For the first time in years, Mike Hart won’t be announced as the starter in the Wolverines backfield when the Maize and Blue suit up against the Utah Utes in the season-opener on August 30. In fitting manner, Hart, along with Chad Henne, Mario Manningham and Jake Long, have ushered out the Lloyd Carr era.
Enter Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown.
Minor, at 6-foot-1, 214-pounds, enters his junior season with 678 yards and three touchdowns in his Michigan career. As a freshman, Minor broke the 100-yard barrier in just his seventh game, a 109-yard one touchdown performance over visiting Ball State. A year later he set a new personal best with 157 yards and a score against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Brown has taken a different route to the forefront in Ann Arbor. An injury plagued freshman season left the former Georgia prep star as a mystery heading into the 2007 season. After Mike Hart went down with ankle issues early in the season, however, Brown had his chance to make an impact.
“I think the Illinois’ game was just a confidence builder for me,” Brown said on his breakout 116-yard road game last season. “I never had a game where I had that much playing time in college. With that many carries, it just builds up confidence. I think it helps out a lot.”
The following week both Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown went for over 100-yards in Hart’s absence. Don’t be shocked if that’s to be the case often times this season.
“Really, I’m not going to say how often we are on the field together, but this offense gives us an opportunity to be on the field together,” Brown said.
“It is a lot (when asked how often both he and Brown are in the backfield). We are in the backfield together a lot.”
In the old offense, two similar backs on the field at the same time would have been almost unheard of. In Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense, however, it provides both with an opportunity. Out of his high-octane attack, West Virginia’s run game ranked in the top five in the nation last season.
“I can tell you it’s a lot of running, I will tell you that,” Brown said when asked about the difference between the two styles of offenses. “I really like it. It gives a lot of athletes an opportunity to get the ball in open space, and as an athlete that is what you really want.”
Again, Minor continued.
‘It is way different, especially with the speed of the game, and special formations too. Last year, it was basically almost like the same formation; like in the I-form set. Now, there is no telling where we are going to line up; we can do so much. It is real good.”
Over the opening weeks of the season, that element of surprise might be just what the Wolverines need. The well-noted lack of experience of the offensive side of the ball has given cause for concern to those closely monitoring the situation. For those at practice everyday, though, it’s just motivation.
“Yeah, the defense has been ahead, but we have more practices to go,” Minor concluded. “And I have been talking junk to the defense today, so we’re about to go after it this second practice. We’re about to change that.”
Brown added with one last tidbit.
“Oh yeah, we take that personal. Everybody is just saying that our defense is going to have to win the games for us, which we do have a great defense, you know, but our offense is coming along and we’re going to be ready also.”
Michigan opens the 2008 regular season by hosting the Utah Utes on Aug. 30, 2008 at Michigan Stadium.