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."
To view this article in its entirety, along with non-conference previews,
analysis of and player comments on the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, an X's and O's
segment on the spread attack, and much much more...pick up the August edition
of GoBlueWolverine on your local newsstand next month. Or just sign up here!