How do you replace a superstar? The elite programs in the country often face that question, and the Michigan Wolverines will be doing so this year. For the past three seasons Braylon Edwards roamed the outside for the Maize and Blue…out-leaping and outrunning defenders on his way to becoming the most prolific pass catcher in Michigan history. He was a physical mismatch for almost every defensive back he faced, and he also played a very large role in easing Chad Henne's transition into his role as the starting quarterback in his true freshman campaign. No single player on Michigan's roster can bring to the offense what Edwards did, but two veteran wideouts insist that the unit as a whole can pick up right where #1 left off..
Trying to convince Jason Avant that the passing game will not be as productive this year is an exercise in futility. The senior from Chicago is extremely confident in both his own abilities and those of teammate Steve Breaston. "We expect to go out, play hard, and be the best wide receiving group in the country," Avant said. "That's what we expect here at Michigan. We have the talent. I don't think our offense is going to change too much. We're still going to have big play ability. We've got a guy that can catch the ball and get up the field. I'd say there are going to be a lot more big yardage plays on yards after the catch this year."
When Breaston was told his fellow receiver thought that he could be the best pass-catchers in the country, the western Pennsylvania native shifted the focus back to the corps as a whole. "J is good in his own right," Breaston said of Avant. "He is a talented player. The same can be said about him. I think he is just setting that bar high. We're always trying to reach it. The whole wide receiving unit has potential. That's just potential though. We've just got to go out there and keep competing and keep getting better. I know J has a lot of confidence in this unit and I have a lot of confidence in it too. As long as we keep competing we can reach our goals."
Both Avant and Breaston arrived in Ann Arbor as heralded recruits and have shown flashes of brilliance throughout their careers. Avant's one-handed touchdown grab versus Northwestern in 2003 and Breaston's scintillating Rose Bowl performance last season are shining examples of what each player is capable of. Unfortunately, the injury bug has been unkind to them over the years, even sidelining them on a few occasions.. Leg and hand injuries hindered Breaston in his first two springs as a Wolverine and a pre-season stress fracture last year slowed him until the final few games. Avant has experienced similar bad luck, missing the bulk of the Ohio State game in 2003 and the Rose Bowl last year with leg injuries.
Those setbacks were obviously discouraging, but for Breaston, the team's accomplishments quell the disappointment. "I still enjoyed the season," Breaston said regarding last year. "I had an injury, but the things we accomplished and what we did through the whole season…the games like Michigan State…when you're a player, you watch those type of games and you're just so happy that you're a part of that. All the coaches asked me to do was go out there, play hard, and play my role. I felt I did that. We have two straight Big Ten Championships. I felt good about last season. I'm not going to hang my head down. An injury is an injury. I can't control that. It could happen this year. I'm just going to do what I can do and whatever comes, comes."
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