Wolverines Wrap-up Spring Practice

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Many of the veterans Michigan will lean on during the coming season sat out Saturday's final day of spring practice, which proved to be great news for the team's younger players.
The Wolverines worked a lot of new players into a simulated game the defense won 42-41 in front of 5,500 fans at a chilly, windy Michigan Stadium.
"I've don't ever remember being 100 percent in the spring," coach Lloyd Carr said before the session began. "That's why the emphasis is on the younger players.
"There's plenty of time for improvement at every position."
Quarterback Chad Henne, who threw for 2,508 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season, was the most familiar face on the field Saturday. He threw a touchdown pass to Greg Matthews before giving way to backup Ryan Mallett. While Henne saw limited action, other returning offensive anchors spent the day on the sideline or in street clothes.
"It was tough," Henne said. "But the young guys got a lot of reps today and that's going to help them catch up to what we're trying to do.
"It was a big leadership step for me to help them out to become better players."
Mallett, a freshman, threw a touchdown pass to sophomore David Middleton and senior K.C. Lopata, one of several players seeking replace the departed Garrett Rivas, kicked a pair of field goals.
Running back Mike Hart, who had offseason surgery to alleviate pain in a shoulder, was kept out of spring practice and All-America OT Jake Long participated in a handful of drills. Both, Carr said, will be ready when training camp begins in July.
Long and fellow senior Adam Krauss return to the left side of the line and sophomore Justin Boren appears to have landed the starting center spot. Both Carr and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said the right side of the line won't be settled until the end of camp.
The defense, which ranked 10th in total defense nationally last season and allowed an NCAA-best 43.4 rushing yards per game, returns only four starters, which could place even more of a burden on the offense early in the season.
"I think our defense will be different, but they'll still be good," Hart said. "You always want to score as many points as you can, so if that's what we need to do, we can do it."
Defensive coordinator Ron English, who must replace three linemen and two linebackers, said the young unit still has a lot to learn.
"We're going to make mistakes," he said. "And the key is going to be how you respond and play through those mistakes.
"We have to develop some guys because we need some depth."
The Wolverines (11-2) rose as high as No. 2 last season before season-ending losses to Ohio State and Southern Cal dropped them to eighth in the final poll.
Carr said RB Kevin Grady, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament Thursday, will have surgery Monday. He said he was not sure if the junior would be ready to play this season. Mario Manningham (ankle) missed the spring, too, but should return this summer.
Carr also declined to address the status of suspended WR Adrian Arrington, who was not on the spring roster.
The Wolverines begin the season Sept. 1 when Appalachian State visits for the first of four straight home games. They start Big Ten play Sept. 22 against Penn State.


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