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14. Michigan

Damn Yankees made the Wolverines' uphill struggle on offense an even steeper test

By Kelley King

 
Enemy Lines
An opposing team's coach sizes up the Wolverines

"Their secondary might be as talented as any in the country, and Todd Howard is as good a hitter as any cornerback. ... Two of their linebackers, Eric Brackins and Larry Foote , are physical and fast, and now they're experienced seniors. ... The defensive line is young, but I know the coaches are making it a priority to get it ready. ... Michigan will miss wideout David Terrell , but not as much as they're going to miss some of the bigger guys from last year's huge offensive line."

Sports Illustrated Expecting little more than another stomach-churning spring practice, junior wideout Ronald Bellamy strolled into the Michigan locker room on March 24 to find starting quarterback Drew Henson cleaning out his locker. The rumors were true: Henson, who had led Michigan to a share of the Big Ten championship in 2000, was bolting to the New York Yankees' organization for $17 million and the opportunity to become a big-league third baseman. Oh, man, thought Bellamy, now what are we going to do?

Henson's adieu was the final episode in a soap opera of an off-season for the Wolverines. In January wideout David Terrell had announced that he was forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft, joining Michigan's alltime rushing leader, Anthony Thomas, and four offensive linemen who had used up their eligibility.

The decimated offense now falls heir to sophomore quarterback John Navarre, who started the first four games of last season while Henson was sidelined with a broken right foot. Against Bowling Green and Rice the 6'6", 242-pound Navarre showed great potential, throwing seven touchdown passes and no interceptions. Savvier defenses, however, flustered him. A week after completing only eight of 28 passes in a 23-20 loss to UCLA, he was operating with a 14-7 second-quarter deficit against Illinois when Henson replaced him. Henson jump-started a 35-31 victory, and Navarre got limited playing time the rest of the year. "That was just a taste," says Navarre of his brief stay in the limelight. "This [season] is the whole meal."

He'll have slim pickings without Terrell and Thomas. In their absence, Michigan will turn to sophomore tailback Chris Perry, who rushed for 417 yards on 77 carries last year, and the receiving tandem of Bellamy and senior Marquise Walker. "I expect," says coach Lloyd Carr, "that the offense will get better as the season goes along."

Navarre, who heartened Bellamy and others with a near-flawless practice on the Saturday that Henson made his exit, has been logging extra hours with his receivers to help expedite that process. "Coming out of high school [in Cudahy, Wis., where he was the state's top-ranked quarterback in 1998], I expected to play right away," says Navarre. "Now it's time, and I plan to be ready."

Issue date: August 13, 2001


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