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20 Michigan A dominating defense will keep the Wolverines in games, but their supersized running backs must also come up big

Asked to explain his offensive philosophy, Terry Malone, who was
promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator at the
end of last season, sketches out "a system that will take
advantage of our players. We are going to be a physical team, but
we have to get the ball to our playmakers." Asked who those
playmakers are, Malone laughs and says, "Good question."

That's the rub for the Wolverines. Seven starters return from the
elite defense that allowed 19.8 points and 318.4 yards per game,
both best in the Big Ten, but the loss to the graduation of
wideout Marquise Walker (86 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11
touchdowns last season) leaves an already struggling offense
without a consistent big-play threat. As a result Malone has
recast the attack and made establishing the run a priority, a
challenge for a unit that last season gained just 3.6 yards per
carry and 143.0 yards per game, eighth in the conference. "We
start with being physical, an attitude that will affect the
entire offense," Malone says. "We're going to knock people off
the ball and give our backs a chance to get up into the hole and
hit a defensive back, as opposed to trying to avoid a guy at the

Spearheading the offense will be 6'3", 228-pound senior B.J.
Askew, who rushed for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
Because of his value as a pass catcher, pass protector and lead
blocker on counters and off-tackle runs, Askew will work as the
fullback in multiple-back packages, but he'll also get touches as
a single back. At tailback 6'1", 235-pound junior Chris Perry
(495 rushing yards, two touchdowns) completes a supersized

The offense's most nagging question is at quarterback: John
Navarre was last year's starter, but the junior's poor
decision-making (he completed only 53.8% of his passes and threw
13 interceptions) and his lackluster conditioning drew criticism.
Coach Lloyd Carr has so far refrained from picking between him
and junior Spencer Brinton. "Brinton has an outstanding arm, and
he improved significantly this spring," Carr says. "I look at it
as, we have two guys who are going to compete and they'll make
each other better."

Defense won't be an issue. Senior Dan Rumishek (22 tackles, seven
sacks) and junior Shantee Orr (35 tackles, six sacks) were ends
on a line that helped produce a conference-high 50 sacks last
season, and senior linebacker Victor Hobson (80 tackles, five
sacks) excels at both blitzing and pass coverage. The focus,
then, remains squarely on the offense. Malone's ability to wring
consistent point production from a playmaker-free cast will
determine Michigan's fate. --Daniel G. Habib

COLOR PHOTO: PAUL SANCYA/AP EXPECTED TO FLY Michigan is counting on Perry (495 rushing yards in '01) to play a key role in an offense still searching for stars.


2001 RECORD: 8-4 (6-2, 2nd in Big Ten)
FINAL RANKING: No. 20 AP, No. 20 coaches' poll


Straight seasons in which the Wolverines have won their Big Ten
opener; they last dropped their first conference game in 1981.

An opposing coach's view

A lack of offensive stars has left the Wolverines vulnerable

"Quarterback John Navarre has done some good things. He's one of
the top three or four guys in the league. But his mobility is not
great, and he wasn't good at finding the secondary receiver when
he couldn't go to Marquise Walker. For that reason they're going
to miss Walker a lot.... They also lost some awfully good players
on the offensive line. That's a big factor. When it really got
down to their running the ball, we stopped them. ...The big
question this year is whether Chris Perry is the answer at

Strength: 3rd

14 at Notre Dame
28 at Illinois
19 at Purdue
26 Iowa
9 at Minnesota
23 at Ohio State