Michigan: Henne Can Play, But Will He?
Michigan quarterback and (former) Heisman trophy candidate Chad Henne has received medical clearance to return to the field as the 2-2 Wolverines' signal-caller. According to medical personnel, the senior has recovered enough from the right knee sprain he suffered in a Week 2 loss to Oregon to play this week at Michigan. But just because he can play does not mean that he will play.
On Monday, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr would not commit to starting his one-time star quarterback in Saturday's game at Northwestern. And why should he? With Henne under center, Michigan lost the most embarrassing game in the history of college football, followed by an almost equally-humiliating performance against Oregon. With freshman Ryan Mallett calling the shots, the Wolverines have crawled their way back to 2-2, and kept their Big Ten pride alive after beating Penn State last week.
Carr said "we will have to see" whether or not Henne will start this week's game. Through a game and a half this season, Henne completed 31 of his 60 pass attempts for 405 yards with two picks and two TDs. Efficiency-wise, Mallett is playing worse than that, completeing 29 of 61 passes for 309 yards, two picks and three TDs. Carr said he is encouraged by where Henne is, but he will wait until later in the week to make a decision based on the quarterback's mobility (or lack thereof).
Based on his practice record, Henne seems to be moving quite well -- according to Carr, Henne took snaps in every practice leading up to the Penn State game, but the coach said that he was not in good enough shape to play at all in that game.
But instead of retreating to the press box, where he spent all of the Notre Dame game, Henne spent last Saturday stalking the sidelines with a headset, coaching Mallett after every offensive series, helping to mentor the man that may have already relieved him of his job.
As for the rumored quarterback controversy brewing in Ann Arbor, Carr does not think it's an issue. He's obviously pleased to have two men under center who can run the offense, but his unwillingness to intimate that Henne, if healthy, will play, much less name a starter for the game, brings into question just how much confidence Carr has in his falling-star quaterback. Mallett may think that this is "Chad's team," as he repeatedly said during interviews on Tuesday, but it may end up Mallett's team if Carr does not put Henne back in this weekend.
The latest depth chart still lists Mallett as the starting quarterback, with sophomore David Cone as his backup.
With the meat of the Big Ten schedule now upon them, the Wolverines should probably revert to experience in the pocket. As a four-year starter, Henne's experience dwarfs Mallett's, and given the team's 2-2 record and the freshman's propensity to rush plays, keeping Mallett in at this point may not be the smartest of ideas. Henne's record should speak for itself. If the senior can play, he should play.