Michigan enters the 2009 football season with a pair of senior running backs. At the Wolverines media day on Sunday, Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson sat down with GBW to talk about how he see's the running back position shaking out this fall, plus talked about why Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown can both succeed this season.
When Michigan takes to the field at Michigan Stadium in just under two weeks to kick-off the 2009 football season, all eyes will be on who’s under center. Aside from the three-way race for the starting quarterback job, though, another battle is brewing on the practice fields just off State Street.
Who will be offset to that starting quarterback? Will it be Brandon Minor? Or will it be Carlos Brown?
Minor might be the odds on favorite, his 533 yards and nine touchdowns were both tops on the team in 2008, but in Minor and Brown Michigan has a capable duo of senior backs.
“I tell them all this,” running backs coach Fred Jackson said. “If you come to work every day, and you work hard every day, I’ll find a way to get you on the field.”
Over each of the past three seasons Minor and Brown have both seen the field. It’s been remaining on the field that’s been the hard part. Both Minor and Brown have consistently battled injuries each of the past three seasons. In 2008, after Brandon Minor appeared poised to take over following the departure of Mike Hart, the 6-foot-1, 218-pound bruiser from Virginia suffered a painful wrist injury that plagued him through the entire 3-9 campaign. Brown ultimately also fell victim to the injury bug, thus leaving freshman Sam McGuffie the surprise starter at this time last year.
Now, though, each appears healthy and the coaching staff has taken a cautious approach to maintaining the health of their two backs, Minor even being held out of a scrimmage last week.
“You’re going to get a few nicks and bruises as a running back. You’re going to get them,” Jackson continued. “When it comes time for him to go out and play, though, he’ll be ready to play.
“He thinks that when a guy is in front of him and the goal line, there’s no way to get to the goal line other than going through the guy as opposed to running him. That’s just his thought process, and a linebackers going to take that personally. A defensive tackle is going to take that personally. They’re going to try and make you pay for it, but he doesn’t look at it that way. He looks at it and says ‘that’s the goal line. That’s the tackle. I’m going through him to score.’”
If Minor is the thunder of the Michigan running back combination, it makes Carlos Brown the lightning. A 6-foot, 210-pound speedster from Ga., Brown provides a change of pace needed to keep a defense on its toes. It forces them to be aware of who’s on the field at all times.
“The thing about Carlos, first of all, he’s got great speed. I mean there are not many people faster than Carlos Brown, other than shoe lace (Denard Robinson). He’s very fast. He has a tendency, like Justin Fargas, back when I had Justin a long time ago; he has a tendency to think he can out run everything as opposed to a cut. He’s going to bounce and run and out run and angle a defense as opposed to starting an angle on the defense and then cutting underneath it. He’s got to work more on his cutting ability after he see’s daylight.”
The Wolverines also expect to see running backs Michael Shaw, Kevin Grady and Vincent Smith factor into the mix. Shaw, a sophomore out of Ohio, and Smith, a freshman from Florida, both provide an abundance of speed and big play capabilities. Kevin Grady will be used in short yardage situations, plus could see some time at the fullback position.
Michigan opens the 2009 season hosting Western Michigan at Michigan Stadium on September 5. It will be the Wolverines first chance at washing away the sting of a 3-9 season. Kick-off is scheduled for 3:30 on ABC.