ANN ARBOR - Scramble the fighters, contact the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and man the anti-aircraft batteries - Michigan's defense is out there somewhere, flying around undetected.
While the Wolverines have been tagged as the favorite in the Big Ten and ranked in the top five in the country based almost solely on their significant offensive prowess, those other guys who will take the field Saturday for the season opener against Appalachian State have drawn scant mention.
And if they don't yet warrant even a blip on the college football big screen, then that anonymity suits them just fine.
"I like being under the radar," defensive end Tim Jamison said. "No one is upset about it."
The Michigan defense was hit hard following last season, losing a half dozen players to the NFL - LaMarr Woodley, Leon Hall, David Harris, Prescott Burgess, Alan Branch and Rondell Biggs. Plundering that much talent from one side of the ball could reduce expectations to a whimper.
"Stuff like that happens when you lose a lot of players, like we did. Of course people are going to bring up doubts about the next year's team. But we're excited and I'm very confident about the defense," Jamison said.
That brings us back to that defense ducking under the old acronym radar - radio detection and ranging. Not many outside the program can get a precise reading on Michigan's rebuilt defense, its range, direction, or speed.
"Last year the offense was under the radar, this year the defense is under the radar," defensive tackle Terrance Taylor said. "It's a new year, a new team. We've lost some guys. We're not going to compare ourselves to last year's team because we can't. We haven't done anything yet."
Cornerback Morgan Trent, who along with safety Jamar Adams represent the bulk of the experience in the secondary, said a couple of four-year starterslike quarterback Chad Henne and tailback Mike Hart deserve the spotlight, along with the rest of the loaded Michigan offense. Trent is comfortable with the low altitude, no attitude, defense.
"All the focus is on them, so we're sliding under the radar," Trent said. "In a way, I think it's great. It's great that we have an offense out there that will put points on the board. That makes our job easier as well."
Adams, a senior from North Carolina, said every member of the Wolverines' defense came into spring practice knowing a wealth of talent was gone, but that ample skill remained. With only four starters back, Adams said everyone has to prove themselves anew.
"It is important to know that anytime leaders are lost, leaders have to be gained," Adams said. "This is Michigan, and we have expectations. It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter if you backed up an NFL draft pick last year or not, you still have to go out there and perform at a high level."
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said a couple weeks of pre-season camp convinced him that his defense was on the right path.
"I think they've come together," Carr said. "I think it's a group of guys that are highly motivated. Throughout the course of this fall I've been satisfied with the way they have played, the way they have practiced, and I like the guys on the defense."
Michigan senior offensive lineman Adam Kraus, who gets to work against that defense every day in practice, said he has no doubts about the ability of Jamison, Taylor, Will Johnson and Brandon Graham along the defensive front.
"That defensive line has a lot of talent," Kraus said. "Those are great players - guys who can play anywhere in the country. It's Michigan and the bar is set high here, and we need people to step up every year, and it always happens. I think the young guys are going to show what they have and I think we will be just fine."
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