It's no secret that many observers believe that the 2007 Michigan offense has a chance to be special given the amount of talent that is returning. However, this spring saw a Michigan offense that was missing a lot of that firepower because of injuries, rehabs, and disciplinary situations. Scholarship players were few at the skilled positions, leaving a host of younger players and walk-ons to grab up playing time in practice. Despite that, Chad Henne felt that there was still a lot to gain for both he and the offensive as a whole.
The now veteran quarterback focused first on his personal improvement. After getting bruised and battered by the tremendous heat put on him by the USC defense in the Rose Bowl, figuring out what he had to work on most during the spring wasn't very hard.
“Definitely moving in the pocket” said Henne. “When the pressure comes at me, I’m able to move in the pocket. I put that as one of my goals… to help myself out and become more agile as a quarterback. Coach Loeffler really preaches that. We’ve been doing a lot of movements this spring just to help me out and the other quarterbacks. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the pocket. Just study him and the way he moves in the pocket. It’s just incredible to watch. There’s a new thing every day that a quarterback can work on.”
Henne's progress was evident to everyone in the program, especially the coaches.
“I think he is really moving better in the pocket than he ever has," said Michigan offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. "I think that is a feel thing a lot of times. He has really learned to step up in the pocket. I thought he made great improvement there.”
The spring also saw Henne's continued growth as a leader. He has clearly had a host of challenges over his three-year tenure as Michigan's signal-caller, but the one posed this spring was a bit different. The presence of so many youngster's and walk-ons in the everyday lineup wasn't the easiest thing to adjust to, but Henne made the most of it.
“It was tough but it was a great experience” he said. “For me to become a better leader I had to help them out and coach them through. They really did a great job for us this spring. They busted their butts.”
Henne paid particular attention to a few youngsters that will play prominent roles for the Wolverines in the not too distant future… probably even this coming year.
One of the few scholarship receivers at his disposal this spring was sophomore Greg Mathews. The 6-3 Florida was praised by coaches and players alike after a strong showing. According to Henne, Mathews is poised to be a major contributor in the fall.
“Greg’s a guy that goes up and gets the ball," said Henne. "He reminds you of Jason Avant running his routes and his hands. He’s going to be a great player for us this year. He has the speed and a lot of the tools for the wideout position.”
Another sophomore that will likely be counted on this year is Justin Boren. The overpowering youngster is the favorite to replace departed Mark Bihl at the center position. Henne feels the transition will be a smooth one.
“Justin has done a great job this spring” said Henne. "I feel comfortable with him even though he’s a left handed center. He’s done a great job. He’s making great calls and he’s very intelligent.”
One of Henne's most important charges over the past few months has been helping the development of his heir-apparent, Ryan Mallett. As a former heralded prospect himself, he knows what the young gun-slinger is going through and was impressed with the progress he made.
“Ryan did well," said Henne. "He really picks up the offense quickly, and his talent is sky high. He just needs to run the offense and become better at it.”
Despite the great strides that were made during the spring, Henne feels there is still a great deal more to work on. It will fall upon the players to make those necessary improvements during voluntary workouts over the next few months.
“May, June and July are big for us as an offense," said Henne. "It's about getting together with the wideouts and just meshing things together. It is where we win the championship and go for our goals.”