All-America offensive tackle John Elliott (6'7", 306 pounds) is so huge and tailback Jamie Morris (5'7", 183) is so tiny that Michigan's opponents will feel they are chasing a weasel darting from behind a snowplow. Morris averaged 17 carries and 90.5 yards a game last season and, says coach Bo Schembechler, "We're going to run Morris more than ever. He's a strong little devil."
Indeed he is, with a 300-pound bench press and an impressive pedigree: Dad is a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, and brother Joe helped the Giants win the Super Bowl last January. Jamie has been the Wolverines' leading ground gainer the last three years. A third thousand-yard season in 1987 would make Morris the first Michigan back ever to accomplish that feat and would go a long way toward alerting the NFL that another Morris runt—Joe is all of 5'7", 195 pounds—is on the way.
Morris's goals are to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, beat Ohio State and return to the Rose Bowl to avenge last season's 22-15 loss to Arizona State. First things first, though, which means retuning a team that has lost six offensive and five defensive starters from last year's Big Ten cochamps. Trickiest to replace will be quarterback Jim Harbaugh and defensive backs Garland Rivers, Ivan Hicks and Tony Gant.
The defensive back shuffle probably will go smoothly—everybody knows how to cover and hit on Bo's teams—but the new quarterback could find himself in some hot water with a coach who dislikes turnovers as much as Mr. T hates trees. Until someone proves he can lead, hold on to the ball and please Schembechler, the spot is wide open.
The three candidates are fifth-year senior Chris Zurbrugg, who started the last six games of 1984; junior Michael Taylor, a master of the option offense; and junior Demetrius Brown, a fine passer and outstanding athlete who sometimes makes big mistakes. "I may announce the starter five minutes before kickoff of the opening game," says Bo. "I did that with Rick Leach."
The defense should be fierce, with All-Big Ten tackle Mark Messner on one side and fifth-year senior Dave Folkertsma on the other. They'll get help from veteran inside linebacker Andree McIntyre. A hole in the line opened up this summer, though, when superquick junior tackle Brent White underwent knee surgery after an auto accident. He is not expected to return this season.
But it is the blocking of Elliott and his 280-pound pals, tackle Mike Husar and center John Vitale, that could make or break Michigan, which averaged more than 49 rushes per game last season. Says Morris cheerfully, "Those big guys keep the defenders up high, but to get me they have to go really low. Sometimes they'll say things like, 'Hey, I can't see you! Stand up!' "
One person who gets particularly upset with Morris is archenemy Chris Spielman of Ohio State. Last season Morris rushed for a career-high 210 yards against OSU in Michigan's 26-24 win. "I carried 29 times, and I think Chris made 28 tackles on me," says Morris. "I'd smile at him, but he always kept a straight face. He'd say, 'What's the matter with you?' And I'd say, 'I'm just a happy guy.' "
Happy and ready to run for the roses.