Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Derricotte still holds a special place in his heart for Wolverine kick returners. He considers himself a big fan of Breaston and believes, if given the chance, former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson could have been one of the best punt returners in Michigan history. "If you gave Denard a sliver of space, he'd be gone," Derricotte said, laughing. "I wasn't that fast. I used my blockers and manipulated my way back and forth across the field, up and down. "We have had some good punt returners at Michigan. And it always takes blocking. Not much has changed since my days." The Rare Kickoff Touchdown Charles Woodson's 78-yard punt return for a touchdown versus Ohio State in 1997 helped the Wolverines secure a bid to the Rose Bowl and an eventual national title. photo by per kjeldsen Top Five Most Memorable Punt Returns In U-M History 1. Desmond Howard vs. Ohio State, 1991: "Goodbye … Hello Heisman!" exclaimed legendary announcer Keith Jackson. Perhaps a little too eager, Howard fielded a Buckeye punt at his own 7-yard line. But after shimmying a few tacklers, Howard showed his decision was golden. He raced up the Ohio State sideline, scorching past Buckeye defenders to the end zone, where he famously struck the Heisman pose — and he won the trophy a few short weeks later. The punt return was part of a 35-3 romp over the Buckeyes and is still one of the most famous Michigan plays ever. 2. Charles Woodson vs. Ohio State, 1997: A Disney movie couldn't have scripted it better. Six years after Howard lit up the Ohio State sideline with his Heisman-clinching punt return, Woodson recreated the feat, slipping a tackle and sprinting home free for a 78-yard touchdown in a tight 20-14 win over the Buckeyes, securing a Heisman Trophy of his own. The win capped a perfect 11-0 regular season, and the Wolverines went on to beat Washington State in the Rose Bowl en route to the program's first national title since 1948. 3. Amani Toomer vs. Illinois, 1994: On the 60th anniversary of Illini back Red Grange's historic 212-yard performance against Michigan, the two teams battled to a defensive stalemate. Illinois, which came into the game boasting the second-ranked defense in the country, kept the Wolverine offense out of the end zone all afternoon. Toomer sparked the team with a game-clinching 72-yard punt return touchdown in the third quarter, helping to build a 19-7 lead. Illinois fought back, but the Wolverines held on to win 19-14, on Toomer's play and four field goals. 4. Steve Breaston vs. Indiana, 2006: Talk about flat-out speed. Up 21-3 with 12 minutes to go in the third quarter, Michigan put the final nail in the Hoosier coffin, when Breaston backpedaled to receive a solid punt at the 17-yard line. Breaston took off, split two defenders, cut to the right sideline and followed a lane of blockers. He raced past the last defender with a legitimate chance to tackle him at the 50-yard line — and it was pay dirt from there. The 34-3 win insured the Wolverines would remain undefeated for the next week's No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown at Ohio State. 5. Darrell Harper vs. Minnesota, 1959: In late October, the Wolverines were 1-3 and had lost six straight Big Ten games, stretching back to the 1958 season. They needed a win. Late in the third quarter, with the score knotted at 0-0, Harper caught a high, deep punt on his own 17-yard line, followed his blockers and raced 83 yards for a momentum-building touchdown, stunning the Minnesota crowd. The Wolverines scored again two minutes later, holding on for a 14-6 victory. Michigan built on the win, going 3-2 down the stretch, including a 23-14 defeat of Ohio State. 62  ■  The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview In 134 years of football, there are just 13 recorded instances of Wolverine touchdowns on kickoff returns (records of the very early days are incomplete). That averages out to one every 10.3 years. In 1906, John Garrels tallied the first known Michigan kickoff return score in a 28-9 win over Illinois. Since then, Tom Harmon (1940), Chuck Ortmann (1949), Dennis Fitzgerald (1960), Dave Raimey (1961), Gil Chapman (1972), Tony Boles (1989), Desmond Howard (1990 and 1991), Tyrone Wheatley (1992), Seth Smith (1994), Steve Breaston (2005) and Darryl Stonum (2009) are the only players who have joined one of the most elite statistical clubs in the Michigan record book. Howard, the 1991 Heisman Trophy Winner, is the lone Wolverine to tally multiple kickoff return touchdowns. Former running back Jamie Morris (198487) never broke a big one, but he was one of the most reliable kickoff returners in recent history. In his four years — during which he set the Michigan rushing record with 4,393 yards (Mike Hart's 5,040 from 2004-07 is now the record) — Morris was also the Wolverines' No. 1 option on kickoff returns. Morris currently ranks sixth in program history in returns (52) and yards (1,052), averaging 20.2 yards per return. Morris still holds the program record for career all-purpose yards (6,201). As a freshman in 1984, Morris was the starting kickoff returner from day one. When he took over as the starting tailback midway through the season, he convinced Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler to let him retain his special teams duties. "You get that first kick, and you get rid of the butterflies," Morris said. "I liked doing kickoffs, because you could jump right into the game. You want to come out and set the tone right away. I never wanted to let that go. "You want to keep everyone fresh, but special teams is important, too. It's about ball control. The guy who was carrying the

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