On Wednesday, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr stood in front of reporters and raved about the 20 newest members of the Michigan football team.

But as the press conference moved along, the questions quickly took a turn in another direction.

First came a question about how he reacts when recruits ask him how long he’ll be coaching at the University.

“Regardless of my situation, I think part of the landscape is that a lot of coaches are replaced,” Carr said following the initial question regarding his future with the program. “A lot of coaches change jobs.

“I think by and large, when you make a choice because of who the coach is, whether it’s a position coach, whether it’s a head coach, you can’t be sure that he’s going to be there.”

Carr also said that nobody specifically asked him about his future while he went on recruiting visits this year.

He then tried deflecting the attention back to his class on multiple occasions, but reporters’ questions continued to focus on his future with the program.

The coach was asked about a recent change in his contract that would make it easier for him to step down as the team’s head coach after the 2007 season.

Carr didn’t budge much, though, and just reiterated what he had previously said about his plans.

“Look, you know, I’ve tried to answer that as best I could, but it seems as though everybody interprets it differently,” Carr said. “Like I’m hinting; I’ve hinted. I’ve said everything I have to say on it.”

Following a couple more questions, Carr made his final statement regarding the situation toward the end of the 45-minute long conference.

“At some point here, I’ll have something to say about that,” he said. “But I don’t. You’ve got access to what’s in (the contract), and I really don’t have anything to say other than that.”

Happy trails: Four members of the program that most assumed would return for next season have cleaned out their lockers at Schembechler Hall since the Rose Bowl.

Three players (fifth-year seniors-to-be Ryan Mundy and Will Paul along with junior-to-be Marques Walton) and one coach (cornerbacks coach Ron Lee) will not be with the team next fall.

The characteristically tight-lipped Carr didn’t give specifics as to why they were leaving the team.

“Normally, when somebody leaves the program, whether it be a player, whether it be a coach, I leave that announcement up to him,” Carr said.

He did go on to verify that all four were no longer with the program, though.

Mundy and Paul will both graduate this spring, but neither will use his fourth year of eligibility next fall.

Mundy was a two-time starter at safety for the team (parts of 2004 and 2006), but battled both inconsistency and a nerve injury that kept him out for most of the 2005 season.

Paul joined the team as a highly touted tight end and defensive tackle, but could never settle in at a position. He later made the switch to fullback, but lost the starting job battle with senior Obi Oluigbo last season.

Walton appeared in four games during his two years of eligibility at defensive tackle.

Lee joined the staff last season as the new cornerbacks coach. Though the defense shined in Michigan’s first 11 games, major lapses in the secondary in the Wolverines’ final two games against Ohio State and Southern Cal may have put a dent in Lee’s job security.

Carr said no replacement for Lee has been found.

Twelfth-game blues: Michigan has still not found a suitor for its 12th game next season. Carr hopes that will change soon.

“We’re working on it,” Carr said. “It’s an issue because there just aren’t many schools out there. I can just tell you that we’re hoping it will be resolved here in the not-too-distant future.”

Last season, Michigan added Vanderbilt to its nonconference slate to fill its schedule. Carr expressed his displeasure with the new 12-game schedule throughout the year, saying the elimination of the bye week made the season even more of a grind than normal.

One thing holding up scheduling is the dilemma that the Michigan-Ohio State game presents. Traditionally, the two teams play in each others’ final game of the regular season. Carr also doesn’t want the game pushed back one week, because it runs into Thanksgiving – a holiday the coaches have tried to give their players in recent years because the team already has to miss Christmas because of bowl practice.

With no easy fix in sight, Carr hopes some compromise can be made to maintain the traditions and still keep things bearable for the players.

“I think the Big Ten athletic directors are trying to address that issue,” Carr said. “But I think regardless of if they don’t do something in the Big Ten conference, then each school would be free to make some changes that would allow them to play the 12th game after Thanksgiving.”

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