Carr ready for season

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The word “interim” is gone. Lloyd Carr now has a four-year contract to be Michigan’s football coach. If he wants it to be extended, all he has to do is win Big Ten championships and Rose Bowl games.
A national championship would be nice, too.
It sounds like a tall order. But Carr proved last year, under the worst of circumstances, that he was another chip off the Bo Schembechler block.
Carr took over after Gary Moeller was fired and, despite virtually no spring training and a rash of injuries, guided the Wolverines to a solid season. Michigan finished 9-4 after a 22-20 loss to Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl.
Yet the good news also is the bad news.
Solid seasons, 9-4 records, and trips to Alamo bowls simply aren’t accepted in Ann Arbor. Many alumni wanted Michigan to finally cut the cord from the Schembechler era. They wanted a national search for a coach.
They got Carr, a decent man the players love.
“This team really likes being together,” says all-Big Ten linebacker Jarrett Irons. “This summer was tremendous. We stayed here and worked out all summer. We ran together.”
Irons and his defensive mates will be the strength of the 1996 team. The offense, despite the return of now-healthy quarterback Scott Dreisbach, must replace nearly all the skill players from a year ago.
The Wolverines lost Trent Zenkewicz and Jason Horn, who accounted for 16 sacks last season. But nose tackle Will Carr, tackle Ben Huff and ends Glen Steele and Rasheed Simmons return, as do tackle Josh Williams and end Pat Kratus.
The linebacking corps of Irons, Sam Sword, Rob Swett, David Bowens and Mike Elston also returns. The secondary has two all-Big Ten stars returning, cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Clarence Thompson. Toss in free safety Chuck Winters and strong safety Steve King, and the secondary might be Michigan’s best in years.
“The proof is how they play,” Carr says. “I think that’s where leadership comes in. The key is for everybody to keep their feet on the ground and play hard.”
The offense took some big hits. Durable tailback Tshimanga Biakabutuka and offensive tackle Jon Runyan were NFL draft picks. So were receivers Amani Toomer and Mercury Hayes, plus tight end Jay Riemersma.
“We don’t have to rebuild as much as we do reload,” says center Rod Payne.
That will start with Dreisbach, who played only four games before going down with a sprained thumb that eventually required surgery last year. Dreisbach, who will always be remembered for the dramatic pass to Hayes that downed Virginia on the last play of the 1995 season-opener, reclaimed the job in spring training.
Tai Streets, Tyrone Butterfield, Todd Brooks and Anthony Williams, plus junior college transfer Russell Shaw, will form the heart of the new receiving corps. Jerame Tuman and Mark Campbell will vie for the tight end slot.
“I feel very comfortable with these receivers,” Dreisbach says. “How we worked together this summer was nice. This is my third season. I’m growing up with these guys. We were here all summer. We worked out basically every day.”
Even without Biakabutuka, the Wolverines will be decent at running the football. They always have tailbacks in Ann Arbor. Clarence Williams has bulked up from 170 to 196 pounds yet claims it didn’t hamper his speed. He and Chris Howard will do most of the running. Chris Floyd, at fullback, will do most of the blocking.
The biggest question mark, and perhaps the key to Michigan’s season, is the kicking game. Remy Hamilton and Jay Feely handle placements and kickoffs. Neither player has a particularly strong leg. Carr recruited Corey Sargent from nearby South Lyon High School in hopes of ending the punting woes.
“Our biggest problem, in my view, was the kicking game, as well as the return game,” Carr says. “Our kickoff or punt returns did not help us establish any field position.”
The loss of Toomer and Hayes has forced Carr to look at Woodson, Williams, Butterfield, Winters or Daydrion Taylor as return specialists.
“Our goal is to go after the Big Ten championship,” Carr says. “I think we have as good a chance as anybody out there.”