Singing The Maize And Blues
Wolverines may have too much on their minds to showcase team that could have been
Jan. 1, 2008
By Carolyn Braff
Carolyn is an assistant editor and writer for CSTV.com.
Six months ago, Michigan fans were licking their chops.
Back in August, the 2007 season was primed for greatness. In what most predicted would be the final year under head coach Lloyd Carr, the roster was stacked with star power, including a particularly dangerous offensive trio - running back Mike Hart, quarterback Chad Henne and wide receiver Mario Manningham all made repeat appearances on preseason Heisman Trophy watch lists.
But that was before disaster struck.
Disaster fog haunted
That loss was bad, but the following week's 39-7 defeat by
And all of that came before
Some blamed the injury bug. Hart and Henne both missed three games this season, Henne with a knee and nagging shoulder, Hart with an ankle injury suffered on the season's first play.
"You never know what could have been if you weren't injured," said Henne, who threw for 1,565 yards and 14 touchdowns in his nine games. "We definitely haven't played our best game this year. If all are healthy, maybe we'll see the true
Even missing three games, Hart gained 1,232 yards rushing and scored 12 touchdowns, good enough to make him the nation's sixth-best running back. With numbers like that, the Wolverine players are not the only parties hoping Tuesday's Capital One Bowl will showcase the team that could have been.
"We would have had a different team if we would have stayed healthy," Carr said. "The guys that were a big part of the leadership of this team were never really healthy after the first game. But injuries are a part of the game."
"I'm not going to measure it," Carr said of the health of his stars. "I don't know if they know or anybody knows. They've benefited form some rest. They'll be better. The question is how much better."
In those losses to Appalachian State and
"I think that [
Carr does not exactly exude confidence when talking about
To make matters worse, the Wolverines have far more on their minds than injuries and spread offenses.
Carr will officially leave
What the change will mean for the current
"At this time of year, players look at where they are and decide whether or not they want to transfer," Carr said. "Some people handle change, they keep going, and others worry and they have anxieties. I think the best way to deal with that is talk with the people that are going to be there and give it a chance."
Headlining the list of players who may be looking to transfer is freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett. Mallett threw for 892 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions this season, but his drop-back style seems rather at odds with a spread offense.
"I have had some conversations with Ryan and his family and it's really a career decision for him," Carr said. "Sometimes a guy gets caught in a coaching change that really changes things significantly. What I advised Ryan to do when Coach Rodriguez was named was to sit down and talk with him and don't read all that's out there. Those decisions are based on what [Rodriguez] has to say and that way you can make a good decision."
Mallett is certainly not the only player anxious about the incumbent system overhaul, but the players are doing their best to put those questions behind them and focus on more pressing ones involving Heisman-winning quarterbacks and spread offenses from
"[The coaching change] has been a distraction," Henne said, "but we're down here, we're away from everything, and we can finally get our minds back on the game."
Or can they?
If Michigan can stop worrying about its future long enough to look into its past for a moment, the Wolverines may find a glimmer of hope - the last time Michigan won a bowl game was Jan. 1, 2003, an Outback Bowl victory over the University of Florida.