Defending the defender
Michigan's Carr: 'Compelling evidence' supports JacksonPosted: Saturday August 09, 2003 7:42 PM
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- No matter how Marlin Jackson's off-the-field legal issues are resolved, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr made it clear Saturday that he does not intend to let them distract his team as it prepares to start a new season.
Speaking Saturday during the Wolverines' annual media day, Carr rose to the defense of his star defensive player, saying he will not pass judgment on Jackson until the courts do.
Jackson last week stood mute on charges that he smashed another man in the face with a glass bottle earlier this summer outside a party in Ann Arbor.
The 20-year-old faces a felony charge of assault with a dangerous weapon, which is punishable by up to four years in prison. His preliminary hearing in Washtenaw County's 15th District Court is scheduled Wednesday.
Jackson said Saturday he could not comment on the incident, but Carr did.
"What I do know, what Marlin has told me, is that, number one, he did not initiate the confrontation and, number two, and in my judgment the most critical issue, is that he is adamant he did not use or have possession of a bottle or any kind of an object," the coach said.
"I think there is compelling evidence that supports his position. That's where we are," Carr said. "He is practicing. I will continue to let this situation play its way through the justice system and then we will see how it resolves itself. And at that time, then I will make some decisions as far as his status on the team.
"I am not going to get into talking about what-ifs. There has been enough of that."
Jackson earned All-Big Ten and All-America honors last season and is a preseason candidate for the Thorpe Award that is given to the nation's top collegiate defensive back. He made headlines of a different sort in July when Carr announced that his move from cornerback to safety would be permanent.
"Moving Marlin give us the advantage of putting our 11 best players on the field," Carr said. "It also gets Marlin closer to the football. He has a great knack for making plays, based on what we've seen, so it allows us to do some things."
Since the 1997 national championship season, high preseason expectations for the Wolverines typically have fallen on the defense. As Michigan proved that season and Ohio State did last year, a stingy defense is a great equalizer in the run to a championship.
It's slightly different this season for the Wolverines. Because of experience at the skill positions and along the line, the onus will be on the offense to set the tone, particularly early in the season.
"We have the nucleus of what we think can be a very good football team," Carr said.
He was talking primarily about the offense, because that's where most of Michigan's marquee talent is playing, from quarterback John Navarre to tailback Chris Perry to wide receiver Braylon Edwards to a battle-tested offensive line.
And, while there are still questions to be addressed at tight end and fullback, the offense appears to have the talent and balance to be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
So, for a change, the defense starts the season being overshadowed by the offense. That suits Michigan's defenders just fine.
"People look at us and they see a lot of young guys, but we know what we can do," third-year sophomore outside linebacker Pierre Woods said. "Every guy on this defense can run. I know this: We're going to have a faster defense. We're going to be aggressive. It's fun, and we're all enjoying it."
The defense won't be completely off the hook. Though the veteran line has depth to spare, the Wolverines graduated three safeties and their most dependable and productive linebacker, Victor Hobson. The linebacking corps is a concern, too, because it is a young group and because it was hit hard last season by injuries.
"We do have guys who can run at every position, but it would be a bigger deal if we were talking about a track team," defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann said. "You have to tackle to play defense. We have to find the guys who can."