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Football: Mallett gets first start for injured Henne

Chris Khorey | Friday, September 14, 2007

When Ryan Mallett came to Michigan in January, he had visions of one day becoming the Wolverines’ starting quarterback.He had no idea that day would come so soon.Mallett, a freshman who arrived in Ann Arbor a semester early to get a jump on classes and attend spring practice, was thrust into the lineup when senior Chad Henne suffered a leg injury in the second half of last week’s 39-7 loss to Oregon.Henne did not return to the game, and he will not be available Saturday when winless Michigan takes on 0-2 Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium. Instead, the 6-foot-7, 252-pound freshman from Texarkana, Ark., will be under center against the Irish.”I think he’s a bright guy,” Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr said of Mallett. “He comes from a football family. His dad is a high school football coach. He’s been in great competition at Texarkana, comes from a great program.”Three years ago, Henne was in a similar boat, having won the starting job in fall camp as a true freshman.But Carr said his current freshman is further along than Henne was at that point.”Chad Henne came in, in July, and spent a month with us as far as conditioning,” Carr said. “Ryan was here throughout the winter. He had spring practice. And so from a standpoint of being able to do some more things, certainly he has more experience than Chad had at the same time.”But even with that extra spring practice under his belt, Mallett will have a simplified playbook to work with, Carr said.”The reality is that it’s a fine line,” he said. “You can do too little and not give us a chance, or you can do too much and make it impossible. So our job as coaches is to give him a plan that he feels good with and that gives us a chance to put points on the board.”In his freshman year, Henne completed more than 60 percent of his passes for over 2,700 yards, including a 25-of-40, 240-yard performance in a 28-20 loss to the Irish in his second start.Last week, Mallett completed seven of his 16 pass attempts for 49 yards with an interception. Senior wide receiver Adrian Arrington said he and junior wide out Mario Manningham will need to use their experience to help the youngster under center.”As receivers, we just have to be in the right place at the right time,” Arrington said. “He hasn’t had enough experience to fake on the move like we can with Chad, so we just have to be in the right place at the right time.”Senior offensive tackle Jake Long said that Mallett took control of the huddle immediately, and that his completion percentage will improve with experience.”Ryan stepped out there; he didn’t hesitate and took charge,” he said. “I think in practice he is going to get better, too.”Coming out of high school, Mallett was known for a strong arm and was ranked second in the nation among quarterbacks by several recruiting services – with only Notre Dame starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen ahead of him.”We did a lot of work on Mallett coming out of Texarkana,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “He’s a really big guy … with a cannon arm. He can make all the throws. He was that way in high school. And I’m sure that this week, now that he’s a starter, they’ll have an opportunity to build the offense around what he does the best.”