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Ex-coach Carr enjoying this Michigan season

NEW ORLEANS -- Watching the first half of Michigan's season opener against Western Michigan in September, Lloyd Carr might have known he'd end up in New Orleans since the College Football Hall of Fame is honoring its inductees for this class at the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

He wasn't expecting his old team, Michigan, to necessarily join him.

"If you had told me back in August that this Michigan team was going to have the season they had and improve so much from start to finish, I go back to the first half against Western Michigan when we had problems stopping them," Carr said before a Hall of Fame luncheon Tuesday. "You fast forward to Nebraska, to me, it was a sensational performance in every phase of the game.

"To end up in the Sugar Bowl, if you would have said 'OK, you have to bet your life, I wouldn't have bet my life.' But it has been sensational."

Early this season, Michigan did struggle early in games defensively. Western Michigan scored on its first drive. So did Notre Dame. But the Michigan defense improved throughout the season, becoming one of the top units in the country.

The way they have played left Carr with pride. It should, as he had something to do with the makeup of this team. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison were on his staff.

The fifth-year seniors on the roster, including receiver Junior Hemingway and safety Troy Woolfolk, played for Carr in his final season. Many of the seniors and redshirt juniors on the team were at least recruited partially by Carr and his staff.

When Carr retired after the 2007 season, he told his players he'd still be around if they needed him. And that he'd be paying attention.

"To see them rebound and come to a BCS bowl and the excitement that has engendered in our fan base, I'm just really been happy for the players," Carr said. "When you don't meet expectations at Michigan, there is tremendous disappointment. So I'm really happy for them and you look at the team and listen to their interviews and read their comments, it is obvious that leadership is a critical issue.

"The job that Brady and his staff has done is really impressive."