CHICAGO — Ever since he arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan quarterback John Navarre hasn’t paid much attention to the media. Unlike high school, where his father kept a scrapbook of all accolades the press gave him, Navarre hasn’t taken much stock into the intense scrutiny a Michigan quarterback receives.

“Every quarterback I’ve had has received immense criticism,” Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr said. “In the long run, you can’t be impacted. All those people very often have no idea what they’re talking about. I’ve always said that the only criticism that you have to worry about is from (Quarterback coach) Scott Loeffler and me.”

But this season, Navarre might be missing out.

Following this week’s Big Ten media event, papers across the Midwest have contained nothing but praise for the fifth-year senior. After an erratic sophomore season in which he was thrown into the starting role due to the early departure of Drew Henson, Navarre played well throughout his junior year and finished with a career-high 319 yards passing against Florida in the Outback Bowl. His performance down the stretch has led to enormous expectations. Navarre was named to the preseason All-Big Ten first team by The Sporting News and given All-America honorable mention honors from Street & Smith’s Magazine. But as usual, Navarre has worried more about his team.

“It’s stuff I can’t control, so I don’t pay attention to it,” Navarre said. “I focus on the team and the coaches.”

Although he has given individual accolades minimal thought, the 2003 campaign is a different story.

“I can remember sitting in the coaches office January 5th and saying how excited I was to start the new season,” Navarre said. “That was a new feeling for me.”

Having overcome the tough sophomore campaign, during which many media members and fans called for Navarre’s exile from Ann Arbor, the Wisconsin native really has impressed his coaches and teammates with his resiliency.

“I’m expecting him to be the leader of the team this year,” senior linebacker Carl Diggs said. “John’s been through a lot and he’s shown a lot of character. As a team, you can only look at that and be impressed. It shows that he can be our leader.”

There has even been some talk that Navarre has an outside shot at winning the Heisman if he plays to his potential. But once again, Navarre isn’t listening.

“I kind of squashed a lot of Heisman talk,” Navarre said. “I’m not looking for the hype. I want to win a championship. I want to do it for the guys around me and achieve our goals.”

Marlin Movin’: One of the biggest announcements of Wednesday’s coaches’ opening press conference was that junior Marlin Jackson will be moving from cornerback to safety. Carr approached the All-Big Ten first-team player from a season ago in the spring about switching positions so he could get the best players on the field at the same time.

“Three of the four best players on our team are Marcus Curry, Jeremy Lesueur, and Marlin Jackson, and I want them all in the game at the same time,” Carr said.

In moving to safety, Jackson will be able to make plays all over the fields instead of just locking down one side. Jackson will also line up in man coverage against spread formations.

“A lot of times he’ll still be in man coverage on the slot receiver, which in most offenses is the best receiver,” Carr said. “It’s a change, but he’s still going to be doing the things he did as corner.”

Back in form: To say that Carl Diggs’ last two off-seasons have been eventful would be an understatement. In May of 2002, Diggs was shot in the leg while walking home after a party. Last season, Diggs broke his leg during the Ohio State game. Then this week he was told by Carr that he was not going home, but that he would be attending media day in Chicago instead of Marlin Jackson because of his seniority.

“I’m just like, ‘Man, I hope nothing else happens to me,’ ” Diggs said.

The fifth-year senior is now just focusing on building upon a 63-tackle season. While a lot of the preseason media banter has centered around the offense, Diggs is part of a defensive unit that returns six starters and has a number of young players that look to contribute. Of the younger players, true freshman Prescott Burgess will likely get some time at safety, redshirt freshman Dave Harris should compete for a starting linebacker spot and fellow redshirt freshman Willis Barringer has amazed many in spring practice at cornerback.

“We’ve got a lot of playmakers,” Diggs said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can run to the ball and who can blitz real well.”

Preseason Prognosticating: Although it’s still July, it’s never too early for people to start predicting where the Wolverines will end up this fall. In a preseason media poll conducted by the Chicago Sun-Times, Michigan lost to Ohio State as the preseason favorite by one vote, 113-112. The difference? Sun-Times Northwestern beat writer Brian Hanley, who picked Michigan to finish fifth. All ten remaining beat writers had Michigan either first or second. On the national front, Michigan was ranked No. 4 in the nation by The Sporting News, Street and Smith’s, Lindy’s College Football, and Phil Steele’s College Football Preview. The Wolverines were ranked No. 10 by Athlon.

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