College football is by no means a three-man game. It takes the
effort and contributions of each player out on the field to build a
championship-caliber team. But sometimes, having a fearless
quarterback, a powerful running back and a big-time receiver could
prove to be all a team needs.
Michigan hasn’t had a dominating combination like that since
2000, the days when Drew Henson, Anthony Thomas and David Terrell
roamed the Big House field, terrorizing Michigan’s opponents in the
air and on the ground. The trio combined for more than 400 yards of
offense per game in what has been tabbed as one of Michigan’s
strongest offenses in history.
The Wolverines haven’t beaten Ohio State since that 2000 season.
In that game, Terrell caught five passes for 99 yards and scored
two touchdowns, Thomas ran for a difficult 60 yards on 29 carries
and Henson threw for 303 yards and ran for a touchdown with just
over one minute left in the fourth quarter to secure the win in
Over the past two seasons, a new Michigan trio has shown signs
of development. Can John Navarre, Chris Perry and Braylon Edwards
become Michigan’s next “magnificent three?” Each has shown flashes
of brilliance, and each has the capability to lead a starving
Michigan team to victory. Is this the year Michigan’s offense
returns to the smooth and simple style of 2000?
Probably no player has developed as much over the past three
seasons as John Navarre. Marked as a preseason Heisman Trophy
candidate, Navarre has taken major strides – and abuse – to be in a
position to lead the Wolverines.
“Development-wise, when I was young and inexperienced, I used to
try and get on by raw talent,” Navarre said. “Once I grew into the
system, I realized that there is much more than that. Once I
matched up the mental part of my game with the physical, things
started working for me, and I was able to do my job consistently
and do what’s expected of me as a Michigan quarterback.”
After his sophomore season in 2001, in which Navarre struggled
to finish with a 53 percent completion rate, many people questioned
his composure and versatility in the pocket. His decision making in
pressure situations came under fire, as did his ability to look off
receivers and read the defense well. Of course, following Drew
Henson would be difficult for any quarterback.
Last season, under the tutelage of new quarterbacks coach Scot
Loeffler, Navarre proved he had the ability and drive to improve,
as his stats increased across the board. And with Perry slowly
emerging as a solid option in the backfield, Navarre had more time
to move in the pocket and follow through on his passing
“He has been absolutely instrumental in my development in the
last two and a half years,” said Navarre of Loeffler. “We work
hard. We study film and the offense just as hard as anybody. He has
been a great help and a great friend.”
Navarre averaged 20 more passing yards per game last season,
finishing the season on a very high note in the Outback Bowl where
Michigan defeated Florida 38-30. Navarre threw for a career-high
318 yards and one touchdown in that game.
Brimming with confidence, Navarre will not only bring talent his
talent to the table this season, but experience as well.
“Navarre, make no mistake, is tough mentally, physically, and
he’s talented and smart,” Carr said. “I don’t know what else you
With the powerful offensive line Michigan could boast this
season, as well as strong performances by Edwards and Perry,
Navarre could bring the Wolverines back to the top of the Big Ten,
and possibly the nation.
There is no player whose success is more crucial to the
Wolverines this season than Chris Perry. Since the departure of
Anthony Thomas, The Wolverines have lacked any sort of a running
game, and without that option, the overall offense has suffered. In
2000, Thomas rushed for 1,733 yards – an average of 144 a game –
and scored 18 touchdowns.
But Perry is ready for a big season. Like Navarre, the running
back is coming off a solid Outback Bowl performance, where he set a
Michigan bowl record with four rushing touchdowns.
Perry says the offensive line has improved greatly over the off
season, and it will be up to him to make things happen on the
“I think the reason we can be better this year is because the
line is more experienced,” he said. “Everybody up front knows what
they are doing and I am better at reading defenses. So, it really
depends on how I run the ball.”
Perry, like Navarre and Edwards, has been both brilliant and
unstable over the past two seasons. His inability to find the holes
and make the right move led to several frustrating drives for the
Michigan offense. In the past two seasons, Perry averaged 3.8 and
4.5 yards per carry, both less than Askew’s averages for the two
seasons. But as Askew began to be used mainly as a blocker last
season, Perry emerged as the top rusher.
Carr says that Perry’s speed, strength and footwork are what set
him apart and make him an outstanding all-around football
“He’s developed into a complete football player,” Carr said.
“He’s smart, he’s very smart, and he’s competitive. He’s a big,
strong guy who has wonderful feet, and I really like him.”
Another important aspect of Perry’s game is that he understands
his role in the offense and knows what he can do for his teammates.
He says that if he can run well, it will allow Navarre and Edwards
to have outstanding seasons along with him.
“I think we are all poised for a big year,” said Perry of
Navarre, Edwards and himself. “Navarre is coming into his third
year as a starter and Braylon is coming off a great year. I’m
coming off an okay year. We are all ready to go out there and prove
once again that we are very good players.”
Braylon Edwards made thousands of Michigan fans explode out of
their seats with his uncanny ability to make the impossible catch,
and then take the ball and run another five yards. But it was these
same fans who could be heard screaming every obscene word they
could think of at Edwards when he dropped the routine balls.
The question this year is will the junior receiver become
consistent enough to make the routine catches, and continue making
the impossible look easy.
Edwards, who will now wear the heralded No. 1 jersey, has a
tough act to follow. Only five players in Michigan history have
ever worn No. 1, one of which being Terrell.
Carr said he will not hesitate to take the jersey away if
Edwards does not perform like Carr believes he can.
“My father played here, so obviously I know the Michigan
tradition,” Edwards said. “I know that Number 1 is a very
significant number. Only five people before myself wore the number,
and it is a symbol of greatness. I figured that if I wanted to
notch my name to the list, it would be a good idea. I always wanted
to wear that number.”
Edwards is also coming off a strong season and a superb Outback
Bowl performance, in which he caught four passes for 110 yards. He
had four 100-yard receiving games throughout the season.
Edwards says he has seen the most improvement in the chemistry
between him and Navarre. He says the two have been working together
to improve their awareness of each other’s movements, and they’re
starting to understand each other a lot better.
“John and I are getting on a constant page, and it’s going to be
big this year. I don’t like making comparisons, but it’s getting to
the Drew Henson/David Terrell special chemistry which is not found
all that often. This is the most in tune kind of chemistry
situation I’ve ever been in.”
If the chemistry between the two is as good as Edwards believes,
this aerial combination will prove to be Michigan’s main offensive
weapon. Secondly, it will open up room for Perry to operate in the
backfield and pick up yards on the ground.
After watching his development the past two years, Carr believes
Edwards is more focused on the mental aspect of the game and is
primed and ready to have a marvelous season for the Wolverines.
“I think he knows the offense better, so his confidence is at a
high level,” Carr said. “He’s a very competitive guy. I’ll be
disappointed if he doesn’t have an outstanding season because
certainly, at this stage, he’s prepared to do so.”