Lloyd Carr met with the media Monday to discuss Michigan's big, 14-9 win over Penn State as well as this weekend's game with Northwestern. Carr touched on Chad Henne's status, provided other injury information and much more.
On the special teams in the Penn State game: "In watching the film, I thought our kickoff team was outstanding. They [Penn State] were averaging 48 yards [per return], which was first or second in the nation – an unbelievable statistic.
"Brian Wright did a good job kicking off. He got one in the end zone that was not returnable. Charles Stewart and Mark Moundros made a wonderful play on an early kickoff. Brandent Englemon made a big one. So our coverage really gave our defense good field position.
"Zoltan Mesko had a wonderful day. This guy is having a great year -- three times inside the 20.
"Brandon Minor had an outstanding kickoff return. He took the ball four or five yards deep in the end zone and brought it out past the 30. That's great field position. We need to continue to improve in that area, but he did a good job on that play.
"The only negative in the kicking game is that we've got to start making our field goals. We'll be working hard to do that."
On Michigan's defense: "Defensively, we played extremely well together. We did not leverage the football on one play. As always, or in most cases, it turned into a big play. But with that exception, I thought we really played well together.
"Will Johnson is having just an outstanding season. I think Morgan Trent had his best game. Morgan made a great play down on the goal line, on third down and two or three. He took on his blocker, turned the football back in, and Jamar Adams made the play.
"Jamar Adams had his best game at Michigan. He knocked some balls down, tackled well, and it was a very good effort by Jamar."
On the offense: "Offensively, it obviously goes back to being able to run the football. You have to be able to block people, and I thought we did that well.
"[Tim] McAvoy came in, in the second half, and performed well. If you have somebody who comes in and doesn't perform well, it's a different story.
"Our receivers played extremely well. They caught the ball, had some very good catches. Mario [Manningham] made a catch of a ball on his shoelaces. Adrian Arrington made a catch on a ball that was thrown behind him before the end of the first half.
"We blocked well. We played well without the ball. Mike Massey had a good game. He had a big block on Ryan Mallett's touchdown, as did Mike Hart. Mike had another great block after a catch by Carson Butler.
"We have shown an ability to run the football, even when the defenses are good and stacked up. The other thing you have to do to be an outstanding offensive team is be able to prove you can score quickly. I'm sure those challenges are in front of us. We like where we are right now as far as some of the things we've improved on.
"Ryan Mallett played much better in this game than he did against Notre Dame. He made more mistakes in this game than he did in the Notre Dame game, but that is due to the fact that we gave him a lot more to do. He played against a defense that brought a lot of pressure, a lot of blitzes.
"He made some mistakes, obviously – two turnovers. Those are things we've got to work hard to eliminate. I thought he did some wonderful things. Mike Hart will show him how to act when he gets in the end zone again. But you understand, he's only been there once, so I'm sure he's going to do a better job there.
"Now we have to take the things we're not doing well, work hard and practice hard as we go on the road to play Northwestern."
On two high school coaches that are special to him: "I visited Don Lessner early this morning. Don is a legendary coach here in the state of Michigan. He coached where I went to school, Riverview, for 30 some years. He is a great man in that community, and he's fighting cancer.
"If you pray, pray for Don Lessner and his family, because it's a difficult time for them. Don's son, Don, played here at Michigan. We feel a special feeling for that family and what they're going through.
"I also had a call from Chuck Donaldson. Chuck coaches at Plymouth High School. Fifteen years or so ago, I got a call that he had been in an automobile accident and was at the U-M Burn Center. I went up to see him late one night around midnight. I can remember talking to the attendant up there and after seeing him, I did not think he would leave that hospital.
"He had a spinal cord injury. He had serious burn problems. But by some miracle, he came out of that hospital. Since then, he's coached in a wheelchair for all those years. He's coached in our camp, he's been up here at practice.
"I got a call from his mother this morning, and he, unbelievably, has been in another car accident. He's at the U-M Hospital, so keep him in your prayers as well."
On the offense's effort to protect it's freshman quarterback: "We had a good game plan. We did some things that enabled us to run the football. We did have some big-yardage situations on third down, where Ryan made some excellent throws.
"But what you're trying to do in that situation is keep your quarterback out of third down-and-longs. If you can stay third-and-five, third-and-four – those are easier down-and-distances, because your passing game is much different than if you're third down-and-nine, third down-and-10.
"We ran the football for 200 yards. That, to me, is an amazing accomplishment against that defense. Of course, we did have some negative plays where we lost yardage. So our total was not 200, but the fact that we could run the football…
"We had four drives in there over 10 plays. What that enables you to do is play more plays. It was obvious to me at the beginning of the game … Ryan is not intimidated, but I do think he was nervous. The speed of the game at the beginning of the game is always at its height, especially if you keep a defense on the field. I thought he settled down.
"There is no question that everybody on our team understood that the critical part of us winning that game, offensively, was to be able to run the football. We did some things, scheme-wise, to help the protection. We kept our tight end in some. And of course, Mike Hart was unbelievable as a runner and he was equally impressive to his teammates in pass protection.
"He was sensational in that area. It goes back to the kind of guy he is and the kind of player he is. It was certainly a team effort, because our receivers made some good catches. Ryan did the things he needed to do, and he executed extremely well."
On Michigan's situation at right guard: "Alex Mitchell will not play this week. Jeremy Ciulla … I don't know. From a practice standpoint, McAvoy will be in a position to step in there and play."
On Northwestern: "They've got a lot of players returning from a year ago. If you remember on a cold, windy day here in Ann Arbor, it was an excellent ball game. I was very impressed with how hard Northwestern played.
"I think [Tyrell] Sutton will be back. There is no question that they are a different football team, because he's an outstanding player. They still got good production out of their other backs, but Sutton is a guy that can hurt you in a lot of different ways. He made them a different team, offensively.
"I know Pat Fitzgerald. I know what he's all about, and I know he'll rally them and they'll play hard. If you look at the game on Saturday, it's another example that if you give up big plays, you put yourself in a position where it's awfully difficult to have a chance to win."
On whether he worries about Hart carrying the ball so much: "If I have any worries, I tell them to my pillow. Mike Hart told us last week he wanted to carry the ball 50 times. He's proven beyond any question that he's durable and that he's tough.
"I think it was a mistake to go back to the rules as they are. We're playing too many plays. Penn State's defense was on the field 86 plays. In a pro game, those guys are on the field 60 snaps. The rule should be there. We're playing more games. We had a good rule there a year ago. Now we're back to playing too many plays, in my judgment."
On Anton Campbell and Jonas Mouton not dressing: "Anton, hopefully, will return. He had a muscle injury, and I'm hoping he will be back, because he's been outstanding on special teams all season. He's a leader on our team and a guy that we miss.
"We'll have to see about Jonas, whether he can practice or not."
On the strides made by first-year defensive starters Donovan Warren, Brandon Graham and John Thompson: "Donovan is one of those guys who is really an excitable, competitive guy. He really loves to play and he's not intimidated at all. We've had some great corners who have started here as true freshmen.
"What he has in common with those guys is that he's awfully confident. He's talented, but he's not intimidated. He loves the competition. He's only going to get better and better. He's still got a lot of things to learn, but we're all pleased with where he is.
"Brandon Graham, after a very slow start, is really starting to play like we had hoped he would. He had to fight through an injury in training camp where he missed some time. The weather was awfully cool. From a conditioning standpoint, the missed time and those things … I do think these last two weeks he's been a force.
"He has wonderful athletic ability, so he can move. He certainly made some big plays there on Saturday.
"John Thompson played his best game a week ago. The thing he brings is that he's a tough guy. He likes to be in the fray. So we'll see. I'm very confident that he's going to continue to get better as the season goes along."
On whether Mallett will start at quarterback against Northwestern: "Well, we have to see. Chad [Henne] took some snaps last week. [Trainer] Paul Schmidt worked him out yesterday. It's to a point now where the doctors really will leave it up to Chad and how he feels. Then, of course, it will depend upon what I see and what I think.
"As we go through this week, we really are encouraged by where he is. We just have to look at him and see. We want to make sure that when he comes back his mobility is there. At that position, it would be unfair … we're not going to do anything that is going to jeopardize Chad and his ability to react to the pressure that comes with that position, as far as those people trying to get after him."
On how much Henne practiced during Penn State week: "He took snaps every day."
On Adams appearing to direct traffic less in the secondary as the weeks go by: "You could say that. Sometimes a guy wants to be a leader and he gets focused on some things that detract from his ability to perform well at his position. In training camp this fall, he had a great training camp. He played like he did on Saturday.
"When you're playing with a new group of guys, and there are some new people back there, that can take away.
"In the old days, you had two backs in the backfield, and a lot of times you had three, plus the quarterback. That really limits the variation of formations. Now, a lot of times, you have one back in the backfield, and then they motion him out, which creates an infinite number of possible formations. All those formations have to be adjusted to by the linebackers, by the secondary.
"Checks have to be made. If you mess one of those checks up, you won't have people where they should be, then you give up big plays because the guys they're getting the ball to are skilled."
On why freshmen Toney Clemons and Junior Hemingway started in place of junior Mario Manningham and Greg Mathews: "Just to get them a little bit more experience (smiles)."
On Northwestern quarterack C.J. Bacher: "I thought a year ago he showed great promise. Once you show it, it's there. When you get behind like they have, it makes it difficult … they are on the road, they've got a young team in there with noise, all those things. I think he's an outstanding passer. I think he'd be very effective running the football.
"It's obvious he understands what they're trying to do. He's a bright guy. You can see that in the way he manages the game. I liked him a lot [last year], and there's no reason to feel different today."
On senior kicker Jason Gingell's struggles: "The only thing I know is that sometimes, when things don't go well, you press. I know he's a very good kicker. I have seen that over the time he's been here. But the field goal he missed there is not a kick he should miss. What he needs to do this week is put all the things that have happened to you … if you focus on the past, it's going to bother your future efforts to improve and get past the down times. Right now, as I see it, that's probably what he has to do."
On what happens if Mallett continues to improve (implying a quarterback controversy): "Mallett will continue to improve. That's why in practice and those game opportunities where he gets a chance, every snap he gets, he should learn from. I do expect he'll get better. Next question."
On whether Henne was begging to play, as reported: "That's inaccurate. In my judgment, he could not have played. That's not a medical opinion. The doctors, I don't think they would have allowed him to play either. I didn't ask them, because I knew from what I saw he wasn't ready to go back, even if he wanted to. He never begged to play. I don't know where that came from."
On wide receiver LaTerryal Savoy's status: "He's back on the team."
On redshirt freshman right tackle Steve Schilling: "I'll tell you what … this guy, he's something. He's going to be something. He's got a mindset … he's a smart guy. At that age, he's very, very strong … he's a great athlete, a great athlete. And he loves to play. For Steve Schilling, the sky's the limit."
On the offensive linemen being read to play on a whim, like right guard Tim McAvoy Saturday: "More than anything else, it's Andy Moeller. We have a plan as far as trying to do that for every position, every player. You're trying to daily develop your players. Some of them are freshmen, some sophomores, some juniors that haven't played much. Every single day you're trying to help them get better. A lot of the times that involves doing things in our practice schedule, putting them in positions where it's competitive.
"For example, our defense … some of the younger players, some of the inexperienced players on defense, where they've got everybody watching. From a motivational standpoint we're trying to keep them in a frame of mind that even though they aren't playing, they're getting better.
"Tim McAvoy is an example this week of a guy who probably, deep down, did not expect to play as much as he did. But because he's developed, he's been in practice situations where he's been with the first team. When you do all those things, that's exactly what you're trying to prepare for."
On where Mallett is in terms of learning: "Where he isn't, he's not had enough repetitions where he can just go bang, bang, bang, 1, 2, 3. When you're a quarterback, it's hard enough just to get to the line of scrimmage and get the snap, because you've got to call the plays, and the plays are long. Our offense is complicated from that standpoint. We do that because it makes it less complicated for all the other players.
"He goes up there and he's got to get you into the proper play. That means recognizing the defense. Maybe there's a safety over there who's tipping the coverage. We've worked on it all week, but in the pressure of the 25-second clock, getting the play called, maybe he doesn't see that. Now when the ball is snapped, if it's a pass play, he's got to go back 1, 2, 3. A lot of times he goes 1, 2 He eliminates one and two because he's thinking too much, in too much of a hurry.
"That's the process. It sounds simple maybe, but it isn't. When that ball hits you in the hands, you know there's pressure coming. It may be a blitz, and now on a blitz those reads are gone and you have to get the ball somewhere else. You don't just walk in the door and execute those types of things. He did some great things in that game, some things that excite you as a coach. What we're trying to do is get him to where he can perform on a more consistent basis. That entails getting him more reps, and there's nothing like game experience to help a guy understand the urgency of what he has to do.
"He saw on film a number of times where he rushed things. The touchdown run, he had a guy open, but he's in too much of a hurry to get to the next read. All of that has to be coordinated with the drops he takes. Is it three step, five step, play action? All those are different as far as the things he has to do to get himself set so technically and fundamentally, he can throw the ball accurately."
On redshirt freshman Perry Dorrestein: "He has in the last three weeks or so … I can remember a number of guys here as linemen … you never make a judgment on a lineman for at least three years. Mark Bihl, for two years here, was an outstanding player. For the first three he wasn't strong enough, there were some things he didn't do very well. It was at frustrating time. As a coach you have to keep working with them; as a player you have to keep working hard.
"Perry has had some periods where he hasn't performed very well, but he has the ability to be a very good player. He is a guy in the last three weeks or so who has made some real progress. He has gained confidence, and has earned Andy [Moeller's] confidence."
On addressing the field hockey team before big games with Iowa and Penn State: "They came over after our practice last Wednesday, they came to Schembechler Hall and I spent a few minutes with them. You can tell … they won a national championship here, so they know what the pressure is like and the expectations. They were paying Iowa, and of course Iowa is ranked ahead of them, and they played Penn State on Sunday. I told them they should have been coming over to talk to me.
"They are part of the Michigan family. When you take it all away, athletic comp is athletic competition. It's no different what sport you're in. You're trying to compete against great competition - there's pressure, expectations, academics. When I was asked to do that, it was something that was pretty easy to do because I just didn't have as much time for dinner."
On center/quarterback exchange problems: "It's a team … that's one of the most basic fundamentals. The difference for all of our quarterbacks … Clayton Richard was left handed, and worked out of the shotgun in high school. Taking a snap was different for him as a right-handed snapper. For the first time in my memory, with the exception of Rod Payne and Steve Everitt, both of whom in big games snapped left handed, which was an unbelievable thing they were able to do, because their right hand was injured …
"If you're a right-handed quarterback, you probably never had a left-handed center. The ball comes up differently. It's one of those things you can only perfect with repetition. If you're a quarterback and have never taken snaps from a left-handed center, it takes a lot of work. We had a snap earlier … it's not a matter of it's anybody's fault, but it's different. The ball comes up differently. The goal is to get it to where it's no [fumbles], and that requires a lot of work, discipline that if you know it's an issue, you have to be on guard to make it something that doesn't occur."
On the improved tackling in recent weeks: "There's no doubt much of our improved tackling has to do with we are keeping the football where it was supposed to be. There were some great ball carriers earlier. I think the real test of our defense is ahead. But I think we've made improvements, yes."
On percentages Henne will play: "Those percentages people give are fly by night. They don't know. The only thing I can tell you is I'm not going to play him until I know that he's ready. Part of that will be how he feels - a big part of it. I'm going to ask him, 'are you ready?' Is that thing ready to go?
"When he tells me that, then I've got to decide based on what I think and what I see … the most important thing is, is he ready to play like he's capable of playing. If he isn't … well, it's not the right thing to do. Right now, what I know is he's cleared as far as medically. Now it's a matter of how he feels and what we see."