has arguably performed rather well in these games, he is often singled out as the player who has never beaten the Buckeyes. The November 17th game in The Big House will be Henne's last opportunity to score a victory over the rival Buckeyes before he graduates. Although the Wolverines win as a team and lose as a team, a Michigan quarterback's legacy is often significantly impacted by Michigan's won/loss record vs. Ohio State during his tenure as starting quarterback. Following is a look at the legacies of some of Michigan's modern-era quarterbacks (1969-present) and how they each fared in their respective battles against the Buckeyes:

Dennis Franklin (1972-1974)
Michigan compiled an outstanding 30-2-1 record during Dennis Franklin's three-year tenure as the Wolverines' starting quarterback from 1972-1974. The problem was that the two losses and the tie during that era all came at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes. As a consequence of the two season-ending road losses (1972 and 1974) and the home game that ended in a tie versus the rival Buckeyes (1973), the Wolverines did not advance to a bowl game in any of the three seasons despite the fact that Michigan was co-Big Ten Conference Champions each of those years. It was not until 1975 that the Big Ten modified its Rose Bowl-only policy. Consequently, Dennis Franklin never played in a bowl game despite leading Michigan to three co-Big 10 titles. At the time Franklin played, it was still the Rose Bowl or nothing and to advance to the Rose Bowl, Michigan had to beat Ohio State. Unfortunately, Michigan came up just short each year in three classic contests.

In 1972, Dennis Franklin led his #3 ranked Wolverines (10-0) down to Columbus, Ohio for a battle with the #9 ranked Buckeyes (8-1) with the winner going to the 1973 Rose Bowl game. Franklin, who had not thrown more than 15 passes in a game all season, completed 13 of 23 passes for 160 yards. He also rushed for 30 yards. Michigan fell behind 14-3 in the third quarter when Buckeyes' freshman RB Archie Griffin ripped off a 30-yard touchdown run. Franklin led the Wolverines back and fullback Ed Shuttlesworth scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down to make the score 14-9 in favor of OSU. Coach Schembechler decided to go for the two-point conversion and QB Dennis Franklin found Clint Haslerig with a pass to cut the Buckeyes' lead to 14-11. Wolfman Randy Logan intercepted a pass late in the game and gave Michigan a chance to score the tying or go-ahead points. On third-and-goal from the one it appeared that tailback Harry Banks scored but the officials ruled that the ball had not crossed the goal line. On fourth down, Coach Schembechler had to make one of the biggest decisions of his coaching career. He had to decide whether to go for the tie and kick the field goal (that might send Michigan to the Rose Bowl) or go for the win with the touchdown (that WOULD send Michigan to the Rose Bowl---IF they scored!). Coach Schembechler chose to go for it and he called upon Dennis Franklin to be the ball carrier. On the fourth down play, Franklin valiantly attempted the quarterback sneak but the Buckeye defense held and Michigan lost 14-11.

In 1973, the Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0) were ranked #1 in the nation when they traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan to take on the #4 ranked Wolverines (10-0) before a then-NCAA record crowd of 105,233 at Michigan Stadium. Ohio State raced to an early 10-0 lead by halftime. However, Franklin led the Wolverines back in the fourth quarter. Michigan quarterback Dennis Franklin had not thrown double-digit passes in a game all season but on this day he attempted 11 throws (completing seven for 99 yards). In the fourth quarter, the Wolverines scored on a 30-yard field goal by Mike "Super Toe" Lantry and a 10-yard scoring run by Franklin on a fourth down play. With the score tied at 10 late in the game, Franklin had the Wolverines on the move once again as he engineered a drive from Michigan's own 11 to Ohio's 49. That is when Franklin was hit while trying to throw to fullback Ed Shuttlesworth and Franklin landed on his right shoulder and suffered a broken collar bone. Two plays later (with 1:06 remaining), kicker Mike "Super Toe" Lantry attempted a 58-yard field goal aided by a 20-mph wind. Lantry's kick sailed just inches wide of the left goalpost. Michigan got the ball back one more time thanks to an interception by Tom Drake who returned the ball to the Ohio 33. On third down with the ball on the 28, Michigan called timeout with :28 seconds remaining. Michigan kicker Mike "Super Toe" Lantry came on to attempt a 44-yard field goal. If he made it, Michigan would win the Big Ten Championship outright and advance to the Rose Bowl game. Lantry's kick was wide right and Michigan's Rose Bowl dreams were dashed as the game ended in a 10-10 tie. The next day the Big Ten Athletic Directors voted 6-4 to send Ohio State to the 1974 Rose Bowl game. Purportedly, the injury to Franklin was a decisive factor in the Athletic Directors' decision to send OSU over Michigan.

Franklin's senior season of 1974 represented his last opportunity to defeat the Buckeyes. Franklin had led the #3 ranked Wolverines (10-0) to another undefeated record heading into the season-ending showdown with the #4 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1). For the third consecutive year, however, Franklin and the Wolverines could not get past the Buckeyes to get to the Rose Bowl. Franklin (5/14 att., 96 yds., 1 td., 2 ints.) hit Gil Chapman with a 37-yard touchdown pass and Mike Lantry booted a 37-yard field goal to put the Wolverines up 10-0 in the first quarter. However, Ohio State kicker Tom Klaban wound up kicking four field goals to give the Buckeyes a 12-10 lead. Michigan had one final chance to win the game when it set up for a 33-yard field goal attempt with :18 seconds left in the game. Michigan kicker Mike Lantry's kick was ruled "no good" and the miss gave the Buckeyes another victory and meant the Wolverines season was over as the Big Ten's Rose Bowl-only-policy was still in effect.

The loss in 1974 meant that QB Dennis Franklin finished 0-2-1 in his career versus Ohio State and that he never qualified to participate in a bowl game. This legacy should not overshadow the fact that Michigan was 30-0 in non-Ohio State games during his three years as Michigan's starting quarterback from 1972-1974. Franklin had an outstanding career at Michigan and he performed well in each of the three Michigan/Ohio State games in which he played. Nevertheless, because the Wolverines came up short in these classic contests, Franklin is sometimes erroneously remembered as a quarterback who could not win the big one.

Rick Leach (1975-1978)
Quarterback Rick Leach led the Wolverines to a 38-8-2 record, 3 wins over Ohio State, 3 Big Ten Championships, 3 Rose Bowl trips and a berth in an Orange Bowl game. Leach, arguably the most successful Wolverine quarterback of all-time, was 3-1 in Ohio State games. The only loss occurred during his true freshman season of 1975 followed by three consecutive victories over the rival Buckeyes. In 1975, the #4 ranked Wolverines (8-0-2) hosted the #1 ranked Buckeyes (10-0). A touchdown run by Leach put Michigan ahead 14-7 but the Buckeyes rallied and scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat the Wolverines 21-14. Leach then proceeded to lead the Wolverines to three consecutive victories over the Buckeyes starting with the Wolverines 22-0 thrashing of Ohio State in 1976. In 1977, the #4 ranked Buckeyes came to Ann Arbor looking for revenge against the #5 ranked Wolverines (9-1) with a Rose Bowl trip on the line. Leach scored one of Michigan's two touchdown runs as he led the Wolverines to a 14-6 victory. In 1978, Leach took #6 Michigan (9-1) to Columbus, Ohio for his final Michigan/Ohio State game and again a Wolverine victory would put Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Leach, of course, delivered as he led the Wolverines to a 14-3 victory and their third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl.

Leach set the standard for all Wolverine quarterbacks (read Ryan Mallett) to follow when he engineered three consecutive victories over the Buckeyes. His clutch performances in the rivalry games cemented his position in Wolverine lore as one of the greatest players to ever don the Maize and Blue.

Jim Harbaugh (1985-1986)
Quarterback Jim Harbaugh missed the 1984 Michigan/Ohio State game with an injury but he returned to lead the Wolverines to back-to-back victories in 1985(27-17) and 1986(26-24). In 1985, Harbaugh torched the Ohio State secondary as he completed 16 of 19 passes for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns. Famously, Harbaugh guaranteed victory over Ohio State prior to the 1986 game and then he went out and delivered. Harbaugh completed 19 of 29 passes for 261 yards, 0 tds., 2 ints. in leading the Wolverines to the win and a berth in the 1987 Rose Bowl game. Harbaugh's clutch performances against Ohio State secured his place among the elite Michigan quarterbacks of all-time.

Chad Henne (2004-present)
Quarterback Chad Henne is 0-3 versus the Buckeyes and he has one more chapter to write before the book is closed on his story. He wants to avoid having an "0-fer" legacy and the game November 17th against the Buckeyes will also be his final game in Michigan Stadium. Henne is likely to have a big game against Ohio State so he goes out on a high note. In fact, he has played well in each of the previous contests but he and his teammates have nonetheless been on the short end of the score each of the past three seasons. In 2004, Henne was 27/54 for 328 yards, 2 tds, 2 ints. in the losing effort. In 2005, Henne completed 25 of 36 for 223 yds. and 1 touchdown. In 2006, Henne was 21 of 35 for 267 yds. and 2 touchdowns. Although Henne has played well, the team has not found a way to win and that has hurt the perception of Henne's performance. Hopefully, everything will come together on November 17th and Henne can take his place alongside Leach and Harbaugh. Go Blue!
*Note: Photo of Dennis Franklin (9) from Michigan Athletic Department.
*Note 2: Photo of Rick Leach on Sports Illustrated cover of 9-6-76 by Lane Stewart.
*Note 3: Photo of Chad Henne (7) by Ankur Dholakia/The Detroit News from the 11/18/06 M/OSU game.

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Michigan over the Buckeyes

Coach Bo Schembechler used to say that he would do something in practice every day to prepare the Wolverines for the rivalry game with the Buckeyes at the end of the season. In that spirit, although it is only spring practice, I am posting video wiz dynoguy88's latest offering to get you in the right frame of mind for the showdown on Nov. 17th in The Big House! Go Blue!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Jim Harbaugh: May the Forcier be with you!

Brian from MGoBlog has posted that backup QB Jason Forcier has decided to transfer to Stanford at the end of the semester. At Stanford, he will play under new Cardinal Head Coach (and former Michigan quarterback) Jim Harbaugh. You can read all the details about the transfer by subscribing to the premium site of Forcier (So./Fr. in 2006) was widely expected to be #3 on the quarterback depth chart in 2007 behind Chad Henne and true freshman Ryan Mallett. Last season Forcier took snaps in 6 games and completed 3-of-3 passing attempts for 30 yards. He redshirted his freshman season of 2005 which he spent serving as the scout team quarterback. Now he is heading to Palo Alto, CA looking for more playing time at Stanford. This is not the first time in Forcier's career that he has transferred looking for a better playing situation. In high school, he transferred from Santa Ana Mater Dei High School to St. Augustine prior to his senior season. That move worked out for him and hopefully this latest move will as well. It is possible that after sitting out for a season after transferring that Forcier will find more opportunities at Stanford than he did at Michigan. Go Blue!

UPDATE AS OF 5/2/07: The Stanford Daily reports that Jason Forcier was admitted to Stanford University on April 12, 2007 and that due to NCAA transfer rules, Forcier will practice with the team next Fall, but will not be able to play in games. He will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, for the 2008 and 2009 campaigns.

*Note: Photo of Jason Forcier (19) from 9/9/06 CMU game by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Can't tell the players even with a program

The Wolverines look radically different in Spring Practice than they did in their bowl game as there have been myriad position switches and new jersey assignments since the Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2007. You need a program to keep up with all the changes. The 2007 Spring Football Roster can be found here. However, during Saturday's 70-play full contact scrimmage, there was a player at tailback who was wearing #21 (i.e., Desmond Howard's old number). The problem is that there is no #21 listed on the Spring Football Roster. Leave it to Angelique S. Chengelis (a/k/a "The Angel of the Big House") of The Detroit News to find the answer. The mystery player turned out to be Michigan wrestler Mike Milano who was helping shore up a postion limited in numbers this spring with Mike Hart sidelined and Carlos Brown having moved to cornerback. "He wanted to do it," Coach Carr said. "He says he wants to play (this fall)."

Milano played running back during his prep career at Rocky River High School (OH) and set the school's single-season rushing record (1,700 yards) in 2003 as a junior. He finished his high school career as RRHS' all-time scoring leader and rushing leader. He was a two-time All-Ohio selection (2003 & 2004). No word yet if Coach Carr will look to other Michigan varsity sports to shore up the numbers deficiency at the Tight End position. Go Blue!

Your #15 Steve Breaston jersey just became your Ryan Mallett jersey

Good news for all the Michigan fans who own #15 "Steve Breaston" jerseys, Ryan Mallett has chosen #15 (his high school number) as his uniform number at Michigan. Thus, Breaston fans will not have to mothball their #15 jerseys just because Breaston has graduated. In fact, the Breaston fans will be out front of the Mallett craze and they will not even have to shell out any more money ($70-$150) for a Mallett jersey. Mallett will be following in the grand tradition of Elvis Grbac who wore #15 while playing quarterback for the Wolverines from 1989-1992.

Other Spring Practice number switches and assignments are:

Stevie Brown: #3 (previously #30)
Kevin Grady: #24 (previously #3)
Doug Dutch: #35 (previously #81)
Obi Ezeh: #45 (previously #44)
Vince Helmuth: #32
Artis Chambers: #38
Austin Panter: #54

The one number switch that did not occur (but still may at some point) is switching WR Mario Manningham's jersey number from #86 to the legendary #1. Last year, Braylon Edwards endowed a scholarship to be awarded to the player assigned to wear the coveted #1 jersey. No player wore #1 last season. Mario Manningham certainly deserves the honor but there is no word if such an assignment will occur this season. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Ryan Mallett (15) and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler at Spring Practice on March 24, 2007 by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News


We bid thee farewell

Coach Carr officially announced that TE Carson Butler, DE Eugene Germany, and CB Chris Richards are no longer part of the Michigan Football program. Coach Carr did not address the status of WR Adrian Arrington who is not participating in Spring Practice for an unspecified, non-injury reason. Also, Michigan conducted a 70-play full contact scrimmage on Saturday (March 24th) in what was the team's fifth practice of the 15 session Spring Practice schedule. Coach Carr made some brief remarks to the media prior to the practice session. Click here for a photo gallery of pictures of the March 24, 2007 Spring Practice session at Oosterbaan Fieldhouse. Go Blue!

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tight End: Hello? Is anybody there?

Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord is also the position coach of the Tight Ends and with all the players at the position disappearing at a rapid rate soon Coach DeBord will be talking to himself at Spring Practice. As Tyler Ecker and Brian Thompson are lost to graduation, Mike Massey (83) is out with an injury, and Carson Butler is out with disciplinary problems, the top four players on the depth chart at Tight End from last season are out. Coach DeBord is making due in Spring Practice with Chris McLaurin who mostly saw action on special teams last season and Andre Criswell who is switching to TE from fullback. McLaurin, who saw action in three games last season at TE, might just inherit the starting job by attrition if the players ahead of him are unable to make it back in the fall. He could go a long way in helping his cause by establishing himself with a good Spring Practice. He will certainly get a lot of individual attention from Coach DeBord this spring as there is no one else around for Coach DeBord to instruct. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Mike Massey (83) dropping a potential TD pass in the season opener against Vanderbilt on 9/2/06 by David Guralnick/The Detroit News

Friday, March 23, 2007

New look in 2007 for the field goal unit

For the past couple of seasons Michigan's kicking unit has operated like a well oiled machine during field goal and extra point attempts. However, with the graduations of Kicker Garrett Rivas, Holder Ross Ryan, and Long Snapper Turner Booth, there will be an entirely new kicking unit in place in 2007. Coach Carr will be using Spring Practice to audition players at each of the three positions. As noted in a previous post, Bryan Wright, Jason Gingell and K.C. Lopata will battle it out at the kicking position. It is unclear at this time who will be given an opportunity to be the holder on kicks. Often it is a backup quarterback. I suggest #12 David Cone (So./Fr. in 2007). Otherwise, the fourth-string scholarship quarterback will spend his entire career on the sidelines wearing a headset and relaying signals. As for long snapper, no one has emerged yet although Justin Boren, David Moosman and Tim McAvoy are fighting for the starting center position. A clearer picture regarding the new look kicking unit will emerge at the end of the 15 spring practice sessions. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Chad Henne (7) and David Cone (12) from Michigan State game on 10/7/06 by Robin Buckson/The Detroit News

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bad boys, bad boys

Apparently TE Carson Butler did not think the ice he was skating on was thin enough so he went out with teammate CB Chris Richards on St. Patrick's Day and picked up some criminal charges. Allegedly, Butler and Richards committed an unprovoked attack on a fellow student in the West Quad residence hall on St. Patrick's Day (Saturday, March 17, 2007). Consequently, Butler and Richards were arraigned today (March 21, 2007) in 15th District Court on one count of aggravated assault [MCL 750.81a (1)] and one count of assault and battery [MCL 750.81 (1)] each. They were each released on $5,000 personal bond and they each have a pre-trial hearing March 27th at 1:30 p.m. before the Hon. Ann E. Mattson. The 15th District Court case no. for Butler's case is 07-0333-SM. The 15th District Court case no. for Richards' case is 07-0332-SM. Also, Richards has been suspended from the team.

In other legal news, it was made public that DE Eugene Germany was ticketed for marijuana possession in Ann Arbor on Feb. 12, according to court records. Germany admitted responsibility and paid a $50 fine on February 20, 2007. That case was 15th District Court case no. 07W127813-ON. Germany is no longer on the Michigan Football team. He recently was granted a release from his scholarship so he can transfer again. Germany had originally transferred to Michigan after having previously attended Southern California. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Carson Butler (85) by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's up, it' good

A team's kicker is often overlooked and underappreciated as a football player. However, as Michigan has learned in the past, a team's fortunes can rise and fall on the ability of the team's kicker to come through in the clutch. For the past four seasons, Garrett Rivas (Michigan's all-time leading scorer) performed the kicking duties for the Wolverines. However, with Rivas' graduation, Coach Carr is looking to replace him with someone who can be relied upon to come through in 2007 when a big kick has to be made. At the Pre-Spring Football Press Conference, Coach Carr stated that,"We have a young freshman, Bryan Wright, that we recruited who will get a good look. Jason Gingell, K.C. Lopata -- those are guys that have been in this program, and both of them have kicked very well. I don't know that we'll make a decision on that until training camp. Those are the frontrunners."

It is vital that Coach Carr find a kicker who can perform under pressure, especially end-of-game situations. Missed field goals as time was running out cost Michigan dearly in several big games in the 1970's during the Bo Schembechler-era. Here are a few of the more memorable (or forgetable) examples:

Nov. 24, 1973: #1 Ohio State (9-0) at #4 Michigan (10-0)
A then NCAA record crowd of 105,233 packed Michigan Stadium to watch the two titans of the Big Ten battle for a Rose Bowl berth. The score was tied 10-10 when Tom Drake intercepted a pass for the Wolverines and he returned the ball to the Ohio State 33 yard line. Michigan advanced the ball to the Ohio 28 before using its final timeout. On third down, with :28 seconds left on the clock, kicker Mike "Super Toe" Lantry set up for a 44-yard field goal attempt. He had hit a 30-yarder in the third quarter and had narrowly missed a 58-yard field goal attempt earlier in the fourth quarter. If Lantry hit the 44-yard field goal attempt, Coach Schembechler's Michigan team would advance to the Rose Bowl as an undefeated team for the second time in three seasons. Lantry's kick went wide right and Michigan's Rose Bowl hopes were dashed as the game ended in a tie. The next day the Big 10 Athletic Directors voted 6-4 to send Ohio State to the 1974 Rose Bowl game.

Nov. 23, 1974: #3 Michigan (10-0) at #4 Ohio State (9-1)
Trailing 12-10 with :18 seconds left in the game, Michigan set up for a 33-yard field goal for the win and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Attempting the kick for the Wolverines again was Mike "Super Toe" Lantry. Lantry's kick was ruled "no good" although to this day some Michigan fans swear the ball was inside the uprights. The miss gave the Buckeyes another victory and meant the Wolverines season was over as the Big Ten's Rose Bowl-only-policy was still in effect.

Nov. 6, 1976: #1 Michigan (8-0) at Purdue (3-5)
(Sports Illustrated 11/15/76 issue; Article part I and part II)
Michigan was ranked #1 in the nation and had a chance to escape West Lafayette with a victory and keep its perfect record intact. Trailing 16-14 with :14 seconds remaining in the game, kicker Bob Wood came on for a 37-yard field goal attempt. Wood had set a Michigan record in 1975 by kicking 11 field goals and he was a very accurate 6 for 8 to that point in 1976. The kick was long enough but it was off to the left. No good. Purdue won.

Sept. 15, 1979: #9 Notre Dame at #6 Michigan (1-0)
(Sports Illustrated 9/24/79 issue; article part I, part II, part III)
In the first game in Ann Arbor between these two teams since 1943, Notre Dame clung to a 12-10 lead with :07 seconds remaining in the game. Michigan had the ball at the Irish 25-yard line and kicker Bryan Virgil attempted a 42-yard field goal for the win the for the Wolverines. Virgil had already hit a 30-yarder earlier in the contest for Michigan. On the last second field goal attempt for the win, the kick was blocked by a leaping Bob Crable. Notre Dame consequently escaped with the hard fought victory.

As illustrated by the above examples, blown opportunities in the kicking game can have devastating consequences. Thus, it is imperative that Coach Carr find a kicker with ice water in his veins to perform the kicking duties in 2007. Go Blue!

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Carlos Brown makes the switch to CB

Super sophmore-to-be Carlos Brown did not see the field as much as expected last season as a running back and it has been widely speculated that he may switch to the defensive backfield in 2007. At the Pre-Spring Football Press Conference on March 14, 2007, Coach Carr confirmed that Carlos Brown was indeed making the switch to cornerback for 2007. Coach Carr stated, "Carlos Brown came in to see me after the bowl game and has an interest in moving to cornerback. That's going to be a great move for us. We will still work him some as a tailback, but Carlos, because of our situation a year ago at quarterback with Antonio Bass being out, Carlos' development as a tailback was limited because during the course of the season, we prepared him to play a role at quarterback if we had so needed. Jason (Forcier) had some problems, and we weren't sure he'd be able to hold up. Carlos played quarterback in high school. He has handled a difficult first year extremely well. I'm really excited about what I've seen from him this winter and his potential to develop over there."

Coach Carr also stated that Brown is one of three top candidates (along with Stevie Brown and Greg Mathews) to handle kick return duties next season. As for seeing any time at quarterback in 2007, Coach Carr said, "He had an unbelievable number of repetitions last fall for a couple of reasons. Antonio Bass probably would have been our backup quarterback a year ago. We also needed to prepare our defense against some spread teams. What we decided was to create an offense with a limited number of plays where we could utilize some of the things Carlos can do. He's not going to play any quarterback at least in my plans this spring, but to say that he never would – I can't say that." With Ryan Mallett available this season, the need for Brown to play quarterback has diminished to almost nil. Thus, Brown will most likely be seen in his new roles on defense and (possibly) special teams kick returner.

Spring practice will be very important to Brown because he is at a "new" position. However, he did play in the defensive secondary in high school and performed very well as he amassed 203 tackles, 11 forced fumbles, 11 interceptions, 4 fumble recoveries, and 25 pass break-ups during his prep career. Nonetheless, the college game is different and he will have much to learn in the way of techniques. Fortunately, his position coach will be Vance Bedford who is a fabulous instructor and was 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson's position coach. Brown's progress at cornerback will be reviewed at the conclusion of Spring Practice in April. Coach Carr stated, "We'll look at these position changes after the second week and at the end of the second week, I'll call these guys in and ask, 'How do you like it? How do you feel like you're doing? Do you want to stay there?' Or, 'This is what I think. I like what you're doing. You may not feel you're where you want to be right now, but I see progress. I think you've got great potential there." As for Carlos Brown's position switch to cornerback, Coach Carr seems very excited about it and Brown has an excellent shot at starting if he works hard to learn the position. It all starts with Spring Practice. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Carlos Brown (#23) from 2006 Michigan Football Media Day by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Schembechler Hall looks like a M*A*S*H unit

At the Pre-Spring Football Press Conference held on Wednesday, March 14, 2007, Coach Carr listed the injuries that have beset the team recently. Those players either not participating or limiting their participation in Spring Practice due to injuries include: RB Mike Hart (out-left arm), WR Mario Manningham (limited-left knee), QB Jason Forcier (limited), OL Adam Kraus (out), OL Steve Schilling (limited), S Brandent Enlemon (limited), WR Antonio Bass (out), NT Terrence Taylor (limited), TE Mike Massey (out) and DE James McKinney (out). Amy Bohn, MD and the other team physicians have their hands full in treating this multitude of injured players. Hopefully, the team will be back to near full strength when Fall Practice commences in August. Go Blue!

New scoreboards will be in place for 2007 season

On Thursday, March 15, 2007, the University of Michigan Board of Regents approved spending $750,000 for new scoreboards at Michigan Stadium. The scoreboards are to be finished by the start of the 2007 season. The new scoreboards are designed to be clearer and provide spectators with messages, statistics, and scores of other games. No word if they will display live blog posts from Brian of MGoBlog during games. Now that would be cool. Go Blue!

Michigan's backup quarterbacks: Always at the ready

Freshman sensation Ryan Mallett will likely fill the #2 spot on the depth chart for the Wolverines at quarterback in 2007. Being the backup QB is a difficult job for an athlete as the player has to mentally prepare for each game as if he is going to play because he may be called upon to enter the game at anytime in case of an emergency with the starter. The test for the backup QB is to be able to keep himself sharp mentally even though he knows that the chances are great that he might not see a single snap of action in the particular game for which he is preparing. Even when a backup QB is finally inserted into the game, the player is limited by the coaches in what he is supposed to do perform because of the circumstances of the game. Often, the backup QB is just supposed to "run out the clock" and is not supposed to run the full offensive scheme. Thus, even when the backup QB finally sees the field, he is not able to show his true capabilities. Such is the plight of the men who fill the #2 spot on the depth chart at quarterback. As Ryan Mallett toils as the backup QB during his freshman season, he will be following a grand tradition of Wolverine quarterbacks who have filled that slot. Following are some of the more interesting stories of Michigan's backup quarterbacks from the modern era (1969-present):

Jim Betts (1969)
In only his second game as head coach of Michigan, Coach Schembechler's Wolverines hosted Pac-8 conference foe the University of Washington Huskies in Ann Arbor. Michigan opened up a huge 45-7 lead by the fourth quarter and Coach Schembechler pulled the first unit including starting quarterback Don Moorehead. Backup quarterback Jim Betts entered the game and was instructed to run out the clock. However, on an option run/pass play Betts spotted an open Bill Harris streaking down the field and Betts hit him with a perfect strike for a 59-yard gain. The only problem was that Coach Schembechler wanted Betts to run out the clock not run up the score. Coach Schembechler was so infuriated that when Betts returned to the sideline, Coach Schembechler benched the entire second unit for the rest of the game. As legend has it, Reggie McKenzie and the rest of the second unit offensive lineman were mad at Betts because it cost them playing time. This story illustrates part of the plight of the backup quarterback. The player should do well but not to well. If he does, he risks getting in trouble.

Dave Hall (1982)
In 1982, quarterback Steve Smith led the Wolverines to their fifth Rose Bowl game in seven years. Smith led Michigan to an 8-1 Big 10 Conference record and the Big 10 title that season. Backup quarterback Dave Hall saw very limited action during the course of the year as he threw only 14 passes (completing seven). In the second quarter of the 1983 Rose Bowl game versus UCLA, the Wolverines were trailing 7-0 when Smith suffered a separated shoulder while being tackled on an option play that went for eight yards and a first down. Smith's injury forced him to miss the remainder of the game and Coach Schembechler called upon Dave Hall to lead the Wolverines. Hall was thrust into the line-up in front of a national TV audience in "The Granddaddy of Them All" and had the task of guiding the Wolverines to victory over the Bruins. Despite playing reasonably well (13/24, 155 yds., 2 tds., 2 int.), Hall and the Wolverines came up short as Michigan lost the '83 Rose Bowl by the score of 24-14. Hall's story illustrates how a backup quarterback always has to be ready to enter a game (especially the most important game of the season) in case of an emergency.

Chris Zurbrugg & Russ Rein (1984)
Whereas Dave Hall had to step in and assume the quarterback duties on a short-term basis (one game) due to an injury, the backups in 1984 were forced to assume the starter's role for the final seven games of the 1984 season after Jim Harbaugh broke his arm in the Michigan State game. Chris Zurbrugg (63/113, 691 yds., 6 tds., 7 int.) and Russ Rein (17/31, 142 yds., 1 td., 3 int.) split the duties for the rest of the season while leading Michigan to a 3-4 record. It should be noted, however, that Zurbrugg did throw four touchdown passes in the Purdue game that season which tied him for the Michigan record for most touchdown passes thrown in a single game. Nonetheless, 1984 is an example of what can happen if the starter goes down with an injury and there is not a big-time recruit waiting in the wings to fill-in for the rest of the season. Fortunately for Coach Carr, the 2007 team does not have that problem as it has Ryan Mallett waiting in the wings as the #2 quarterback on the depth chart. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Jim Betts from TK Legacy Michigan Signature Series card.
*Note 2: Photo of David Hall from TK Legacy Michigan Quarterback Collection card.
*Note 3: Photo of Coach Schembechler and Chris Zurbrugg (12) from dust cover of 1994 book "A Dynasty in Blue: 25 Years of Michigan Football Glory (1969-1994)" edited by Francis Fitzgerald.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Adrian Arrington: Legally speaking

Wide Receiver Adrian Arrington (Jr./So. in 2006) finds himself unable to participate in Spring Practice because of "unspecified reasons" that may ultimately mean the end of his career at Michigan. It is widely believed that there has been some new infraction of team rules that, when combined with last year's legal issues, could lead to Arrington's demise with the Wolverines. Some fans have opined that the 2006 alleged domestic violence incident should not be held against Arrington as the case was dismissed. However, interestingly, the police incident report from that case indicated that the then 20-year-old Arrington had been drinking at a bar before getting into the car and driving away. No criminal charges were brought regarding any alcohol violations.

The date of the prior alleged incident was October 13, 2006 which was the week of the Penn State game. Arrington (d/o/b: 11-7-85) did not turn 21 until November 7, 2006. If he was consuming alcohol under the age of 21, he was in violation of MCL 436.1703. More importantly, if he then operated a motor vehicle as a person under 21 with a BAC of .02%-.07%, he was in violation of MCL 257.625 (6) . This offense is commonly referred to as "Drunk Driving by a Minor". If his BAC was .08% or above, he could of course have been charged with a violation of Operating While Intoxicated [MCL 257. 625 (1) ]. However, the police were not able to find Arrington that night and he avoided submitting to sobriety evaluations. Although the alcohol violations were not charged, they were not ignored by Coach Carr. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, the alleged drunk driving is more serious than what occurred during the disagreement over the keys that led to the domestic violence charge. Arrington was given a second chance last year after his scrape with the legal system and he knew that he needed to watch his step because he had no margin for error. If he has made another bad decision and it leads to the end of his career at Michigan, he has no one but himself to blame. At some point, each player has to make a decision regarding how he wants to conduct himself and lead his life. Michigan may not be the place for Adrian Arrington. If he wants to get back on the team, he has a lot to prove. Go Blue!


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Arrington, Butler and Germany to miss spring practice for unspecified reasons

It was revealed today that wide receiver Adrian Arrington, tight end Carson Butler, and defensive end Eugene Germany are being held out of Spring Football Practice by Coach Carr for the dreaded "unspecified reasons." When asked about the three players return to the team for Fall Practice in August, Coach Carr responded: "That is possible. Maybe not probable." Unconfirmed reports have been swirling around the internet for the past two weeks alleging that the dismissal of the three players from the team was for a drug violation.

In a wholly unrelated matter, Heisman Trophy candidate Mike Hart (RB) will also miss Spring Practice this season. Hart is out due to a "minor arthoscopic procedure." All of Coach Carr's comments at the Pre-Spring Football Press Conference can be found here. Go Blue!

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring Football commences March 17th and fans are ready for Ryan Mallett-era to begin

Michigan has had a string of successful quarterbacks (Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson, and John Navarre) that have gone on to play in the NFL. However, few Wolverine QB's have come to Michigan with as much hype and anticipation surrounding their arrival as Ryan Mallett has met with this year. The only quarterbacks in modern Michigan Football history (1969-present) to have endured anything comparable to what Mallett is going through are Rick Leach (1975 from Flint Southwestern H.S.), Drew Henson (1998 from Brighton H.S.), and Chad Henne (2004 from Wilson (Pa.) H.S.). Incidentally, each member of this triumvirate wore the number #7 on his jersey.

Mallett (6' 6 3/4", 235 lbs.) is a five-star prospect from Texarkana (TX) Texas High School. He comes in as the second ranked quarterback in the nation behind only Jimmy Clausen who committed to Notre Dame. Mallett early enrolled at Michigan and has been on campus since January, 2007. As an early enrollee, Mallett is eligible to participate in Spring Football Practice which begins March 17th. Mallett will play his true freshman campaign with an established starter (Chad Henne) ahead of him on the depth chart. He will have a year to work with Quarterbacks Coach Scot Loeffler and to observe Henne before he takes over the reins of the offense in 2008. That does not mean, however, that Mallet will redshirt in 2007. Coach Carr's plans appear to be for Mallett to compete for the backup quarterback spot and see whatever playing time comes his way in 2007.

Gradual development was not a luxury that was afforded to Leach or Henne. Those two share the distinction of being the only Wolverine quarterbacks in history to start the first game of their true freshman seasons. In fact, Leach and Henne were the starters throughout their respective true freshman seasons. (Note: Henne started all 12 games of his true freshman season of 2004; Leach started 11 of 12 games of his true freshman season of 1975 as he did not technically start game #3 versus Baylor although he did play the majority of the game). It was expected when the extraordinarly talented Leach arrived on campus that he in fact would be the starter. Henne's route to the starting job was a little more indirect. Henne arrived (like Mallett) as a five-star high school prospect. Henne was ranked by recruiting guru Tom Lemming as the nation's #7 player and the #3 quarterback. However, Coach Carr was expected to name Matt Gutierrez (So./Fr.) as the starter. When Gutierrez suffered a sore shoulder in the week leading up to the opening game, Coach Carr switched and named Henne the starter. Henne never looked back as he has started 37 consecutive games for the Wolverines.

Henne and Leach each had outstanding true freshman campaigns. Henne guided the Wolverines to a Big 10 Conference co-Championship and a berth in the 2005 Rose Bowl while Leach led the '75 Wolverines to a berth in the Orange Bowl against the eventual National Champion Oklahoma Sooners. Leach went on to an outstanding career that included guiding Michigan to three consectutive victories over Ohio State, three consecutive Big 10 Championships, and three consecutive Rose Bowl trips. He also finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting in his senior year of 1978. The last chapter has yet to be written in Henne's saga but he has already led Michigan to a 27-10 record in three years including a Big Ten co-Championship and two Rose Bowl trips.

However, not every highly recruited prep star who played QB at Michigan while wearing #7 had an outstanding career. Drew Henson arrived at Michigan as a heralded two-sport athlete in 1998, the year following Michigan's National Championship season in football. Coming out of high school, Henson was rated the No. 3 player and No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the nation by Prep Football Report. He also was named to the Parade All-American team as quarterback. However, when he arrived as a true freshman, he found Tom Brady (Sr./Jr.) ahead of him on the depth chart. Henson only saw limited action in his initial season as he got into 8 games and was 21/47 for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. Henson remained stuck behind Brady on the depth chart in 1999 as Brady started all 12 games. Henson saw action in 10 of 12 games and completed 47 of 90 passing attempts for 546 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. It was not until 2000 that Henson would assume the starting job and he missed the first three games of the season due to having surgery on his right foot. Ultimately, Henson played in 9 games (starting eight) and he earned All-Big 10 Conference Honorable Mention honors. On the season, he completed 146 of 237 passes for 2,146 yards and 18 touchdowns. Ultimately, Henson chose not to return to Michigan for his senior season as he opted to sign a contract with the New York Yankees to play baseball instead. In retrospect, the highly regarded Henson never really panned out as a successful quarterback for the Wolverines.

Mallett's story has yet to unfold but it all starts with his first official practice as a Wolverine which will take place on March 17th. The spring "game" on April 14th is open to the public and fans are anxiously awaiting their first opportunity to watch Mallett workout in a Maize and Blue uniform. Coach Carr has seen highly touted prospects both boom and bust during his tenure and thus he knows he has to be careful how he brings Mallett along. With Coach Carr and Coach Loeffler guiding Mallett (and maybe with a little help from the senior Henne), fans can look forward to a bright future with the big Texan as the Wolverines' signal-caller. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Ryan Mallett (top) by Evan Lewis/The Texarkana Gazette
*Note 2: Photo of Chad Henne (2nd photo) by David Guralnick/The Detroit News
*Note 3: Photo of Rick Leach on Sports Illustrated cover of 9-6-76 (3rd photo) by Lane Stewart
*Note 4: Photo of Drew Henson (4th photo) by Andy Lyons/Allsport

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Passing the torch: From one All-American QB to another

Michigan is known as "Quarterback U" and has produced many NFL signal-callers (Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson, and John Navarre) in succession. However, for all the success that the Wolverines' quarterbacks have enjoyed in the modern era (1969-present), only two Michigan quarterbacks achieved All-American status during their college careers- Rick Leach (1978) and Jim Harbaugh (1986). These two All-America quarterbacks share a special bond. During Rick Leach's playing days in the mid-1970's (1975-1978), Jim Harbaugh served as a ball boy for the Wolverine football team starting when he was nine-years-old. Jim's dad, Jack Harbaugh, was an Assistant Football Coach under Coach Schembechler from 1972-1979 and a young Jim Harbaugh had an all-access pass to Michigan games and practices because of his dad. Jim Harbaugh's favorite player was Rick Leach. Harbaugh was able to observe the All-American Leach and how he led the Michigan team. Among his other accomplishments, Leach led the Wolverines to three consecutive victories over Ohio State and he finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting his senior year. Several years later, Harbaugh committed to Michigan and he had the chance himself to play quarterback for Coach Schembechler and lead the Wolverines. Like his boyhood hero Leach, Harbaugh was an inspirational team leader. Harbaugh guided the Wolverines to back-to-back victories over Ohio State in 1985 and 1986. Additionally, the All-American Harbaugh also finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting his senior year just as Leach had done. Of all the stories in Michigan Football history about great quarterbacks, this tale of the connection between Leach and Harbaugh (the two most recent All-American quarterbacks) deserves a special place in Wolverine lore. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of ball boy Jim Harbaugh congratulating QB Rick Leach (7) on scoring a touchdown from Guts 'n Glue website.

*Note 2: Photo of Jim Harbaugh (4) from 10/25/86 Homecoming game against Indiana. Picture by Brad Mills who was a U-M student photographer.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

How about them apples?

Michigan Football is a tradition rich program. Some traditions, such as the pre-game ritual of the team leaping up and touching the GO BLUE banner, are well known. Other traditions are as long-standing but are less well known. One of the lesser known traditions is being perpetuated by one of Michigan football's most famous players-Ron Kramer. Kramer (1954-1956) was a nine-time letterman earning three letters each in football, basketball and track. He was a two-time consensus All-American in football and his football jersey number (87) was retired after his senior season. His jersey number is one of only five to ever be retired by the Wolverines.

When Kramer was a player in the 1950's, a man named Mr. Chestnut would visit the Michigan Athletic Department each week during the football season with bushels of apples and he would distribute the apples to the staff and players. The practice now lives on through Michigan legend Mr. Kramer who brings three bushels of Michigan apples to the football facility at Schembechler Hall every Wednesday during the season. Kramer rekindled this tradition many years ago while Bo Schembechler was the Head Coach and Kramer has kept it up every season since that time. At the 2006 M Football Bust, Coach Carr noted Kramer's continuation of the apple giving tradition and he praised the ongoing contributions of the Michigan legend to the Football program. Additionally, Kramer was named the 2004 Ufer Award Winner presented at the M Club's Past President's Dinner to an individual for his or her outstanding service to the University of Michigan Athletic Program. Go Blue!

*Note: Sports Illustrated cover photo (11/12/56 issue) of Ron Kramer and Tom Maentz taken by John G. Zimmerman.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Michigan Football program achieves on and off the field

The Ohio State University athletic program was the subject of the cover story article in the March 5, 2007 print edition of Sports Illustrated. In the excellent piece by L. Jon Wertheim, one of the issues that was examined was how the Buckeyes balance academic versus athletic success. Overall, the Ohio State University came out (unfortunately some may say) looking rather favorably as the Buckeyes have put a new emphasis on support services for their student-athletes in the post-Maurice Clarett years. One of the profile features in the SI article was of David Graham, the Director of the Student-Athlete Support Services Office (SASSO), the athletic department's tutoring and academic counseling division. The 37-year-old Graham has been on the job for just more than a year as he came over from Miami (OH) in January, 2006. Graham is the Ohio State University's answer to the job Shari Acho (Associate A.D./Academic Football Counselor/Co-Director Academic Success Program) performs for the University of Michigan. At Ohio State, the athletic support program has been relocated from the athletic complex to the the new Younkin Success Center which is located in the middle of campus. The unofficial motto apparently is "Get to the Younkin or you'll be flunkin' ". The Younkin Success Center has a full-time staff of 17 and a roster of nearly 100 tutors according to the article. Mr. Graham's direction seems to be helping as more than half the Buckeyes football team members had a grade-point average of 3.0 or better during the '06 fall quarter. All of this made me wonder how this compares to what is going on at the University of Michigan.

As previously mentioned, Shari Acho is the person in charge of academics for the University of Michigan Football team. She is entering her eighth year with the school. While OSU has the new Younkin Success Center, Michigan has the 38,000 square foot Stephen M. Ross Academic Center which opened January 5, 2006. The University of Michigan runs its Academic Success Program for its 700 student-athletes out of the building which is located on State Street next to Yost Ice Arena. The building cost $12 million to construct and the cost of the building was covered entirely by donations. The single largest benefactor was Stephen M. Ross who contributed $5 million to the project. Operating costs for the Center are about $400,000 annually with the funds coming from the Athletic Department's budget. This expense is in addition to the nearly $700,000 the athletic department spends annually to fund the Academic Success Program. These expenses incurred by the Athletic Department for academic support for the athletes are on top of the more than $12 million in tuition that the Athletic Department pays to the University each year for the student-athletes. Eschewing any budgetary concerns, Athletic Director Bill Martin has been a major proponent of both the Center and the Academic Success Program. The Academic Success Program has ten full-time staff members who work in the Center and it also employs tutors at the rate of $8 to $12 per hour.

The Center is outfitted with a 71-station computing lab, classrooms and casual study areas. There is a fireplace, comfortable chairs and flat screen TVs in the lounge area. Freshman athletes are required to log a minimum of eight hours of study per week at the Center during their first semester. Second semester is not as structured depending on how the student-athlete is faring in class. After their freshmen year, student-athletes are not required to attend the Center unless they are deemed to be "struggling." Each team sets its own standard. In football, its a GPA below 2.3 whereas for women's basketball it's anything below 3.0.

In order to stay eligible for NCAA competition, athletes around the nation must keep up with the academic standards set by their conference. The Big Ten standards change based on how many years a student athlete has been at the school, but they are lowest after the first semester - when just a 1.65 GPA is required. At Michigan, athletes, like all students, need to keep their GPA above a 2.0 or risk being put on academic probation or even being kicked out of school.

Until five years ago, the football players- like most other students- were put on a four-year graduation plan meaning they would be set to graduate in April of their senior year. However, it was determined that many of the players were not finishing the final semester of school after the bowl game. Therefore, Mrs. Acho and Sue Shand (the Co-Directors of the Academic Success Program) reorganized the way football players make their school schedules. Mrs. Acho and Ms. Shand wanted to make sure as many of the players as possible were graduating in December before the bowl game. They developed two different programs: one for players who redshirt and one for those who don't. If they play their first year and don't redshirt - like Chad Henne and Mike Hart, for instance - then they're on a three-and-a-half year program. They go to school year round, averaging about 37 credits a year. If they redshirt, they're on a four and a half year program. During their fifth year at the University, they can choose to start working towards a master's degree or save a class or two to take during their final football season. Either way, football players started graduating almost exclusively in December because of the plan that Mrs. Acho and Ms. Shand devised. Consequently, graduation rates went up. It is the goal of Athletic Director Bill Martin to have the graduation rate of student-athletes surpass that of the general student population at the University of Michigan. It has not happened yet but it was close a few years ago when student-athletes graduated the year at a rate of 82% while the general student population graduation rate was just 2% higher. With Mrs. Acho and the football team leading the way, A.D. Martin may realize his goal in the near future. Go Blue!

*Note 1: Sports Illustrated cover photo by Al Tielemans/SI
* Inset Photos: Peter Read Miller (Sosa); Todd Rosenberg (Quinn and Russell); Damian Strohmeyer (Northwestern); John Rieger/US Presswire (Missouri); Larry Levanti (College of New Jersey)
*Note 2: Photo of Stephen M. Ross Center by Ali Olsen/ The Michigan Daily

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