It didn’t take long for Chad Henne to become the big man on campus. After
an injury knocked out starter Matt Gutierrez for the first game of the 2004
season, the true freshman took over the starting job. 2,743 yards, 25 touchdown
passes, and a Big Ten Championship later, the former Pennsylvania star is the
center of attention a lot sooner than he, or anyone else, ever predicted. All
of the off-field attention his performance has garnered has been a little daunting
for the youngster. “Being recognized around campus is kind of bothering
me right now," said Henne. “It gets on your nerves, but you just
have to deal with it for how you played last season and take it day by day.
You pretty much don't want to say your last name in class. You just want to
say your first name. You don't want to be known."
By comparison, Henne's on-field adjustment to being "the man" has
been much easier. Though he experienced some growing pains as a freshman, they
helped him prepare for this season. “Our offense is pretty difficult,"
Henne explained. "Getting to know which plays go against which defenses
and trying to think in the back of your mind, 'don’t mess anything up,
try to stay calm, and do your best.' Last year, I don't even know if I was at
50 percent [of the playbook]. They would give me a play and I would just run
the play. This year I'm understanding why we're going to run the play,
what defense's they're going to give us, and what plays go against that."
Helping the talented field general in his transition to becoming a college
starter was/is one of the best quarterback coaches in college football. Henne
credits Scot Loeffler as the guiding light in his continuing maturation. "Before
every game we prepare very well," Henne said. "I just went through
a lot of film work, and Coach (Scot) Loeffler was helping me along the way."
Loeffler’s guidance combined with the experience he gained last year
should help Henne deal with the pressure and expectations his initial success
has inspired. "The pressure being in front of all those people and different
stadiums last year will help out this year” said Henne. "You have
to be like that. You always want pressure on your shoulders because that's when
you perform your best. That's how I feel."
Despite the loss of his favorite target from last season, Henne is confident
that the Michigan offense can still be explosive. While no one returning player
can equal Braylon Edwards' production, Henne feels the collective talent at
the skill positions will keep things on the right track. ”If your in the
right rhythm each play and you know where they're going to be, you can always
count on them catching the ball and making a play” Henne said of his receivers.
“With Mike Hart, Kevin Grady, Max Martin and also the other running backs
in the backfield, it’s going to give us a balanced attack. We have a lot
of great players back on offense. It's going to be a great experience again.
I can't wait!”