Maybe it was just habit. Or perhaps nostalgia for his days of
wearing maize and blue. On Saturday, former Michigan cornerback
Jeremy LeSueur somehow found his way back onto the turf at
Oosterbaan Fieldhouse.

“LeSueur, get off the field!” Michigan coach Lloyd
Carr shouted.

As the senior — who will graduate in April — went
back to the sidelines, the new-look Wolverines resumed their first
spring practice of the 2004 season. For the current squad, it was a
long-awaited return to the field.

“I love it,” Carr said. “My favorite part of
spring is the start of training camp.”

With a lack of contact on the first day of practice, as helmets
were the only equipment worn, the coaching staff had a little
trouble evaluating John Navarre’s potential replacements at
quarterback.

“There’s a major part of the game — the
contact part — that isn’t available,” Carr said.
“Today was a practice designed to work on their timing, see
their huddle command, their ability to communicate and their
ability to recognize certain coverages.”

Navarre’s backup last year, redshirt freshman Matt
Gutierrez, looked sharp. He fired accurate passes all morning long,
working through his progressions and hitting receivers in stride.
Gutierrez tucked the ball and ran on a number of occasions, showing
off his mobility. Freshman Clayton Richard and senior Spencer
Brinton also took turns running the offense. Richard, a former
Parade All-American, saw no game action last season. Brinton
underwent shoulder surgery in September and has not yet returned to
full strength.

Highly touted incoming freshman Chad Henne will join the
Wolverines this summer.

Another interesting position battle is at running back, where at
least five players will compete for playing time. Over the next
three weeks, Carr hopes to see the jumbled situation become just a
little bit clearer.

“A guy may be running the football better, but he may not
be where he needs to be mentally — in terms of pass
protections, routes, checks,” Carr said. “The
competition will reveal itself.”

On defense, junior Marlin Jackson worked out at cornerback,
where he was an Associated Press second team All-American during
the 2002 season. After an inconsistent year at safety, Jackson will
reclaim the spot vacated by LeSueur. With Jackson sliding back to
corner, freshman Ryan Mundy joined junior Ernest Shazor at safety
on the starting defense. Mundy is also expected to get work at
cornerback. Sophomore cornerback Leon Hall was unable to
participate in contact drills due to shoulder surgery.

Michigan may also experiment with senior linebacker Pierre Woods
at defensive end.

“One of the things you’re always trying to do is to
give a guy a role — if you can do it, that really maximizes
some of his talents,” Carr said. “Pierre has been a
good pass rusher. There will be some things we’ll try to
develop.”

With playing-time battles, position switches and new senior
leadership, a great deal must be resolved before the Wolverines
kick off their season on Sept. 4 against Miami (Ohio). But as first
steps go, Saturday’s practice fit the bill.

“I thought we had very good concentration — I
didn’t see the ball on the ground much,” Carr said.
“There are a lot of guys who are really excited about their
opportunities. I think for a first day we did good.”

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