Saturday, June 30, 2007

30-year Flashback: 1977 coaching staff

In 1977, Head Coach Bo Schembechler was entering his ninth season at the helm. Coach Schembechler amassed an impressive 76-7-3 regular season mark in his first eight seasons (1969-1976) as head coach of the Wolverines. Coach Schembechler was coming off another fantastic year as the Wolverines had won the Big Ten title in 1976 and finished 10-2 (7-1 in conf.) with a #3 ranking in both the AP and the UPI polls. Coach Schembechler's teams had won or tied for Big Ten titles six times in his first eight years and the Wolverines had been to three Rose Bowl games in that span including the previous season. The problem was that the Wolverines were 0-3 in those Rose Bowl contests. However, Coach Schembechler believed that 1977 could be different as he had many returning stars from the 1976 team including junior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Rick Leach. However, before he could worry about winning a Rose Bowl, Coach Schembechler first had to get his team through a tough conference schedule and to a second consecutive Big Ten title. Repeating would not be easy because although many key players returned to the team in 1977, an important coach did not. Defensive Coordinator Gary Moeller, the mastermind behind Michigan's tough defense, left the Wolverines to take the Head Coach position at the University of Illinois. Coach Schembechler then promoted Defensive Line coach Bill McCartney to be the new Defensive Coordinator for the 1977 season.

Defensive Coordinator Bill McCartney
Coach McCartney was 36-years old and in his fourth year on staff when he became Defensive Coordinator of the Wolverines in 1977. Coach McCartney served as the Defensive End Coach for his first three years at Michigan. He was a Riverview, MI native having graduated from Riverview Community High School (RCHS). [ed. note: If that sounds familiar that is because that is the same hometown and high school that current Wolverines' Head Coach Lloyd Carr hails from.] Prior to joining the Wolverines' staff in 1974, Coach McCartney had been coaching at Dearborn Divine Child High School where his teams won state titles in both football (1971 & 1973) and basketball (1973).

Offensive Line Jerry Hanlon
Coach Hanlon came to Michigan in 1969 with Coach Schembechler. Coach Hanlon was responsible for coaching the offensive line. He had two All-American candidates in Walt Downing and Mark Donahue to instruct on the 1977 squad. Prior to arriving at Michigan, Coach Hanlon worked as one of Coach Schembechler's assistants at the University of Miami (Ohio).

Offensive Interior Line Paul Schudel
Coach Schudel was a former player and graduate assistant at the University of Miami (Ohio) under Coach Schembechler. Coach Schudel played three years as offensive tackle for Coach Schembechler at Miami and was tri-captain his senior year while also earning All-Academic honors. After graduation in 1966, Schudel went on to work two years as a graduate assistant under Bo at Miami, two years as offensive line coach at New Hampshire, two years as offensive line coach at Colorado State, and two years at William & Mary in the dual role of offensive coordinator/offensive line coach. In 1974, Schudel served as offensive line coach at Syracuse for former Michigan assistant Frank Maloney. While coaching at Michigan in 1976, Schudel helped guide Guard Mark Donahue to achieve All-American honors.

Offensive Ends Tirrel Burton
Coach Burton joined the Michigan staff in 1970 as freshman coach and took over the receivers in 1972. He coached Jim Smith to All-American honors in 1976. Coach Burton, like several of the other Michigan coaches, was from the University of Miami (Ohio) as he had both played and coached at Miami. Coach Burton was an outstanding halfback at Miami, twice being named All-MAC. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry and scored 84 points his senior year which were both records. Coach Burton was also a track star winning his way to the NCAA 220 hurdle finals in 1955. Coach Burton was elected to the Miami Sports Hall of Fame for both football and track. Coach Burton graduated from Miami in 1956 and later obtained his Master's Degree while working as an assistant coach at the school. Even though All-American Jim Smith had moved on, Coach Burton expected that some of his young players such as Ralph Clayton could contribute to the Wolverines' success during the 1977 season.

Offensive Backs Don Nehlen
Coach Nehlen joined the Michigan Football coaching staff in 1977 replacing Chuck Stobart who was named Head Coach at the University of Toledo. Coach Nehlen (who would later go on to be the Head Coach for 21 years [1980-2000] at West Virginia University) joined the Wolverines' staff in 1977 after having served the previous nine seasons as the Head Coach at Bowling Green and having compiled a 53-35-4 record. One of Coach Nehlen's main duties for the 1977 season was to work with quarterback Rick Leach (junior).

Defensive Ends Dennis Brown
Coach Brown was in his fifth season on the Wolverine Football coaching staff in 1977 but his association with the program stretched much further back than that. Coach Brown was the Wolverines' starting quarterback in 1967 and 1968. Brown, a graduate of Lincoln Park High School, became the starting quarterback midway through his junior year. In his first game, he established the Big 10 total offense mark. In 1968, he led the Big 10 in total offense and was named All-Big Ten. Brown spent one season as a graduate assistant to Coach Schembechler in 1970 before heading to Dartmouth for a year as the freshman coach. Coach Brown returned to Michigan to work with the backfield and to serve as varsity-reserve coach. Coach Brown became Defensive Ends coach in the spring of '77 when Coach McCartney was named Defensive Coordinator.

Defensive Backs Jack Harbaugh
Coach Harbaugh came to Michigan in 1973 from Iowa as coach of the defensive backs. He and his wife Jackie have three children: John, Jim, and Joan. The middle child, Jim Harbaugh, served as a ball boy for the Wolverines. In 1977, Coach Harbaugh's star pupils included team co-Captain Dwight Hicks and Melvindale native Mike Jolly (So. from Southgate Aquinas H.S.).

Defensive Coach Tom Reed
The 1977 season was Coach Tom Reed's final year with the Wolverines as he accepted the job as Head Coach at the University of Miami (Ohio) following the season. He was replaced on the Michigan staff in 1978 by Milan Vooletich.

Equipment Manager Jon Falk
Jon Falk, another product of the University of Miami (Ohio), joined the Wolverines in 1974 at the behest of Coach Schembechler. Although only 23 years old at the time, Mr. Falk was named by Coach Schembechler to be the head equipment manager for Michigan. (Mr. Falk would go on a Cal Ripken-like consecutive game streak of 384 games that spanned from 1974-2005). In 1977, Mr. Falk was in his fourth year with the Wolverines and he already had everything down to a science. Well, except maybe for the taking of the team photo. Check out Mr. Falk in the 1977 team photo in the back row, second from right. I don't think he was ready.

Football Academic Counselor Jim Betts
Before there was Shari Acho, there was Jim Betts. In 1977, Michigan football legend Jim Betts (who had played for Coach Schembechler during Bo's first two years as the Wolverines' coach) was in charge of the Football players' academics. This was long before anyone ever dreamed of the Stephen M. Ross Academic Center or the Academic Success Program. Football Academic Counselor Betts was no nonsense in his approach in making sure that Coach Schembechler's players attended class and performed up to expectations.

Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Coach Bo Schembechler from collection of Bentley Historical Library, U-M
*Note 2: Photo of Jim Betts from TK Legacy Michigan Signature Series card.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

30-year Flashback: 1977 team remembered

The 1977 team is one of my all-time favorite Wolverine squads. A few weeks ago, the University celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the success of the 1997 National Championship team. In this series of posts, I am going to go back even further in time. I obtained a copy of the 1978 Michigan Football Gridiron Guide (Press/Radio/TV) which contains statistics and recaps from the 1977 season and I was ready to make the trip 30 years back to 1977. Like Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in Back to the Future, I am going back in time. One of the problems with being a blogger, especially during the June/July doldrums, is that everything you post is second or third hand. (By the way, Cobrani Mixon is transferring.) To combat that problem, I thought I would go back in time to 1977 and relive that magical season (one of my favorites) as if it was the present year as opposed to blogging during the next week or two about the impending 2007 season. We will just have to see how this experiment in "time travel" works out. As the old saying goes, you can't tell the players without a program. To get you prepared for the trip back to 1977, here is the 1977 starting line-up:

Starting Lineups Offense:

wide receiver
Richard White (12)
left tackle
Mike Kenn (11) Jon Giesler
left guard
Mark Donahue (12)
Walt Downing (12)
right guard
Gerry Szara (9) Greg Bartnik (2) John Arbeznik
right tackle
John Powers (10) Jon Giesler
tight end
Gene Johnson (9) Mark Schmerge
Rick Leach (12)
wing back
Ralph Clayton (8) Max Richardson (4)
Russell Davis (12)
Harlan Huckleby (12)

Starting Lineups Defense:

defensive tackle
Dale Keitz (8) Chris Godfrey (4)
middle guard
Steve Graves (12)
defensive tackle
Curtis Greer (9) Dale Keitz William Jackson Chris Godfrey
outside linebacker
Dominic Tedesco (12)
outside linebacker
John Anderson (12)
inside linebacker
Ron Simpkins (11) Mel Owens
inside linebacker
Jerry Meter (12)
ws cornerback
Mike Jolly (11) Mike Harden
ss cornerback
Derek Howard (10) Jim Pickens (2)
Dwight Hicks (11) Derek Howard
Jim Pickens (10) Derek Howard Mike Harden

Go Blue!

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Offensively speaking.

A few days ago, I put up a post about the difference in attitude Defensive Coordinator Ron English had towards his "D" because of the loss of key players from the 2006 squad. Now it is time to take a look at the situation of Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord. He is in a much better position than Coach "E" is with the defense because many of the offensive stars (Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington to name a few) are coming back in 2007. The big question for 2007 is "How will the offense be used?" Even though the offense had many "weapons" in 2006, the offense often took a backseat to the defense last season. Coach Carr's overriding philosophy was to get out to an early lead and let the defense protect it. The offense's job then became one of ball control (Michigan was #2 in the nation in time of possession heading into the bowl game last year) and minimizing mistakes. Coach Carr's mantra is "PROTECT THE LEAD AND PROTECT THE BALL!" Henne's passing yards were down in 2006 as the Wolverines played a more conservative ball control offense once they grabbed an early lead. Let's take a look back at 2006:

Michigan scored first in eleven of the twelve regular season games. The Wolverines were 10-1 in 2006 in games they scored first. The only game they lost, of course, was to the Ohio State University Buckeyes. Over the course of his 12 year tenure as Head Coach of the Wolverines, Coach Carr has won 84% of the games that the Wolverines scored first. In 2006, Michigan scored a touchdown on its opening possession in 8 games (rushing tds: Vanderbilt, CMU, Ball State, & OSU; passing tds. from Henne to Arrington: Minnesota, MSU, Iowa, & Indiana). Michigan outscored its opponents in the first quarter by a margin of 93-30 during the regular season.

Michigan made a concerted effort in 2006 to get back to the ground game despite the fact that it had an accomplished QB in Chad Henne (a junior last season) and two outstanding wide receivers in Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington. The 2006 Wolverines amassed over 2,000 rushing yards for the season for the first time since 2003. Michigan lead the Big Ten with 508 rushing attempts for 2,270 yards and 21 touchdowns during the regular season. All that time on the ground helped chew up the clock as the Wolverines were #2 in the nation in time of possession (a mere 2 seconds per game less than #1 Wisconsin) during the 2006 regular season. The offense not only worked the clock (protect the lead) it also protected the ball. The Wolverines led the nation during the regular season in the category of fewest turnovers allowed (10: 7 interceptions, 3 fumbles). Michigan was tied for #2 in the nation in turnover margin on the strength of the performance of the offense in yielding so few turnovers during the course of the season (less than one per game).

Everything Michigan did last season was geared to Coach Carr's philosophy of "Protect the lead, protect the ball." That philosophy has worked, more or less, for 12 seasons. Coach Carr is not about to change now. Thus, in 2007 expect the offensive fireworks to be shelved as soon as Michigan takes an early lead in a game just as it always has done under Coach Carr. Some things never change. It is a Michigan Tradition. Like winning. Go Blue!

You're with me leather!

Mike Hart explains how he manages to hold onto the pigskin. In the 2007 Rose Bowl game, Hart surpassed 750 consecutive touches without losing a fumble. Hart has fumbled the ball just three times during his career, once in 2004 and twice in 2006. He had a streak of 450 consecutive touches without a fumble come to an end in 2006 vs. CMU when he fumbled the ball on the opening play of the game but Mario Manningham recovered the ball. Later in the year, Hart had the ball knocked out of his possession and out of the end zone for a safety vs. Ball State but was not credited with a lost fumble. Hart went the entire 2005 season without fumbling the ball. The only time he LOST a fumble in his career was as a freshman on 9/25/04 vs. Iowa on a running play near the end zone in the 4th quarter. Hart must have learned his lesson. Go Blue!

Chad Henne looks to be the first Michigan QB to reach the big "4-0"

Chad Henne has started every single game at quarterback for Michigan since his true freshman season of 2004 and the team has amassed a fairly impressive 27-10 record during that era. The 27 wins rivals what the Wolverines accomplished during the first three seasons (1975-1977) they were led by QB Rick Leach (28-6-2). All told, the Wolverines amassed a total of 38 wins during Leach's four years at the controls of the Michigan offense as the maize and blue put together a 10-2 record and a Rose Bowl appearance during Leach's senior season. With thirteen games on the 2007 schedule (assuming a bowl), Henne has the opportunity to become the first Wolverine quarterback to guide Michigan to forty (40) career victories. To accomplish the feat, however, Michigan would have to "run the table" and go undefeated in 2007. This goal is not unreachable (at least it does not seem like it in June).

Even a repeat of last year's 11-2 record, would give Henne 38 all-time wins and put him in a tie with Leach for most wins by a quarterback at Michigan. However, Henne's legacy as one of the all-time greats at Michigan would not be secure just by tying the win record or breaking passing records. Henne's legacy is dependent on his ability to "win the big one" in 2007. Notably to some, the Wolverines are 0-3 vs. OSU and 0-3 in bowl games during the Henne era. Compared to Leach's stellar 3-1 record vs. OSU, Henne's record leaves something to be desired. To secure his legacy with fans, Henne has to find a way to win the final two games of his senior season (i.e., the OSU game and the bowl game). Go Blue!
*Note: Photo of Chad Henne (7) by David Guralnick/The Detroit News

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Michigan legend Rick Leach to sign autographs next Saturday

Rick Leach, the best Michigan quarterback of all-time, will be signing autographs on Saturday, June 30, 2007 from 3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. at the Gibraltar Trade Center-Mount Clemens. The price to obtain his autograph is only $5.00 for any item you would like him to sign. This is a prime opportunity to meet him if you have never done so before.

Leach, as all Wolverine faithful already know, was the first true freshman at Michigan to start at quarterback in a season opener. Leach went on to guide the Wolverines to an astounding 38-8-2 record during his four years (1975-78) with Michigan including three consecutive wins over Ohio State, three Big Ten Championships, three Rose Bowl game appearances plus an Orange Bowl game berth during his freshman season. To learn more about the greatest quarterback to ever don the maize and blue, you can go to the website Guts 'n Glue created in Leach's honor by a guy who is an even bigger Leach fan than me. There you will learn more about Leach's Michigan career than you could ever remember. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Rick Leach (7) from 1977 from the website Guts 'n Glue.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Ron English's Defensive philosophy: What a difference a year makes

Angelique S. Chengelis (a/k/a "The Angel of The Big House") caught up with Defensive Coordinator Ron English recently during the 4th Annual Carr's Wash 4 Kids. Coach "E" was quoted as saying, ""It's going to require patience. I'm serious. I've got to coach this team differently. This is not last year's team. Last year's team, you could get after them. There were days they used that as motivation, where as these guys, they get flustered, and they're not ready for that yet."

The Wolverines have lost four major defensive standouts from last year's team that went 11-2 -- Lombardi Award-winner LaMarr Woodley, All-Big 10 Alan Branch, leading tackler David Harris and All-American Leon Hall. At last year's Carr's Wash 4 Kids event, Coach "E" told WTKA (1050-AM) that the one word he would use to best describe the 2006 defense was "attitude." He described his philosophy as "we are going to just line up and say we are more talented than you and we think we can beat you." At the time, I questioned his approach as I wondered if Michigan had enough talent to take such a tact. As it turns out, Coach "E" was right but I was not completely wrong to question his philosophy. His team had the #1 rushing defense in the nation and the team rolled to an 11-0 record. However, the "D" fell apart in the final two games of the year as it yielded 74 points combined to OSU and USC. Michigan's "D", although talented, did not have the skill to simply line up and outplay the highly talented Buckeyes and Trojans. Now Coach "E" has to go back to the drawing board without, arguably, his four best defenders from last season.

Coach "E" explained the difference in philosphy for 2007 in this way, "Last year, our approach was, 'Hey, we're better than they are, that's the way it is. This year, to an extent, it will be, 'If you make a mistake, so what? Who cares? Move on.' It's going to be fun. It's going to be a process, and I'm looking forward to it." Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Def. Coordinator Ron English chest bumping Jamar Adams (22) from 10-28-06 game vs. Northwestern by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News


Saturday, June 16, 2007

There are no points for second place!

Chad Henne may be the current Top Gun at Michigan but Ryan Mallett (callsign: Stork) is the hot shot newcomer who is going to shake things up. If you hear Michigan fans yell for "Stork" this Fall here is why they will be doing that. Brian at MGoBlog commented in a post about Carr's Wash 4 Kids that there was a picture of Mallett where he "looks like an extra from Top Gun with the callsign 'Stork'". Dave from Michigan Against the World then created the picture seen above. Nice work gentlemen. Go Blue!


Friday, June 15, 2007

Adrian Arrington runs himself back onto team

As has been widely reported, WR Adrian Arrington has successfully served his punishment and has been allowed to rejoin the team. Apparently, Arrington's penance included the time honored tradition of running the stadium steps in the morning. At the Carr's Wash 4 Kids last Saturday, Arrington was quoted as saying, "(Carr) was really hard. It was probably the toughest situation I had to go through in my life. It was work. But I'm glad I made it."

Arrington's punishment was reminiscent of that served by 1998 Rose Bowl MVP Brian Griese following an incident at Scorekeepers Sports Bar & Grill. Small piece of trivia: Do you know who was with Griese at Scorekeepers when the future National Championship QB kicked a plate glass window and shattered it? None other than his then teammate (and now Michigan QB's Coach) Scot Loeffler. As Griese recounts in his book "Undefeated", a bouncer shoved Loeffler to the ground and Griese kicked the plate glass window in response and the window shattered. The rest, as they say, is history. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Adrian Arrington (16) by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News


Ryan Mallett's Winter of discontent

At the 4th Annual Carr's Wash 4 Kids, true freshman sensation QB Ryan Mallett discussed the tough times he suffered during his first Michigan winter. Apparently, he did not like his first Michigan winter and he went two weeks with hardly talking to anyone. The adjustment to college life was made even more difficult by the fact that Mallett started at Michigan in January while the rest of his class was still in high school. Mallett did not have the support network of other Michigan freshmen as he was an early enrolee. The social isolation he experienced as an early enrolee is one reason I am opposed to the trend of bringing in freshman early.

It sounds as if the internet rumors about the possibility of transferring to the University of Arkansas were not unfounded. Fortunately, Mallett reports that he is past the homesickness now but he readily admits that it was bad. The winter was hard, he said, but it will be worth it come fall, when he'll be the primary backup to veteran quarterback Chad Henne next fall. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of QB Ryan Mallett (15) with Coach Carr from final Spring Practice of April 14, 2007 by mzgoblue