Big Ten Media Day: Carr at the Dais

Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr took the dais in Chicago yesterday to set the table for the 2006 Wolverines. In this transcript of his commentary he breaks down the position battles in the secondary and on the offensive line, the starters and linebacker, and much much more.

On the upcoming season:

"I'm very excited about this Michigan team. We have an excellent nucleus of returning players offensively, defensively, and in the kicking game. We've had a great offseason, with the only disappointment being the loss of Antonio Bass in the spring. With that exception, we go into fall practice healthy. I think we have a great attitude, a strong nucleus of leaders, and our goals are extremely high."

“On defense, I think the strength of our team is going to be the front four with LaMarr Woodley and Alan Branch - two of the finest defensive linemen we've had at Michigan. I think Terrance Taylor is going to be an excellent nose guard. He is a sophomore that got some experience a year ago. Tim Jamison from here in Chicago, Rondell Biggs, and Will Johnson give us six big strong physical guys that will hopefully allow us to get pressure with a four man rush, which we were not able to do much of a year ago.”

“All of our linebackers are back. David Harris will start in the middle. Shawn Crable, who has had a great spring and is a guy that I think has great potential, will be our SAM linebacker. Chris Graham and Prescott Burgess will compete for the other linebacker position.”

Leon Hall has a chance to be one of the best corners in the country - one of the best corners that we've had at Michigan. The other cornerback position is up for grabs. Charles Stewart had a great spring. Johnny Sears is a very talented guy. Morgan Trent played a year ago. All of those guys will play a role, but somebody is going to have to win that other spot.”

“We have four safeties that are all experienced. Ryan Mundy, we’re hoping will be healthy. He had a very good spring. He missed all of a year ago after an injury in the opening game sidelined him for the year. Willis Barringer got some starts as did Brandent Englemon. Jamar Adams is about 6-3, 215 and I think he is ready to become an outstanding safety.”

“In the kicking game, Garrett Rivas is back and Ross Ryan, who did an excellent job as our kickoff guy, is back. He will compete for the starting punting job with Zoltan Mesko, a sophomore that has shown great promise. In Steve Breaston I think you have one of the finer kick return guys in the nation. Leon Hall has returned kicks and we have a freshman, Carlos Brown, that will factor into that part of the game.”

“On offense, we have one spot that we’re going to have to determine during fall practices. Mark Bihl will start at center, Adam Kraus at left guard, and Jake Long, who missed much of a year ago, will be the starting left tackle. On the right side, Rueben Riley has played both guard and tackle and will be the starter at one of those positions. We’ll have a competition for the other between Mike Kolodziej and Alex Mitchell.”

“Our tight ends are back. Tyler Ecker, Brian Thompson, and Mike Massey all played a year ago. We have a talented young sophomore named Carson Butler that will factor in as well.”

“At the wide receiver position everybody is back except for Jason Avant. We have two young guys. LaTerryal Savoy, who was redshirted a year ago, will factor in there. We have a freshman named Greg Mathews that has been in Ann Arbor all summer, and I think he will factor in. With Breaston, Tabb, and Manningham, we have a number of guys that have experience. Our receiving corps should be very good.”

“At the fullback position, Obi Oluigbo had a great spring. Will Paul moved from defense two years ago. I like our fullback position.”

“I think Mike Hart is a great football player - one of the best I've coached. He is a great leader and he has no weaknesses. He can run the football, he's a great pass receiver, a great pass protector, and a guy that plays with great energy. When he's healthy he brings something special to the table. Kevin Grady has lost ten pounds. He is down around 216 – 217. We have a redshirt freshman named Mister Simpson that I really like. I think he is going to play an important on our team. And we have two very talented freshmen in Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor. Our situation at runningback is probably as good as it has been since I’ve been at Michigan from a depth standpoint.”

"Chad Henne is ready to take another step. I think at some point he'll be a great quarterback. He's got everything it takes to be a great quarterback. Jason Forcier will be the backup. We’re excited about the progress that he has made, but we are inexperienced at that position."

On if he has circled the Penn State game:

“Well we’ve circled every date we have that occurs on Saturday. I think we had a lot of great wins a year ago. We had three wins that occurred on the very last play of the game. Certainly we had some losses at the end of games. What we’re going to try to do this year is finish all of those games. Certainly, Penn State – Michigan is a special game. It has turned into a great rivalry. I think it’s a game that college football fans like to see.”

On if there’s any reason that this team couldn’t come off a 5-3 finish in the Big Ten and win the national title the following year like the 97 squad did ten years ago:

“I think that will depend on how we coach, how we play, and our attitude and work ethic. Our goals are extremely high. We think we’re capable of doing a lot of special things. We’re going to work hard and do our best to be the best team we can be.”

On what kind of message he took from so many of his players reporting for spring practice in the best condition they’d ever been in:

“I think anytime you’re a program like we are at Michigan and you have to deal with the disappointments that we dealt with, I think you find out a lot about the type of people and the type of motivation you have. Certainly the fact that we had a lot of guys that were willing to do the things that we asked them to do as coaches, in terms of becoming a leaner quicker team, speaks to their commitment. I’ve been very pleased with the response in that area.”

On the guard positions:

“At left guard Adam Kraus started some games a year ago, but he had some injuries. Adam came to Michigan as a tight end. We moved him two years ago to the offensive line. He is big and strong now compared to where he was. I think he is going to be an excellent guard. At right guard, Rueben Riley will be either the right guard or the right tackle. He started at both positions. Alex Mitchell and Justin Schifano will be competing at guard. Mike Kolodziej and true freshman Steve Schilling will compete at the right tackle position. We’ll make a decision sometime during training camp how we’re going to go at that position.”

On the Notre Dame and Wisconsin games being back to back:

“I think it’s a major issue for our football team to get off to a good start. I think if you look at teams that normally win the championship; they get off to a good start. It’s very difficult to fight back if you stumble early. Certainly from a national standpoint, going to Notre Dame for the third game of the year will be a major test for our football team. And opening the Big Ten season with Wisconsin is certainly a big game in terms of the conference race. So it’s always great to get off to a good start, and yet, sometimes things don’t go the way the way you want them. Then the measure of your team is how they respond to the down times.”

On how he responded to the disappointments of last season and how he thinks he did as a coach last year:

“The thing I will say about that team a year ago is they never stopped fighting. There were times in there that were extremely trying. Everything that happens with Michigan football is a reflection on me, so what happened in that season is my responsibility.”

On what Chad Henne’s progress:

“I think he had some excellent games a year ago. I think he took a lot of criticism that always goes with the quarterback position when things don’t go well. When I evaluate his performance from a year ago, I think he was impacted in a major way because of our inability to run the football. I think it put a lot of pressure on our passing game. I think there were injuries on offensive line didn’t afford him the protection that we’d like to give him. But I thought he made some major strides a year ago. I think there are certain throws, certain circumstances, and situations that he will learn from that hurt a year ago. But I was very pleased with the way he played and the way he has developed.

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