ANN ARBOR - Tomorrow morning the Michigan Wolverines take the first pronounced step toward preparation for the 2006 season with the opening practice session of spring football, and the disappointment over the lackluster way last year played out is still dominating the conversation.
So before Michigan can get about the business of refining its pass coverages and blocking schemes, it has to address that larger issue.
At 7-5, the 2005 Wolverines registered the worst season in the 11 years Lloyd Carr has been Michigan's coach. The 5-3 record in the Big Ten was good only for an awkward four-way tie for third place. Ending the season with losses to rival Ohio State and then Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl exacerbated the situation.
"I've interviewed every player on our team, and that's always part of the conversation," Carr said. "There's a lot of things that certainly should be motivating. I don't think there's anybody in this program that wants to go through that kind of season again. I think they'll do everything that they're asked to do to make sure that it doesn't happen again."
New individuals will be charged with making that happen as Carr's coaching staff has undergone a major shakeup. Michigan enters spring practice with new coordinators on both sides of the line of scrimmage - Mike DeBord taking over the offense, and Ron English directing the defense - both promotions from last year's staff.
"With any change, there's great enthusiasm," Carr said. "It does create an opportunity for change, and new ideas, so I think it is going to be very good."
After working the past two seasons as the Wolverines' special teams coach and recruiting coordinator, DeBord starts his second term as offensive coordinator, a job he held under Carr from 1997-99. DeBord spent four seasons as the head coach at Central Michigan before returning to Carr's staff in 2004. He went 12-34 with the Chippewas.
English has been at Michigan for three seasons, directing the defensive secondary. He previously coached at Arizona State, San Diego State and Northern Arizona. His 2003 Michigan secondary allowed just nine touchdown passes, tops in the country.
Carr said he expects a smooth assimilation process with the new coordinators, and that the primary function of spring football remains the same - enhancing the skill level of each player. Michigan's spring practice involves 15 sessions - 12 of those in pads.
"As always, the emphasis is on individual improvement," Carr said, "taking every player and helping him develop his skills, with the goal that if after 15 practices, every single guy can improve, then we're going to be a better football team. We have a lot of work to do, and a short time to do it."
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