On the face of it, not much has changed. The depth chart still lists freshman Ryan Mallett as starter, and Michigan coach Lloyd Carr still says senior Chad Henne’s status is day-to-day.
But judging from the tone of Carr’s comments during his weekly press conference yesterday, there seems to be an ever-so-slight possibility Henne could return from injury for Saturday’s game against Penn State.
“Chad Henne has got enough experience that he could play without practice,” said Carr, although Henne was not listed on the two-deep depth chart.
The usually guarded coach described Henne’s injury as a sprain. In that situation, the medical staff typically defers to the player’s own assessment of whether he’s ready to play, Carr said.
But knowing Henne is eager to face his home-state Nittany Lions and high school rival Anthony Morelli, Carr will make the ultimate decision regarding Saturday’s starter.
“(Henne’s) a great competitor, and a great competitor hates to miss, period,” Carr said. “Of course, that is certainly a game that means a lot to him. Yet you have to know you can play effectively. We’ll find that out this week.”
Although Henne struggled with accuracy problems before his injury, the senior’s return could be key as Michigan readies to take on one of the nation’s top defenses.
Mallett filled in admirably Saturday, but his inexperience means a reduced role for the passing game. With Penn State likely to stuff the box on Saturday, Henne’s return would allow the Michigan coaches to open the playbook, alleviating some of the pressure sure to be put on Michigan running back Mike Hart.
Sears gone: Carr said cornerback Johnny Sears is no longer with team, confirming rumors sparked this weekend about the junior’s future.
Carr did not provide a reason why.
“That’s not my policy,” Carr said.
Sears appeared on the dress list prior to Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, but was not on the sidelines. After the 38-0 win, Carr refused to discuss Sears’s status.
Sears’s departure ends what had been a rocky season for the Fresno, Calif. native. His development at cornerback this summer earned praise from coaches, but he lost his starting spot to true freshman Donovan Warren by halftime of Michigan’s first game.
Sears recorded one tackle in his limited playing time this season. He also returned six kickoffs and two punts.
Switchin’ it up: After moving fifth-year senior left guard Adam Kraus to center on Saturday, Carr wouldn’t discuss why he made the move.
But if his talk yesterday is any indication, he might stick with it.
“I’m going to think about that,” Carr said.
Kraus swapped positions with sophomore center Justin Boren during Saturday’s game, but both snapped the ball in practice last week. Mallett has struggled adjusting to receiving snaps from the left-handed Boren, fumbling it twice against Oregon and once against Notre Dame.
Kraus has experience playing center, holding the position for half of the 2005 season.
Notes: Michigan’s only night game this season will be at Illinois. Henne speculated this summer at Big Ten Media Day the team might also play Wisconsin under the lights, but a Michigan spokesman says the Big Ten has already determined all the 7 p.m. games. . Carr said wide receiver Junior Hemingway, who limped off the field during the Oregon game, suffered an injury, but that the freshman will practice this week. He didn’t dress against Notre Dame.