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4. Michigan

A two-sport quarterback is all the buzz, but a one-sport wideout is the key man

By Mark Bechtel

 
The Book
An opposing team's coach sizes up the Wolverines

" One thing you can always count on with them is that they don't beat themselves. They probably have the best offensive line in the country, and Thomas is a horse in the backfield. He runs so damn hard and always seems to be falling forward. And with Fargas back, their running game is going to be even better. You have to be very patient against their offense because they just keep picking away at you, and then all of a sudden they hit you with a big play.... It will be interesting to see if Henson can handle the pressure of being the full-time starter. He throws the ball very well on the run and is a great athlete, but he sometimes tries to do too much.... Terrell is a bear and causes problems everywhere. He's a coach's worst nightmare on both sides of the ball.... They've always had one of the best defenses in the country, but I don't think they'll be as good this year. They lost a lot of good players, especially up
front; but they always
seem to have more talent than anyone in the conference.... You have to try to run on them because their secondary is rock solid. "

Sports Illustrated If there's one thing minor league baseball players have plenty of, it's spare time. So Drew Henson, third baseman for the Double A Norwich (Conn.) Navigators (and, after a midsummer trade, for the Double A Chattanooga Lookouts) spent many an afternoon in front of the TV. His choice of programs was a little odd, though. Instead of Springer or soaps, Henson watched football tapes of Bowling Green and Rice. Because Drew Henson, infield prospect, is also Drew Henson, Michigan quarterback.

This fall, after a two-year apprenticeship to Tom Brady, Henson will finally take his turn running the Wolverines' offense, which should be among the most explosive in the country. "Teams took us for granted last year," says Henson. "We went down and played an Alabama team [in the Orange Bowl, which Michigan won 35-34] that was maybe the fastest in the country, and we showed them our athletic ability."

Wide receiver David Terrell put on an especially impressive show that night, catching 10 passes for 150 yards, a performance that launched his 2000 Heisman Trophy campaign. The 6'3" junior can grab whatever is thrown his way (71 receptions in '99), has big-play skills (14.6 yards per catch last year and seven touchdowns) and is not afraid to tell you how good he is. (Sample quote: "I can do everything.") Like Michigan's last Heisman winner, 1997 recipient Charles Woodson, Terrell has also played both ways: He picked off a pass and made six tackles in seven games as an occasional cornerback last year. Says coach Lloyd Carr, "Our needs will be a little different, but I don't think you can count out David playing in the secondary at times."

Those "needs" will be more on the pass rush than the pass defense. The Wolverines lost five starters all told on the line and at linebacker, and the greenness of the maize-and-blue D will put added heat on the offense. Fine, says Henson: "The pressure's not going to be on one person. We can score points when we need to and control the ball when we have to."

Michigan Henson, who spent the summer playing pro baseball, has waited two years for his chance to lead the maize and blue.   Damian Strohmeyer  
Ball control is the specialty of tailback Anthony Thomas, who ran for 1,297 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. He shouldered a tremendous burden last season (no other Michigan running back had more than 30 carries) and will benefit from the return of sophomore Justin Fargas, who broke his right leg against Wisconsin in the 10th game of '98. Fargas was held out of contact drills this spring, but Carr expects to have him -- and his 4.4 speed -- ready by September.

Which leaves the 6'4", 218-pound Henson as the only unproven skill-position player. Helping him make the transition will be 1) a right arm that scouts in two sports drool over and 2) an elite offensive line. "We've got two first-round picks on the left side [tackle Jeff Backus and guard Steve Hutchinson], so you're not going to get any more secure than that," Henson says.

At least Henson knows how to handle the press. In a July trade for pitcher Denny Neagle that had an impact on the pennant races in both leagues, Henson went from being the crown jewel of the New York Yankees' farm system to the crown jewel of the Cincinnati Reds'. The swap, rumored for a fortnight, put Henson at the center of a major minor league media circus. Two weeks before returning to Ann Arbor, he sat in the dugout in Huntsville, Ala., and said with a grin, "It's been a memorable summer." He'd like to make it a memorable fall.

Issue date: August 14, 2000


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