- The University of Michigan football team was represented at the 28th annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon by Head Coach Lloyd Carr
, fifth-year senior rush linebacker James Hall (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine HS)
and senior/junior left guard Steve Hutchinson (Coral Springs, Fla./Coral Springs HS)
The Wolverines were tabbed as the 1999 Big Ten Conference preseason runner-up as voted upon by the media members attending the two-day event at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. Penn State was chosen as the preseason conference favorite with Ohio State getting the third place nod.
Hall enters his final year with the Wolverines as a favorite for postseason honors after garnering 1999 preseason accolades as an All-America Second Team by the Football News and Lindy's/CBS Sportsline magazines. He gained All-America honorable mention recognition this summer by Street & Smith's Magazine and is listed as the third-best outside linebacker in the nation by Lindy's Magazine. Hall enters his third year as a starter sixth in school history with 18 sacks and having collected 131 career tackles (82 solo, 49 assists).
Hutchinson, a two-year starter at left guard, is a 1999 preseason All-America First Team selection by Football News, College Football News, Lindy's/CBS Sportsline and Athlon Sports magazines. He was selected as the nation's top offensive guard by Lindy's Magazine and as the country's top offensive lineman by College Football News. A 1999 Playboy All-America, Hutchinson is a favorite for the Outland and Lombardi trophies this season. He looks to collect All-Big Ten First Team honors for the third consecutive season.
Michigan will hold its annual Media/Photo Day on Friday, August 13. The event will begin at 10 a.m. for the public at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines open their 120th season on Saturday, Sept. 4, hosting Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium. The game will be televised by ABC Sports beginning at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
Comments from Head Coach Lloyd Carr
"It is great to be here in Chicago. I am looking forward to kicking off this 120th season of Michigan football. This is my 22nd season (20th at Michigan and two years at Illinois) in the Big Ten and I don't think I have ever seen this much balance in the conference. If you look at this past bowl season, you would know that this conference is at the very top. We have great coaches and great players in the Big Ten.
"As for the Michigan team, I expected to head into this season with one of the better kicking games that we've had at Michigan, but the summer injury to sophomore Hayden Epstein has made the kicking portion of our special teams the biggest question mark heading into the year. Epstein had surgery on his right knee and his status for the year is in doubt. There is a good possibility that he will be back but when I am uncertain. Jeff Del Verne has been very consistent and is well-liked by our players. Jeff is a four-year walk-on from Toledo, Ohio. Hayden would also have been our punter going into the fall, so we have a real question mark at that position. Cory Sargent has been injured much of his career and we will see what happens there. Drew Henson and Bill Seymour are also possibilities at punter. Marcus Knight, DiAllo Johnson and James Whitley are all coming back at the return positions. Losing Epstein was a huge blow for this team to experience.
"Defensively, I expect us to be much better than we were in 1998. We need to tackle much better and prevent the big plays that hurt us in some of our losses last year. The front seven of our defense is experienced, especially the defensive line with three-year lettermen and starters Rob Renes, Josh Williams and James Hall. Jake Frysinger and Eric Wilson have started a few games and played a lot for us during their careers. I expect Dave Petruziello to play extensively along the defensive line this year. Shawn Lazarus should also help provide excellent depth along the line. If we can stay healthy, this group will be very good.
"Our linebacking corps is led by Ian Gold and Dhani Jones. I think those two are among the finest linebackers in the country. They are not very big but they are tremendously mobile, extremely smart and very tough. Grady Brooks will be at our outside linebacker position. We have excellent depth at this position with Eric Brackins, Eric Rosel, Anthony Jordan, Larry Foote and Victor Hobson looking to provide support.
"The secondary is the uncertainty in our defense heading into the season. We have very good athletes at the position but a lot of inexperience. Tommy Hendricks leads this group as a two-year starter and three-year lettermen at safety. Hendricks is joined at safety by DeWayne Patmon, a starter from last season at free safety, and redshirt freshman Cato June who had a tremendous spring. At cornerback, James Whitley returns and Todd Howard will have an opportunity to start. David Terrell, who I feel could be a two-way player for us, saw extensive time at cornerback in the spring. Jeremy LeSueur and Brandon Williams are true freshmen that I believe could help us at the cornerback position. That is nothing new at Michigan as both Charles Woodson and Ty Law started in the secondary as true freshmen. We will look at those two players as well as redshirt freshman Julius Curry. I feel very good about the players we have in the secondary. They lack experience but they do hustle. I think the secondary will develop as the season progresses."
"Offensively, the strength of this unit will be up front on the offensive line. We have two outstanding offensive linemen in Steve Hutchinson and Jeff Backus. I think both will be up for post-season honors. We have a trio of returning starters in David Brandt, Steve Frazier and Chris Ziemann who are all upper classmen and have started a numerous positions along the offensive line. We have a veteran front with lots of experience. There are young players like Joe Denay who we feel can help us, as well as two true incoming freshmen in Tony Pape and Demeterius Solomon that have the physical potential to help us it all depends upon how they develop.
"Shawn Thompson came out of the spring with a slight edge at tight end. Bennie Joppru will also be a factor at that position. We have our first Frenchman on the squad in Deitan Dubuc, from Montreal, and I feel he is going to player that you'll see develop as the season goes on. Deitan made a lot of progress in the spring and I believe he is going to be a good football player at Michigan in the future.
"We are going to miss Tai Streets at the wide receiver position this year. He made a lot of big plays last season, about as many as we've seen any player make in a long time. DiAllo Johnson came on strong during the latter half of the season and Marcus Knight, who had an excellent 1998 season, are back along with sophomores David Terrell and Marquise Walker. David (Terrell) is going to be an impact player at wide receiver and Marquise (Walker) will be a solid player for years to come. I think we are going to have the type of wide receivers that we need in order to have the type of balance necessary to be able to move the ball and score points.
"In the backfield, Aaron Shea is one of the more versatile fullbacks in the country. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, pass protector, run blocker and runner and has the potential to be one of the best fullbacks we have ever had at Michigan. Aaron is a player we expect big things from. Evan Coleman is a sophomore who will back-up Shea at fullback. Evan received substantial player time as a freshman and will be much improved from last year. Our tailback position is not as deep currently as we would like because Justin Fargas will miss the entire season after the injury he sustained in the Wisconsin game last year. Anthony Thomas and Walter Cross will carry the load for us. I expect Anthony to become one of the best backs in the country. He has worked extremely hard in the off-season and is in the best shape of his career. Anthony understands what it takes to now be able to carry the load. Walter (Cross) had an excellent spring and very good summer. We need some help from one of the incoming true freshmen.
"The quarterback situation for us is solid. I feel we are in an enviable position. I would take this situation every single year if I could. Tom Brady did a tremendous job last year. He led us to a Big Ten title and 10 wins. He is the first Michigan quarterback since, I believe Tom Slade in 1970, to lead Michigan to a conference title in his first year as a starter. What Tom did last year can not be underplayed. He has the respect of his teammates and has worked very hard this summer. He sat on the bench for three seasons and watch and learned, and when it was his turn he stepped up and performed. Drew Henson on the other hand is tremendously talented. He has great mobility and an excellent arm. Drew is as fine a college quarterback prospect as there is. We will just have to see how this plays itself out. This is going to be a great situation and will just have to see how they perform in camp. Our team will support the guy who is named the starter and the player who is the back-up. This will be an extremely difficult decision because whoever is not named the starter will be disappointed. That is to be expected. I am confident that the back-up will understand that he will play an important role on the team. We will pull together as we expect all Michigan teams to do.
"As for the schedule, this is a typical Michigan schedule. I like this team, I like the effort and the attitude. I especially like the way they work. We will just see how things go."
Question and Answer with Coach Carr
About the schedule
"I think did a poor job of defending the option at the beginning of last season. The first four games of this season we will get the opportunity to face teams that run the option and we must defend it better. It will be a challenge for us to prepare for. If 1997 was like climbing Mt. Everest, that 1997 schedule looks like a walk in the park, compared to this seasons slate. This schedule is difficult and forces us to be prepared for every second of every game. That Syracuse game in the Carrier game on national television in primetime and then having to head to Wisconsin the following week is going to be very difficult. We like a great challenge and I think that's what we have in front of us. One of the things we talk about at Michigan is if you want to play a great schedule, big games, and in-front of a capacity crowd, you will have the opportunity at the University of Michigan."
Will the quarterback who is relegated to the back-up spot play more than last year
"We will just have to wait and see. I think when you have two players who are as capable of playing as both quarterbacks are, that you keep the second quarterback as sharp as possible because you never know what can happen during the course of the season. We will just have to wait and see how things play itself out."
About the preseason polls ranking you among the top three in the conference and top 10 nationally:
"Preseason polls mean nothing but they do create tremendous interest among the public and that's why they are positive."
How is Hayden Epstein
"His spirits are incredible. He is doing some work and is already ahead of where they probably expected him to be. Other than that, I really can't tell you much until he returns to campus next week.
About Epstein's return, if any this season How did he suffer the injury
"I think the question is when could he return. He feels very strongly that he'll be back this year. His mental attitude is a source of great strength for him. He hurt the knee during some conditioning drills. Hayden does not want to redshirt and sitting out the year is not in his thought process. We will need to see what the medical staff thinks once he returns to Ann Arbor. His doctors in San Diego have handled the rehabilitation to this point. I think his doctor has worked with athletic related injuries before with the San Diego Chargers. When he comes back to Michigan, he will be under the supervision of our doctors, so we will have to see how things progress."
Contact: David Ablauf (734) 763-4423