At last week’s press conference, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr
deemed the Wolverines’ punt coverage a “work in progress.”

Janna Hutz
Michigan punt returner and receiver Steve Breaston carries the ball to the enzone on a reverse aided by a block from John Navarre. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily)

But after keeping dangerous Purdue punt returner Anthony
Chambers under wraps Saturday, the Michigan punt team appears to be
progressing rather quickly.

The Wolverines held Chambers, who was averaging 13.5 yards per
return entering Saturday’s game, to just 38 yards on five
returns.

“We’ve gone through a lot of different situations, and we’re
trying to sure up different things,” said Michigan punter Adam
Finley, who averaged 43.7 yards per punt and pinned the
Boilermakers inside their 20-yard line four times. “We’re trying to
come back now and carry it through the rest of the season.”

The Wolverines’ punt team became the team’s most scrutinized
unit after allowing a punt to be blocked in the Wolverines’ losses
to Iowa and Oregon. Fans and media questioned the punt formation
Michigan used at Iowa, in which three offensive linemen lined up in
the backfield a few yards in front of kicker-turned-punter Garrett
Rivas.

Less than a week after the special teams’ debacle at Iowa,
Michigan special teams coach Jim Boccher didn’t make the trip to
Minnesota due to “personal reasons.”

So what’s changed the past two weeks? The Wolverines dropped the
new punt formation and went back to the traditional formation they
used last season. Past special teams phenoms Pierre Woods and
Ernest Shazor played on the punt team against Purdue, showing
Carr’s commitment to correcting the Wolverines’ problems on special
teams. Also, wide receiver Carl Tabb’s speed on the unit forced
Chambers to make quick decisions with the ball.

“We’re working hard,” Carr said last week. “Every guy is
hustling down there. Every week, we’re just trying to get a little
bit better. Obviously, we have some room for improvement.”

Marlin’s ready: Michigan safety Marlin Jackson didn’t play for
the second straight week due to a muscle pull in his right leg that
he suffered against Minnesota. But Jackson said that he could have
played a minimal number of snaps Saturday.

“I hoped to play,” Jackson said. “It was a game-time decision.
We decided that if they needed me, I could go out there, but if you
watched the game, they had it in hand.”

Jackson said it was hard to watch the defense play without him,
even though the Wolverines played so well.

“I don’t like to watch anything,” Jackson said. “I’m too
competitive. I just wanted to run out on the field and play with
those guys.”

Golden-armed Navarre?: Michigan quarterback John Navarre
is one of seven finalists for the 2003 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm
Award, presented annually to the nation’s best senior
quarterback.

Navarre is joined by Tulane’s J.P. Losman, Mississippi’s Eli
Manning, North Carolina State’s Philip Rivers, Virginia’s Matt
Schaub, Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons and Oklahoma’s Jason White as
finalists for the award.

Navarre has completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 2,271
yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Injury update: Woods limped off the field Saturday, but
after the game, indicated that he was fine and would be ready for
next week’s game … Defensive end Jeremy Van Alstyne returned to
action after sitting out the past three games with a knee injury
… Safety Jacob Stewart, who left the Illinois game with an
apparent knee injury, said his goal is to return by the
Northwestern or Ohio State game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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