Just twenty days to go until Harbaugh Year Two.
Twenty years ago, during the Nineties, Michigan was quietly known as Quarterback U, for the program churned out draft pick after draft pick of quarterback talent year after year. Beginning with Elvis Grbac in 1990, there’s a long lineage of great Michigan quarterbacks who found success both during and after college.
During the 1995 season, Michigan’s starter was Scott Dreisbach, a well-molded pocket-passer who many remember as the guy who won Lloyd Carr’s first game as head coach like this:
Dreisbach instantly became a Michigan hero, and continued to prove that status by winning Michigan’s next three games to remain undefeated.
During a practice after that fourth game, however, Dreisbach seriously injured his hand and wrist, and needed surgery. One Brian Griese stepped into the starting quarterback role, but the Wolverines slipped to an 8-5 finish without their main man.
Driesbach was able to reclaim his starting job from Griese for the 1996 season, and again, Michigan looked invincible with Dreisbach running the offense. Michigan was built to win a national title in 1996. Upperclassmen all over the roster at the skill positions, a sophomore Charles Woodson, and a proven winner at quarterback. It’s a little baffling that this team finished with four losses (one of them being to Alabama in the Outback Bowl).
The Wolverines started 4-0 just like the previous year. They beat Illinois, staged an upset at Colorado to avenge Kordell Stewart’s hail mary play two years prior, and had rare matchups with UCLA and Boston College. Dreisbach also beat Michigan State, and Ohio State in Columbus. At his peak, Dreisbach could do freak things like outrun the entire Illinois secondary for 72 yards and a touchdown...
...or throw four touchdown passes during a thrashing of Nick Saban’s Michigan State team in Ann Arbor:
This was a man who had to battle for playing time with Brian Griese, Tom Brady, and Drew Henson over the course of his collegiate career. That’s unheard of in most position battles knowing now how good each of those guys became while at Michigan. He had the gift, but just couldn’t stay healthy beyond that one full season in 1996.
If he hadn’t struggled with some poorly-timed injuries, oh what might have been. Dreisbach will always be the Hero of the Pigskin Classic to me, and in a way Brian Griese might have become better because Dreisbach was such tough competition. We all know how that worked out.
And now, Michigan certainly has the right man in charge to reclaim that Quarterback U tag, because who better than him to find the diamond in the rough in a wide open year with four strong challengers to the position.