ANN ARBOR - Only two days away from holding the first of 15 scheduled spring football practices, coach Lloyd Carr made it clear how concerned he is about a rash of injuries presently plaguing the University of Michigan football team.
"We're not going to have a spring game," said Carr, referring to the final practice scheduled for April 16, which will be open to the public. "We'll have practice. For all of those looking to see tackling, don't come."
The Wolverines, who will hold their first spring workout tomorrow, entered the off-season battered and bruised. Getting over the 38-37 ambush administered by Texas in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day is one thing, overcoming a significant number of injuries still hampering players is another.
Carr said at least six players will miss all of the workouts and another four or five will be allowed to participate only on a limited basis.
Carr, heading into his 11th season as UM's head coach, can't recall going into spring workouts with so many players sidelined.
"This is normally one of my favorite parts of the year because it's really the beginning of a new team," he said. "The problem is, a number of guys are out of spring practice. I think it speaks to the punishing nature of this game."
Carr believes the Wolverines' situation probably reflects the norm for most college football programs. He thinks the extended schedules with some teams playing as many as 12 games probably play a role in an apparent increase in injuries.
Offensive linemen Adam Kraus, Jake Long, Patrick Sharrow and Leo Henige are expected to miss spring practices because of various injuries. Fullback Brian Thompson is also expected to sit out spring drills.
Nevertheless, coming off a season in which the Wolverines finished 9-3 overall and snared a share of the Big Ten champ-
ionship, Carr intends to get the most out of the spring workouts.
"We want to work on the individual improvement of all the players," he said.
Two of Michigan's bright spots a season ago, freshmen sensations quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart, will be actively involved in spring drills. Henne, who became the first true freshman quarterback to lead his team to a Big Ten title, started every game for the Wolverines. He completed 240 of 399 passes for 2,743 yards and a school-record-tying 25 touchdowns. Hart earned Big Ten freshman of the year honors and was an All-Big Ten first-team choice after rushing for 1,455 yards on 282 carries, including nine touchdowns.
Carr said both were among those players who made significant strides during winter conditioning. They gained weight and strength in preparation for their sophomore seasons.
Yet, Carr said he's shared a few words of caution with Henne and Hart to remind them that what took place last season is the beginning of their college careers and not the end.
"I think what they did is remarkable," Carr said. "Yet, the world is full of people who've had one great day or one great year."
It appears the Wolverines enter spring workouts without any quarterback controversy.
Henne is expected to get most of the repetitions at quarterback while oft-injured Matt Gutierrez and Jeff Kastl will also receive some work behind center. Gutierrez apparently has made great strides recovering from problems with his throwing arm.
"He's going to get a lot more snaps than he'd probably normally get," said Carr, of Henne. "[Gutierrez] will take part in more passing drills than we had anticipated."
Improving the execution on the defensive side of the football is a major concern as the Wolverines prepare for the upcoming season that kicks off Sept. 3 against Northern Illinois in Ann Arbor.
"Our intention of becoming the defense we want to be, it begins with not giving up big plays," Carr said.
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