SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Michigan Wolverines

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Lloyd Carr (9th year, 76-24)
2002 record: 10-3 (Beat Florida 38-30 in Outback Bowl)
Big Ten finish: 3rd
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 148.4 ypg
(9th in Big Ten, 59th in nation)
Pass: 232.8 ypg (4th, 44th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 123.2 ypg (5th, 31st)
Pass: 224.5 ypg (8th, 69th)
Projected Starters
Offense (6 returning starters in bold)
WR  Jason Avant  So. 
WR   1   Braylon Edwards   Jr.  
LT  79  Adam Stenavich  So. 
LG   75   David Baas   Jr.  
C   57   Dave Pearson   Sr.  
RG  67  Matt Lentz  So. 
RT   77   Tony Pape   Sr.  
TE  88  Tim Massaquoi  So. 
QB   16   John Navarre   Sr.  
TB   23   Chris Perry   Sr.  
FB  32  Kevin Dudley  Jr. 
Defense (5)
DE   13   Larry Stevens   Sr.  
DT   60   Grant Bowman   Sr.  
DT  90  Norman Heuer  Sr. 
DE  95  Alain Kashama  Sr. 
OLB  58  Roy Manning  Jr. 
ILB   43   Carl Diggs   Sr.  
ILB  36  Scott McClintock  So. 
CB   3   Marlin Jackson   Jr.  
CB   21   Jeremy LeSueur   Sr.  
SS  22  Jon Shaw  Sr. 
FS  25  Ernest Shazor  So. 
Special Teams
39  Adam Finley  Jr. 
39  Adam Finley  Jr. 
KR  21  Jeremy LeSueur  Sr. 
PR  15  Steve Breaston  Fr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  Central Michigan 
Sept. 6  Houston 
Sept. 13  Notre Dame 
Sept. 20  at Oregon 
Sept. 27  Indiana 
Oct. 4  at Iowa 
Oct. 11  at Minnesota 
Oct. 18  Illinois 
Oct. 25  Purdue 
Nov. 1  at Michigan State 
Nov. 15  at Northwestern 
Nov. 22  Ohio State 
Finishing third in the Big Ten was painful enough. Watching a sea of Scarlet and Gray pour onto the field in Tempe to celebrate a national championship made the 2002 season almost unbearable for Michigan.

An Outback Bowl victory over Florida could not erase the disappointment of failing for the fifth consecutive season to reach the Rose Bowl or the national title game, but there are legitimate reasons to believe that the drought could end. An offense that averaged 27.8 points last season should be even more formidable. Michigan's top quarterback, running back and wide receiver return, along with four-fifths of the offensive line.

Despite the presence of star junior cornerback Marlin Jackson and five other returning starters, the defense has plenty of question marks at linebacker and safety. If the offense plays to its potential, those defensive concerns will dissipate.

Anything less than a trip to a Bowl Championship Series venue will be regarded as a failure.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

For the first time, senior quarterback John Navarre comes into camp as the unquestioned leader of the offense. Coming off a season in which he threw 21 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions, Navarre could be the Big Ten's premier player at his position.

Tailback Chris Perry, a shifty and powerful runner who lacks breakaway speed, may have to carry even more of the load. A change-of-pace back would make the running attack more effective, but the Wolverines may not have one.

The receiving corps is the strongest and deepest unit on the team despite the departure of starter Ronald Bellamy. Braylon Edwards drops a few too many, but he's tall, physical and makes big plays. Sophomore Jason Avant and redshirt freshmen Carl Tabb and Steve Breaston are poised to make an impact. Former wideout Tim Massaquoi has the tough task of replacing Bennie Joppru, whose 53 receptions ranked third among all Division I-A tight ends.

A pair of All-Big Ten first team selections, tackle Tony Pape and guard David Baas, anchor one of the nation's best offensive lines.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Starting linebackers Carl Diggs and Zach Kaufman are coming off season-ending injuries and missed spring practice. The outside linebacker spot vacated by co-captain and leading tackler Vic Hobson might be filled by true freshman LaMarr Woodley.

The defensive line is solid, though Shantee Orr's early departure to the NFL hurts a pass rush that has led the Big Ten in sacks the past two seasons. Tackle Grant Bowman, who has fought through an assortment of injuries, is a superior pass rusher. Norman Heuer and Larry Stevens are steady, experienced performers.

Jackson, who set a school record for pass breakups as a sophomore, is an ideal building block for any secondary. Senior Jon Shaw and sophomore Ernest Shazor, a special teams demon, are the top candidates to start at safety.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Michigan's kicking game was a running joke until Adam Finley made 7-of-10 field goals late in the season. Whether Finley, who has had surgery on both knees, can handle the stress of punting and placekicking over a full season is a legitimate concern.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Michigan's offense got bogged down against the three best defenses it faced -- Notre Dame's, Iowa's and Ohio State's. That cannot happen this year, because the defense will have to fill holes with underclassmen. Navarre has to display continued progress after a strong junior year. New passing threats to replace Joppru and fullback B.J. Askew and another running option to complement Perry must emerge.

Defensively, a steady playmaker must be unearthed to replace Hobson, and a banged-up linebacker corps has to get healthy by opening day. A favorable schedule, with Penn State and Wisconsin replaced by Northwestern and Indiana, sets the Wolverines up to challenge Ohio State for Big Ten supremacy. If they can survive early tests against Notre Dame and Oregon, the Wolverines could be Sugar Bowl-bound.

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