2005 RECORD: 7-5 (5-3 in Big Ten) RETURNING STARTERS: 18
RB Mike Hart (Jr.)
Rushed for 1,455 yards as a freshman but was slowed by ankle and hamstring injuries in '05 and gained only 662
WR Mario Manningham (Soph.)
Made 27 catches for 433 yards and six touchdowns as the third receiver last year
CB Leon Hall (Sr.)
Had a team-high four interceptions and nine pass breakups
Big Man on Campus
A terror on a talented front four, 6'2", 268-pound defensive end LaMarr Woodley led the team last year in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (16). He racked up most of those takedowns in the first seven games, then played in four more with a deep bruise on his right forearm that required heavy padding. With his injury healed, Woodley will wreak even more havoc as a senior this fall.
A revived running game and a more assertive QB give the leaner, meaner Wolverines more bite
No wolverine's reputation took a bigger hit last season than quarterback Chad Henne's. A freshman All-America in 2004, when he threw for 2,743 yards and 25 touchdowns, he tried to carry most of the offensive load after injuries to Mike Hart and tackle Jake Long crippled the rushing attack. Though Henne had 23 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions, he was inconsistent and, at times, ineffective -- most notably in a 17-10 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 10, when he connected on just 19 of 44 throws.
As the losses mounted, so did speculation that Henne's brilliant freshman year had been largely due to the gifted hands and nifty footwork of Biletnikoff Award winner Braylon Edwards. But a few incompletions aren't enough to turn a Big Ten power into a 7-5 also-ran. Says coach Lloyd Carr, "There was a lot more to [how we finished] than the way Chad was playing."
Still, the 6'2", 223-pound Henne took the criticism to heart and spent a healthy chunk of the off-season working exclusively with his receiving corps. Carr has made it clear that he wants his quarterback to be more assertive in the huddle, and Henne has already taken steps to address that. "I'm not just leaving the receivers to the coaches anymore," he says. "I'm trying to take over the offense." He'll have no shortage of targets to throw to, including Mario Manningham, a budding star, and 6'6", 247-pound senior tight end Tyler Ecker. If Hart can stay healthy, Michigan's offense should resemble the unit that ranked second in scoring in the Big Ten in 2004 rather than last year's squad, which was the league's third-worst.
Carr has been instilling a sense of urgency since the Wolverines' 32-28 loss to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl last December. He replaced longtime defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann with secondary coach Ron English, who is under orders to build a more aggressive unit. While the defense gets meaner, Carr instructed the offense to get leaner. "We need to be quicker," he says. Several players are noticeably slimmer, including the 6'7", 316-pound Long, who dropped 20 pounds during the off-season. Even Henne -- not exactly beefy to begin with -- has shed 10 pounds since last winter as a sign of solidarity. "Our team has a bond now," Henne says. "Last year there wasn't a whole lot of leadership out there. Now, guys are quiet in the huddle when I'm talking." -- Mark Beech