New Henne faces same old pressure


ANN ARBOR - The baby face is gone, replaced by a beard.

Michigan quarterback Chad Henne is lighter, having dropped 12 pounds, but he has become even more of a fighter.

Henne has added new body art, which may be fitting, considering the way the Wolverines got tattooed last season - a 7-5 record was their worst since 1984.

Henne has changed his image.

Now he's hoping it rubs off on his teammates.

Chad Henne is 16-8 as UM's QB but 0-2 against Ohio State and 0-2 against Notre Dame.
Chad Henne is 16-8 as UM's QB but 0-2 against Ohio State and 0-2 against Notre Dame.

Henne will do his best to try to make sure Michigan returns to national prominence in 2006.

If not, there is no place for him to hide.

Unfairly, he has become the second-biggest whipping boy in town, trailing only coach Lloyd Carr.

"Last year was difficult," Henne said, biting his lip. "We all had to learn how to fight back. It was a tough road. People are always going to criticize you if you don't come off a winning season, a successful season. We've just tried to stick together and get stronger."

Henne may be slimmer, but being Michigan's starting quarterback is a heavy burden.

He tied the school record for touchdown passes in a season with 25 in 2004, and he became the first true freshman to lead his team to a Big Ten title and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

A year ago, Henne threw 23 touchdown passes. But the pressure to produce nearly doubled with tailback Mike Hart missing, and Henne made some mistakes that cost the Wolverines a few games.

"It's time to move on," he said. "Last year doesn't matter anymore."

The 6-foot-3, 223-pound junior is 16-8 in two seasons as Michigan's starter. But he is 0-2 against hated rival Ohio State, 0-2 against Notre Dame and 0-2 in bowl games.

Even so, Carr never wavers in his support. He remains firmly in Henne's corner, and rightfully so.

Henne is a solid player at the new Quarterback U. He clearly has enough talent to play in the NFL, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Michigan signal-callers Tom Brady, Brian Griese, Elvis Grbac, John Navarre, Drew Henson, Jim Harbaugh and Todd Collins.

"I think he had some excellent games a year ago," Carr said. "I think he took a lot of criticism that always goes with the quarterback position when things don't go well. When I evaluate his performance from a year ago, I think he was impacted in a major way because of our inability to run the football. I think it put a lot of pressure on our passing game."

Henne enters this season with 5,269 passing yards and a 59.3 completion percentage. He has tossed 48 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

The Pennsylvania native ranks third in Michigan history in career passing attempts (781) and completions (463), fourth in TD passes and sixth in yards.

Henne is no longer shy. He has become a more vocal leader.

Last year's trying season has toughened him.

"He's very strong mentally," offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. "I don't think he would ever crack. He's got great confidence in himself. When you believe in a guy, you're going to stick with him, especially when you feel he's the best choice for your team."

Henne has changed considerably since first arriving on Michigan's campus.

But one thing remains the same: He's still the main man in charge of the offense.