Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ready for your close-up, Mr. Hart?

Coach Lloyd Carr headed to Chicago, Ill. along with Chad Henne, Jake Long and Mike Hart for the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon and Media Days being held today (July 31) and tomorrow (August 1). It was a busy day for the quartet. As soon as Mike Hart arrived, he was off to film a TV spot for the Big Ten service announcement for sportsmanship. Coach Carr gave a press conference. Each of the players submitted to a series of interviews throughout the evening. The Kickoff Luncheon is tomorrow. Go Blue!


Monday, July 23, 2007

30-year Flashback: 1977 Game One- Mich. 37 Ill. 9

Sept. 10, 1977 at Champaign, Ill.: Michigan began its defense of its Big Ten Conference title by kicking off the 1977 season with a conference road game against the Fighting Illini who were coached by the Wolverines former defensive coordinator Gary Moeller. Michigan Head Coach Bo Schembechler did not take it easy on his former protegee as the #2 ranked Wolverines put up 39 points on the scoreboard. The Wolverines' attack was led by quarterback Rick Leach (junior) who threw two (2) touchdown passes and ran for 78 yards. Leach's first TD pass was a 30-yarder to sophmore Ralph Clayton. Then tailback Harlan Huckleby, who rushed for 128 yards and scored twice, broke loose on a 15-yard scoring run and the Wolverines never looked back. Michigan's defense checked the Illini with 107 total yards as sophmore sensation Ron Simpkins had 11 tackles (two for losses) and recovered a fumble. Cornerback Mike Jolly had both an interception and a fumble recovery in the game and was named Defensive Champion. Fullback Russell Davis was the Offensive Champion. Tailback Harlan Huckleby was the Associated Press' Player of the Week. Go Blue!

First Qtr
Ill.-Finzer, 42-yd. FG
M- Clayton, 30-yd. pass from Leach (Willner)
M- Huckleby, 15-yd. run

Second Qtr.
M- Huckleby, 3-yd. run (Willner)

Third Qtr.
M- Willner, 23-yd. FG
M- G. Johnson, 11-yd. pass from Leach (Willner)

Fourth Qtr.
M- R. Davis, 4-yd. run (Willner)
Ill.- Baker, 1-yd. run

Top Individuals
Rushing: Huckleby (M) 24-128; R. Davis (M) 18-98; Leach (M) 12-78; Coleman (Ill.) 18-64
Passing: Leach (M) 6-11-76; Steger (Ill.) 3-8-37
Receiving: G. Johnson (M) 2-30; Clayton (M) 1-30

*Note: Photo of Rick Leach from TK Legacy Michigan Football Cards.

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 07, 2007

30-year flashback: 1977 position-by-position "preview"

The 1977 Wolverines returned many of the key players from the previous season's 10-2 team that won the Big Ten title, played in the Rose Bowl game and finished ranked #3 in the nation. However, Michigan did lose 1976 All-Americans Rob Lytle (RB), Jim Smith (Wingback) and Calvin O'Neal (LB) to graduation. The '77 team also had a new defensive coordinator in Coach Bill McCartney as Gary Moeller had left to become the Head Coach of the University of Illinois. Following is a position-by-position breakdown of the Wolverines as they looked heading into the 1977 season.

Rick Leach (junior) led Michigan to the Big Ten title as a super Sophmore and he was looking for even bigger and better things in the 1977 season. In 1976, Leach accounted for 23 touchdowns (13 passing; 10 rushing) and 1,611 yards of total offense (973 passing; 638 rushing). He started 23 of 24 games during his first two seasons and Michigan was 18-4-2 during that era. Leach was considered a contender for the '77 Heisman Trophy. It is a good thing that Leach was durable because his back-ups (John Wangler [So./Fr.] and B.J. Dickey [Fr.]) had zero experience.

Running Back
In 1976, Rob Lytle (1,469 yards; 3rd in Heisman Trophy balloting) was the main man in the Michigan offense. Filling his shoes in 1977 was Tailback Harlan Huckleby (Jr.; 912 yds., 12 tds. in '76). Huckleby, from Cass Tech H.S. in Detroit, averaged an outstanding 5.9 yards per carry in 1976. Also carrying the load in the backfield in '77 was Fullback Russell Davis (Jr.; 596 yds., 5 tds. in '76). The back-up tailbacks were a couple of outstanding young players from Detroit-area high schools. Roosevelt Smith (So.) was from Cass Tech H.S. and Stanley Edwards (Fr.) was from Kettering H.S..

Wide Receiver
Big things were expected from super Sophmore Ralph Clayton (Redford H.S.) for the '77 season. Clayton looked to take over at the wingback position that had been occupied the previous season by All-American Jim Smith. Smith (26 rec., 714 yds., 27.5 avg., 6 tds. in '76) was Leach's favorite target in 1976 and thus it was imperative that Clayton step up big in '77 to fill the hole left by Smith's departure. On the other side of the formation, Richard White (Sr.) was expected to hold things down at the wide receiver position. Also expected to see playing time in '77 was Max Richardson (wingback) and possibly true freshman WR Alan Mitchell (Detroit Catholic Central H.S.).

Tight End
Gene Johnson (Jr.) was second-team All-Big 10 as a sophmore in 1976. Johnson (6'3", 231 lbs.) graduated from Flint Southwestern H.S. with Rick Leach. Backing up Johnson were Mark Schmerge (Jr., 6'3 1/2", 229 lbs.), who was an excellent blocker, and Doug Marsh (So./Fr., 6'3", 229 lbs.).

Offensive Line
The leading returner on the offensive line was All-American Guard Mark Donahue (LG). Also earning honors in 1976 and returning in '77 was All-Big 10 Center Walt Downing. Joining these two on the line were Mike Kenn at Left Tackle, Gerry Szara at Right Guard and John Powers (So., 6'3", 254 lbs.) at Right Tackle. Also expected to see playing time on the line in '77 were Guard Greg Bartnik (Sr./Jr., 6'2", 238 lbs.), Guard John Arbeznik (Jr./So., 6'3", 237 lbs.) and Tackle Jon Giesler (Jr.; 6'4 1/2, 253 lbs.).

Defensive Line
The Wolverines had been very successful playing a 5-2 defense in 1976 under then-Defensive Coordinator Gary Moeller. However, Michigan planned to run a 3-4 defense in '77 under new Defensive Coordinator Bill McCartney. At Defensive Tackle, Michigan intended to rotate Dale Keitz (Jr./So., 6'1", 233 lbs.), Curtis Greer (Jr./So., 6'4", 222 lbs.) and Chris Godfrey (Jr., 6'4", 242 lbs.). Also fighting for playing time was William Jackson (Jr., 6'3", 222 lbs.). Keitz and Greer (Cass Tech H.S.) had both sat out the 1976 season but were back and primed to lead the defense in 1977. Playing between the defensive tackles was Middle Guard Steve Graves.

The linebacking corps was the most talented group of players on the team. The Outside Linebackers were Dominic Tedesco and John Anderson. The Inside Linebackers were Jerry Meter (Jr., 6'2 1/2", 206 lbs.) and super Sophmore Ron Simpkins (6'1", 215 lbs.). Despite the loss of 1976 All-American Calvin O'Neal, the linebacking corps looked to be the strength of the defense in 1977. Tedesco and Anderson were being converted to linebackers in the 3-4 scheme after having been used as defensive ends the prior season.

The secondary featured playmakers and hard-hitters. Leading the pack was weakside cornerback Mike Jolly (So., 6'3", 178 lbs.) from Southgate Aquinas High School. Also in the secondary was team co-Captain Dwight Hicks who converted to wolfman in '77 after having previously played safety. Joining them as starters in the secondary were ss cornerback Derek Howard and safety Jim Pickens. Also fighting for playing time was Michael Harden (So., 6'1", 179 lbs.) from Detroit Central High School.

The 1977 Wolverines looked formidable and were ranked #2 in the pre-season polls. Coach Schembechler believed this team could go all the way without a loss and win the Rose Bowl game. The first step was to beat his old friend (and former Defensive Coordinator) Gary Moeller who had taken the head coaching position at Illinois. Go Blue!

Labels: ,

Monday, July 02, 2007

30-year Flashback: 1977 team photo

Back Row
Asst. coaches Bob Thornbladh, Tom Reed, Jerry Hanlon, Tirrel Burton, Tim Davis, Bill McCartney, Jack Harbaugh, Paul Schudel, Dennis Brown, Don Nehlen, Barry Pierson, Jerry Zuver, Eqp. Mgr. Jon Falk, Trainer Lindsy McLean
8th Row
Marcus Bond, Chuck Christian, Greg Wunderli, Kurt Becker, Tony Osbun, Dan Kwiatkowski, Tom Wandersleben, Fred Motley, Andy Cannavino, Mike Kligis, Jim Breaugh, Oliver Johnson
7th Row
Kirk Yearian, B.J. Dickey, Alan Mitchell, Rodney Feaster, Stanley Edwards, Mike Trgovac, Dave Nicolau, Jeff Jackson, Neal Ginley, Kelley Keough, John Prepolec, Ben Needham, Stuart Harris, Rick Jones
6th Row
Larry Crockett, Tony Woodford, Jay Allen, James Humphries, David Payne, Tom Keller, Ron Pratl, Rich Novak, David Angood, Craig Page, Dan Murray, Thomas Moss, Larry Jones, Brian Virgil
5th Row
Roger Gaudette, Virgil Williams, Gerald Diggs, Gene Bell, Dave Kadela, Gary Quinn, Ralph Clayton, Chuck Hetts, Mel Owens, Gary Weber, John Wangler, Keith Gilmore, Irvin Johnson, Tony Leoni, Jim Kozlowski
4th Row
Sr. Mgr. Don DiPaolo, Nick Labun, Mike Harden, Michael Davis, Lawrence Reid, Mike Jolly, John Powers, Chris Godfrey, Jeff Bednarek, George Lilja, Mike Leoni, Doug Marsh, Ron Simpkins, Roosevelt Smith, Gregg Willner, Tim Malinak
3rd Row
Ed Kasparek, Mark Braman, Bob Patek, Stacy Johnson, Dale Keitz, John Arbeznik, Curtis Greer, Jon Giesler, Chip Pederson, Mark DeSantis, Mark Torzy, Rock Lindsay, William Jackson, Bob Hollway, Tom Melita
2nd Row
Max Richardson, Curt Stephenson, Derek Howard, Steve Graves, John Anderson, Bill Dufek, Mark Donahue, Co-captain Walt Downing, Garry Szara, Mike Kenn, Rick White, Dominic Tedesco, Jim Pickens, Kevin King, Co-captain Dwight Hicks, Head Coach "Bo" Schembechler
Front Row
Raymond Johnson, Roger Bettis, Mike Smith, Russell Davis, Tom Seabron, Gene Johnson, Steve Nauta, Rex Mackall, Greg Bartnick, Dave Harding, Mark Schmerge, Jerry Meter, Rick Leach, Harlan Huckleby, Woody Brown

*Note: Click on picture for larger image.

Go Blue!

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

30-year Flashback: 1977 season "preview"

The 1977 Wolverines had a pre-season ranking of #2 in the nation as they returned many of the key players (including quarterback Rick Leach) from the team that had won the Big Ten title and finished #3 in the nation the previous season. Here is a look at the 1977 schedule:
  • Sept. 10 at Illinois*
  • Sept. 17 Duke
  • Sept 24 Navy
  • Oct. 1 Texas A&M
  • Oct. 8 at Michigan State*
  • Oct. 15 Wisconsin*
  • Oct. 22 at Minnesota*
  • Oct. 29 Iowa*
  • Nov. 5 Northwestern*
  • Nov. 12 at Purdue*
  • Nov. 19 Ohio State*

*denotes Big Ten Conference game

Michigan had a tough first game in 1977 as it was due to open its season on the road with a conference game against Illnois. This game would pit Coach Schembechler against his former Defensive Coordinator Gary Moeller who had been hired in the off-season as Illinois' Head Coach. That game was to be followed by three non-conference games(Duke, Navy, & Texas A&M) at home. Michigan always had a huge home field advantage as Michigan Stadium had the largest seating capacity of any college football stadium at 101,701. The game against the Texas A&M Aggies in week 4 would likely be a battle of two top 10 teams and the stadium was going to be packed for that game. After the non-conference portion of the schedule, Michigan was due to head back out on the road to take on intra-state rival Michigan State in the annual rivalry match-up. That meant that the '77 schedule put the Wolverines on the road for the first two conference games of the season. Game six would see the Wolverines back in A2 against Wisconsin (a likely top-20 team) but the Wolverines would be on the road the following week to play Minnesota. After the Golden Gophers, Michigan would have a two game homestand in weeks in eight and nine (Iowa & Northwestern) before going on the road in week 10 to play Purdue. The final game of the regular season, of course, was against Ohio State and would be a home game for the Wolverines in 1977. As defending Big 10 Champions, the '77 Wolverines were gunning for their second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl.

Leading the '77 Wolverines were team co-Captains Dwight Hicks and Walt Downing. Hicks (Sr.) made the switch from safety to wolfman in 1977 with the help of his position coach Jack Harbaugh. Downing, the team's Center, was an All-Big 10 player the previous season in '76 and had also been named an honorable mention All-American. Downing (Sr.) worked to be named a first-team All-American in 1977. Hicks and Downing (along with quarterback Rick Leach) provided excellent team leadership for the 1977 Wolverines as they attempted to repeat as Big Ten Champions and return to the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive season. Go Blue!

Labels: ,

30-year Flashback: 1977 Spring Practice Awards

During Spring Practice for the 1977 season, Coach Schembechler wanted to make sure the team did not dwell on the disappointing 14-6 Rose Bowl loss to #2 USC on 1/1/77 to end the 1976 season. Despite the loss, the Wolverines (10-2) had ended the season ranked #3 in the nation in both the AP and the UPI polls. However, Michigan was losing its star running back Rob Lytle who finished 3rd in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1976. On the upside, however, the Wolverines returned their superstar quarterback Rick Leach (jr./jr.). During Spring Practice certain players emerged as standout performers. Following are brief descriptions of the Spring Practice awards and biographies of the award winners:

Meyer Morton Award: John Anderson, Sr., OLB
The Meyer Morton Award, established by the 'M' Club of Chicago in 1925, is given to the football player who shows the greatest development and most promise as a result of the annual spring practice. John Anderson was not only an outstanding linebacker, he was also the team's punter. He averaged 41.5 yards per punt in 1976 which was was the second highest in modern Michigan football. Anderson also was selected as an Academic All-American in 1976.

Frederick Matthaei Award: Jerry Meter, Jr., ILB
The Frederick Matthaei Award is given to the junior-to-be gridder who has displayed leadership, drive and achievement on the athletic field and in the classroom. The award was established by Frederick C. Matthaei in 1968. Jerry Meter (6'2 1/2", 206 lbs.) is the son of Bernard Meter who played football for Notre Dame in the 1940's. Jerry Meter was a three-sport star in high school at both Douglas MacArthur in Saginaw and Andover in Bloomfield Hills. Meter looked to make a major contribution to the defense in 1977.

John F. Maulbetsch Award: Ron Simpkins,Fr.,ILB
The John F. Maulbetsch Award is given to the freshman football candidate after spring practice on the basis of desire, character, capacity for leadership and future success both on and off the gridiron. It was established by Frederick C. Matthaei in 1954 in honor of the late John F. Maulbetsch, an All-American halfback in 1914. Sophmore-to-be Ron Simpkins was selected for this award as he displayed all the attributes that would eventually make him a huge success at Michigan and beyond. Simpkins (6'1", 215 lbs.) was a prep All-American from Western High School in Detroit and was considered to be one of the top linebackers in the nation.
Go Blue!

Labels: , ,