#7: Then and Now
My all-time favorite U of M player is QB Rick Leach, good ol' #7. As a 4-year starter from 1975-1978, Leach led Michigan to a 38-8-2 record, 3 Rose Bowls, an Orange Bowl, three consecutive wins over Ohio State and three Big Ten titles. That was then. This is now. Donning the legendary #7 maize and blue jersey these days is signal caller Chad Henne who is entering his third year under center. Like Leach, he has been the starter since the very first game of his freshman year. Henne is 16-8 as a two-year starter and has led Michigan to the Rose Bowl and the Alamo Bowl as well as one Big Ten title.
Although Leach was known (and deservedly so) as a great option quarterback, I've always felt that he was the first of Michigan's great passers as well. It is important to keep in mind that the time Leach played for Bo was the height of the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust era. We probably pass twice as much, if not more, today then we did back then. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to compare the 4-year statistics of Leach with the two-year statistics of Henne that have been accumulated in this pass happy era.
Leach 250/537 46.6% 4,284 yds. 48 tds. 35 int. 17.1 yds. per comp.
Henne 463/781 59.3% 5,269 yds. 48 tds. 20 int. 11.4 yds. per comp.
I would say Henne obviously has the edge but Leach stacks up well when you just look at the passing statistics. However, that doesn't tell the whole story. I would be remiss if I didn't give you Leach's rushing statistics which is where he truly shined: 487 attempts for 2,176 yds. (4.5 yds. per carry) and 34 touchdowns. So not only did Leach pass for 48 tds. but he ran for 34 tds. himself!!! That's 492 offensive points for which he was directly responsible!
U-M enjoyed great success during Leach's 4 years due in large part to Leach's awesome abilities. As previously noted, U-M was 3-1 vs. OSU , won 3 Big Ten Titles and made 3 Rose Bowl trips. Henne is 0-2 vs. OSU but does have a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl trip on his resume with 2 years remaining. For Henne to match Leach's success he will have to lead his team to back-to-back wins over OSU in 2006-2007 with successive Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl berths. That's a big task but nobody said it would be easy to try and match the greatest quarterback of all-time at Michigan. I hope Ryan Mallett is paying attention and is preparing himself for the challenge of his life when he gets here.
I think Henne has done the #7 jersey proud and he will have a banner year this year and next. Nevertheless, I still consider Leach the best of all-time. Go Blue!!!
*Note: Sports Illustrated (9-6-76) cover photo of Rick Leach by Lane Stewart
*Note 2: Photo of Chad Henne from 2006 Spring Practice by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News