The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 151 "But at Michigan it's tradition for players to have their best years as seniors, and that's my goal — to be the best player I can be for my team, to help lead us to a Big Ten championship because that would be our team legacy." Chris Perry was a good player entering his senior season in 2003. The former tailback had rushed for 1,110 yards and 14 touchdowns in leading the Maize and Blue to a 10-3 record and a second-place finish in the Big Ten in 2002. He had already eclipsed 2,000 career yards when he began his final campaign, but something from his résumé was missing, and it's the same thing missing from Ryan's. "When you're younger, you get compared to former players — when I came to Michigan it was all about Anthony Thomas — and what you want, what drives you, is for the next generation of players to be compared to you, and that doesn't happen if you're just really good during your career," Perry said. "I wanted to be one of the best, not just one of the best running backs, but one of the players that Michigan fans remembered forever. And your senior year, you make it happen. "If you don't have a great senior year, it all falls on your shoulders. There are no excuses anymore. How you play, how you produce and how your team does are what will define your career." Ryan has a little more incentive, too. In his family, bragging rights are up for grabs every day. ❑ Jake Ryan has enjoyed a solid career thus far, but he doesn't belong in the conversation with Michigan's greatest linebackers yet, let alone its top defensive players. But that is not unusual for a player entering his senior year. For every Charles Woodson that was a star by the time he completed his sophomore season, there are five Jason Avants that were solid performers before a breakthrough senior year catapulted them into another stratosphere of U-M athletics. Here then are 10 former players over the last 25 years that needed a great senior year to be remembered among the best at their position. Chris Hutchinson, DL, 1989-92: Already a two-year starter entering his senior season, Hutchinson had been named first-team all-con- ference in 1991 as a member of a vaunted Maize and Blue defense that allowed only 13.6 points and 253.3 yards per game. He was the star defensively in his final season, with 11 sacks among 13 tackles for loss, at the time tying the Michigan single- season sack record on his way to earning first-team All-America honors. Glen Steele, DE, 1994-97: Steele already had a reputation as a ferocious player heading into 1997, and was productive with 17 sacks and 31 tackles for loss in three years, but he played Robin to David Bowens' Batman in 1996 — Bowens set the U-M sack re- cord with 12. In his senior year, Steele set the tone for the Michigan front seven, competing with a tenacity that was equally important to the defense's success as Woodson's playmaking in the secondary. Steele had seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss and was a first-team All-American. Brian Griese, QB, 1994-97: A former walk-on, Griese was Scott Dreis- bach's backup in 1995-96, and he started 11 games for the oft-injured QB and went 6-5. Griese was 2-0 in his career as a starter against Ohio State, but was still disregarded going into his senior season. In 1997, he completed 62.9 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and only six interceptions, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors while guiding the Wolverines to the national title and securing his legacy as one of the great leaders of all time. Marquise Walker, WR, 1998-2001: After three seasons, Walker already ranked 14th all time in receptions with 90, but classmate David Terrell had 152 catches for 2,317 yards and 23 scores, forcing Walker into the shad- ows. With Terrell an early departure, Walker stepped into the spotlight and set then-single-season school records for receptions (86) and yards (1,143) in his senior year. Larry Foote, LB, 1998-2001: Michigan's most recent first-team All- American linebacker, in 2001, Foote was inconsistent early in his career, capable of the big play — he had 17 tackles for loss in 1999-2000 — but also prone to stumbling on the routine play. In 2001, it all came together for Foote; he tied the U-M single-season record for tackles for loss with 26, including a single-game-record seven against Iowa, and had six sacks. Chris Perry, RB, 2000-03: There had already been 23 seasons in which a U-M ball carrier rushed for 1,000 yards, so when Perry hit 1,110 in 2002, with a 4.2-yard average, he received lukewarm acclaim. In 2003, he recorded eight 100-yard rushing performances in totaling 1,674 yards and 18 touchdowns, becoming the first Wolverine ever to win the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top back. Jason Avant, WR, 2002-05: Like Walker, Avant was a produc- tive receiver over his first three seasons, catching 87 balls in a complementary role to standout Braylon Edwards, but there were questions whether he could be a true No. 1. In 2005, without help — true freshman Mario Manningham was second on the team with 27 grabs — Avant dominated, re- cording 82 of the wideouts' 159 receptions (51.6 percent) in ce- menting his place with an All-Big Ten campaign. David Harris, LB, 2003-06: Battling back from an ACL injury that knocked him out in 2003 and limited him in 2004, Harris started 11 games at middle line- backer in 2005, but was consid- ered average. In his senior year, he shucked that label, serving as the anchor of Michigan's best defense since 1997, accumulating 16 tackles for loss among 103 stops — the school's first 100-tackle season since 1998 — in earning first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-America honors. Leon Hall, CB, 2003-06: Hall started 10 games his first two seasons and became a permanent starter in 2005, recording four picks and five passes broken up, but he had not established himself as a shutdown corner that quarterbacks should stay away from. In his senior year, Hall tied single-season records for passes broken up (18) and passes defended (21) in garnering first-team All-Big Ten and All-America honors. Jeremy Gallon, WR, 2010-13: Prior to 2013, Gallon probably ranked outside the Wolverines' top 20 receivers all time, and perhaps rightly so — his 84 catches (27th) 1,331 yards (24th) and eight touchdowns (28th) all ranked outside the mark. With a record-setting senior season in which he totaled more yards (1,373) than any other U-M receiver, and the second-most catches (89), Gallon is now in the discussion of the 10 greatest wideouts of all time at Michigan. — Michael Spath Ten Wolverines That Went From Good To Great Linebacker David Harris racked up 103 tackles (16 for loss) as a senior en route to first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-America accolades. PHOTO BY WOLVERINE PHOTO 148-151.Jake Ryan.indd 151 6/19/14 1:35 PM

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