Michigan joins the ``Quarterback U'' conversation

Updated: August 23, 2005, 2:34 PM ET
Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Bo Schembechler thought he had the perfect pitch for Rick Mirer.

The former Michigan coach was recruiting Mirer at the quarterback's Indiana home on a Monday in 1988 -- the same night former Wolverines quarterback Jim Harbaugh was making his first NFL start.

What better way for Schembechler to show Mirer that Ann Arbor was the place for him.

"As Bo was sitting in Mirer's living room, Dan Dierdorf, a Michigan man, points out on the air that no Michigan quarterback has thrown an NFL touchdown pass," Jim Harbaugh's father, Jack, recalled. "Bo was taken aback at the time, and didn't really know what to say."

Mirer ended up at Notre Dame and the Wolverines wound up with Elvis Grbac, one of seven Michigan quarterbacks to start in the NFL over the past 17 years.

Three yards and a cloud of dust isn't the Wolverines' way anymore. With Tom Brady leading the charge, Michigan's become the new Quarterback U.

In the 1980s, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde helped earn Miami the moniker of Quarterback U. But since 1988, Michigan has produced the same number of starting NFL quarterbacks as the Hurricanes.

Five Wolverines quarterbacks are currently on NFL rosters -- more than any other school, and three more than Miami -- according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Brady has been the most successful, winning two Super Bowl MVPs with New England. But he had to compete with Dallas' Drew Henson for playing time when he was in college.

"I was so nervous to go out to practice because I was competing every day. I swear to God, I would lose sleep," Brady said. "I'd wake up and check the weather to see how windy it was going to be because I knew I was going out there and throwing. You'd learn valuable lessons about competition, and I approached every day in practice like it really was the game."

Tampa Bay's Brian Griese, Kansas City's Todd Collins and Arizona's John Navarre are the other Michigan QBs in the NFL.

The current quarterback for the nation's winningest college football program has a chance to be its best yet.

Chad Henne tied Grbac's school record with 25 touchdown passes last year when he became the first freshman to start every game at quarterback for Michigan and the first to lead a Big Ten team to a conference title.

"Our players embraced him and Chad gets most of the credit for that because of the way he handled the pressure of the job and the praise he got for doing it," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "But (quarterbacks coach) Scot Loeffler did a great job of helping him get better every day and (offensive coordinator) Terry Malone did a great job of giving him things he could handle, not overloading him."

Henne estimates he knew less than 50 percent of Michigan's playbook last season when he completed 60 percent of his passes, threw a TD in every game and averaged only one interception per game.

"They'd give me a play and I'd run the play," he said. "This year, I know why we're going to run the play and what defenses are giving us and what we're going to try to do against it."

It also helps Henne to have plenty of playmakers at his disposal and a solid line providing ample protection.

With the loss of Braylon Edwards, the No. 3 overall NFL draft pick, Henne will spread the ball around to receivers Jason Avant and Steve Breaston and tight ends Tim Massaquoi and Tyler Ecker. And it's not like Michigan has abandoned the running game. Mike Hart led the Big Ten in rushing as a freshman last season.

"Watch out for Chad, he's going to be real dangerous this year," Hart said. "He'll read a lot of defenses. You won't see him passing to one receiver all the time. You're going to see a lot of receivers getting the ball."

When Schembechler returned Michigan to prominence in the 1970s, quarterbacks didn't throw much. The Wolverines and rival Ohio State dominated the Big Ten with "3 yards and a cloud of dust" game plans.

"Bo started to adapt from an option-based offense to more of a balanced attack when he had John Wangler at QB and Anthony Carter at receiver in the early '80s, and I benefited from that greatly," said Jim Harbaugh, now the head coach at the University of San Diego. "Once quarterbacks saw that they would have a chance to throw the ball, the best started going to Michigan from all over the country."

While Mirer chose to follow the likes of Joe Montana and Joe Theisman at Notre Dame, Henne was easily wooed by Michigan's new QB legacy.

"With all the tradition, you want to come here," Henne said. "They've produced great quarterbacks, so that was a big factor."

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AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman in Foxboro, Mass., contributed to this report.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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