the base play
Ace: After the title game, it's time to wash the bad taste out of our mouths. Thinking back on the 1997 title team, who was your favorite player to watch other than Charles Woodson? Answer should be your choice at the time, so unless you've always been obsessed with line play I'm going to be a little skeptical if one of you answers Steve Hutchinson.
Alex Cook: I was four-and-a-half years old at the time and have no recollection of this team whatsoever. I'm going to graduate this spring / summer, so, uh, yeah 1997 was a while ago.
Seth: Dude don't forget people knew Hutchinson and Backus then. Freshman linemen were almost unheard of in recent memory, so Lloyd announcing two would start was a big part of why September expectations were for "another four-loss season."
|It's not like two freshman offensive linemen went totally unremarked, Ace.|
(The contempt with which I used to say those four words embarrasses me now).
Through that season there were Daily stories and Replay mentions about Hutchinson and Backus: going to Blimpy's for the first time, having to buy Spots for the seniors, boilerplate "pick things quickly" stuff from coaches, yada yada. However I personally read those articles a few years later in the archives, and also developed my appreciation for Rob Renes only after hitting campus in 1998 and being exposed to frat brothers and editors who worshipped him.
As my high school notebooks will attest, I was a fan of Dhani Jones. He was so fast tracking down guys wherever on the field, and always appeared around the ball, and was only a sophomore. He really stuck out in the Penn State game, and I remembered him having a ton of sacks (a Bentley lookup reveals six). And his name was Dhani, and he had a fro, and they said he was a straight-A student, and back then I believed in the student-athlete hooey a lot more. If he had played in the time of YouTube he'd be an MGo-Favorite easily.
Dhani was only marginally ahead of a bunch of that front seven. The way Keith Jackson would say "Clint Copenhaver" you thought Copenhaver was some sort of defensive god. James Hall would chase quarterbacks into their nightmares. Sam Sword and Glenn Steele because it's not enough that we destroy your offense we have to literally send guys named for medieval weaponry at you. Either of those guys would be my pick after Jones (I loved sacks).
And I liked A-Train, a big-time recruit when that was just becoming a thing, and so damn fast. When I bought my jersey freshman year it was between 7 and 32; I went with the former because Henson was my grade.
[After the jump: we loved everybody]
Dave Nasternak: So, due to odd circumstances in my personal life (and being 12...but that's only a small part of the reason), I think I only got to see about 3-4 of the games from 1997, live. But I followed in newspapers, re-watched on VHS, and had many conversations with anyone who would talk M football with me, so I was familiar with the goings-on.
|Streets was like the one guy other than Woodson making big catches downfield. So much of the rest of the passing game was Tuman or Shea getting rollouts.|
I remember watching the Colorado, Baylor, ND, and Ohio State games...and standing outside of a Ruby Tuesday in the mall, looking through a window, watching some of the Rose Bowl...much to the annoyance of the couple trying to eat dinner.
There were so many fun guys to watch on defense: Tommy Hendricks, Jones, Renes, Ray, Steele, etc. But one of the things I remember watching about that unit was how so many different guys would make plays. Ok, other than the obvious guy, big plays also came from every position on that defense. I remember as the lead in the OSU game was getting smaller and smaller, I knew somebody would make a play…and then the Steele sacks and Gold deflection, etc.
But probably the two guys who I was most intrigued by were Tai Streets and Anthony Thomas. I had only been closely following college football for a few years, at that point, but I was so blown away (and then ultimately excited) that a true freshman was playing the way A-Train was. I got a #32 jersey soon after and couldn't believe I had 3 more years of watching him.
Streets? First, his name is just awesome.Then, after M lost Hayes, Toomer, and Riemersma after '95, I was really rooting hard for him to do well because they needed a WR to step up. I was probably as happy for him as I was for any Wolverine after that Rose Bowl. While he didn't have the greatest or longest NFL career, catching two bombs for TDs in the National Championship-clinching game is tough to beat.
Adam Schnepp: I grew up in a house with a dad who doesn't understand why anyone would spend three hours watching a football game when you could spend that time reading and a mom who's a Michigan State alum.
1997 was just about the time I was getting into football, albeit Michigan State football (you can imagine how happy she is that I went to Michigan and work for a Michigan blog). At the time it would have been way easier for me to name five of the aliens in the Mos Eisley Cantina than five football players, but I knew who Charles Woodson was. It was impossible to not know who he was that year; it seemed like every kid at school had a #2 jersey.
|Somehow always open. [via Ann Arbor news]|
But to pick a second favorite? I think I have to go with Greedo.
Brian: Everyone who works for this blog is disgustingly young and I hate you.
My #2 (not that #2) was Jerame Tuman. Tuman was an actual downfield threat as a tight end and was more often than not the option on third and medium as well; other than Bennie Joppru's senior season I don't think there's been a more impactful tight end in the history of my Michigan fandom. I had not yet been exposed to the spread and learned to hate the waggle from the deepest part of my soul, and I remember Griese rolling out in the Rose Bowl to find Tuman behind everybody.
To have a running game that would be able to do that to a safety was something I took for granted. No longer, and just in time for that to be the case again.