At the annual spring game this Saturday, the Michigan defense made it clear that it was the team”s dominant half for the upcoming season. The defense of both the home and the visiting teams pestered the opposing offenses, causing a combined eight turnovers seven of which were interceptions.
“I love turnovers, as long as it”s our defense making them,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “If there is any place where the improvement has been more noticeable than any other, it is in the secondary.”
The aggressive defensive play set-up two of the scoring drives in the 21-7 visiting team victory. Sophomores Julius Curry and Brandon Williams each recorded two interceptions, while junior Tad Van Pelt and sophomores Emmanuel Casseus and Jeremy LaSueur picked off the other three.
“Our cornerbacks are much improved, and they should be because they all have experience,” Carr said. “Overall this spring, the defense was around the ball much better.”
The secondary took advantage of starting quarterbacks John Navarre, who led the visiting team, and Jermaine Gonzales, who led the home team, for two and four interceptions, respectively.
“That was the most disappointing thing the number of turnovers. When you have young quarterbacks, that is going to happen,” Carr said.
Navarre who started three games in the place of Drew Henson last season is expected to take Henson”s place again as the starting quarterback for the 2001-02 season and has learned from his experience last season.
“Last year helped me tremendously in preparation,” for this season, Navarre said. “Last year you didn”t know what to expect everything was new. You can prepare differently if you know what to expect.”
Gonzales gave the Michigan offense a more mobile option, but his lack of arm strength and experience showed in the scrimmage. Gonzales wowed the 15,000 fans in attendance with his scrambling ability and also showed he can take punishment as Carr had him run the option multiple times.
Sophomore Ron Bellamy was held in check by the Michigan secondary and by the more run-oriented home team, but expects to take the place of early-entry David Terrell.
“That”s why we come here to wait your turn to step up and play and that”s what is going to be expected of me this year,” Bellamy said.
The running game was stuffed for the most part by the defense, but freshman Chris Perry had a long run, which was capped off by him knocking senior P.J. Cwayna over and out of bounds. Perry also had a three-yard touchdown run.
Sophomore B.J. Askew played well as the running back for the visiting team and benefited from a well-executed fullback screen a Michigan staple that went for over 20 yards.
“To be successful you have to be able to run the football and you have to be able to pass it,” Carr said. “When you”re one dimensional, you get in trouble.”
The scrimmage gave Carr and the rest of the coaching staff an opportunity to see what needs to be improved before the season. Many of the Wolverines were also excited to get back on to the field briefly before they spend the rest of the summer conditioning in preparation for this fall.
“(Being) in front of all of the fans is exciting they get a chance to see what the 2001 team is going to look like,” Bellamy said.