Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Michigan Preview 2008: Part 2-Backfield

Replacing Michigan’s all-time leading rusher would seem impossible. And it would be if Michigan was looking for one guy to step into the void. But Michigan will have at least four guys share the carries to fill in the void left by Mike Hart. Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown are the two obvious experienced guys to get the majority of the carries. Kevin Grady would have followed them before making one really bad decision on one summer night (getting behind the wheel while thinking Mickey Mouse was a dog). But his suspension has opened the door for two very fast true freshmen in Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw, to impress in camp. They have, and now Rodriguez has said they will play this season. Throw in Avery Horn who was very impressive and fast in the spring game and despite losing Mike Hart, this is probably the deepest and most dangerous unit on the offense. Granted there is still a very inexperienced offensive line in front of them, but the offense is designed to get them the ball in open space. They will be running backs by name, but especially for McGuffie and Shaw, a lot of their touches will probably come from screen passes and receptions on quick flare routes. Here is how the depth chart will probably shape up at running back IMO.

Running Backs:
1a. #4 Brandon Minor 6’1” 214 Jr. Richmond, VA (Varina)
Minor has been the top backup for Mike Hart the last two seasons. Both years he has also been the team’s second leading rusher. He is typically labeled a North-South runner, but IMO I like him once he gets to the outside and runs downhill. He runs a little two straight up and has been taken down a little two easily up the middle the last two seasons for me to label him a strictly North-South runner. Hopefully he has changed that because with the exception of suspended back Kevin Grady, he will have to be the guy earning the tough yards this season. Due to that I think he will be getting the majority of the carries up the middle, off tackle and whenever the quarterback is actually under center as opposed to in the shotgun. He, along with Brown has been waiting for this chance to be the guy and hopefully he can shine. He’s been banged up a little bit in camp the last week, but it doesn’t sound like anything too serious and he should be ready to go August 30th.

1b. #23 Carlos Brown 6’0” 213 Jr. Franklin, GA (Heard County)
Brown was out in the spring with a broken finger, which probably set him behind Minor from the start. But he will still be on the field as much as Minor, though his touches will probably come in a wider variety of ways. Brown is best known for his speed and the fact that he played some quarterback in high school. For this reason, the coaches should try to get him the ball in the open field a little more, or of course, at the quarterback spot. So while Minor will get more carries, I think Brown and Minor will be on the field about the same amount each game and sometimes will even share the backfield. Brown had some very good performances last year, highlighted by his start at Illinois in which he gained 113 yards on 25 carries. I don’t count the Minnesota game because, well, it was Minnesota. But Brown certainly showed at times last year that he can be a reliable productive back. He also is a little banged up right now, but there is no indication that he will be out for a prolonged amount of time. Brown and Minor should prove to be a good compliment to each other Minor (power, hopefully) and Brown (speed and elusiveness).

2a. #2 Sam McGuffie 5’11” 185 Fr. Cypress, TX (Cypress-Fair)
Everyone knows about McGuffie and Youtube videos. When Carr was still in charge, I was of the opinion that McGuffie, in that Michigan offense, would be too small, try to hurdle someone going up the middle, get his knee dismantled and would be a complete bust. When we hired Rodriguez, though, all of that changed because Rodriguez’s offense will allow McGuffie to get the ball in space a lot more. Space, space space, seems to have been the word beaten into the ground with this offense, but it is exactly what playmakers like McGuffie need. According to the coaches, Sam has picked up on the offense very quickly and as Rodriguez said last week “has done enough to earn significant playing time this year” along with Shaw. Teammates seem to be impressed with McGuffie too. McGuffie should get a chance to make a big impact early with tosses to the outside, screen passes and flare passes which all get him to the outside and in space. He has showcased great speed which the coaching staff has been dying to see. McGuffie should make some big plays this year once he gets to the outside, makes someone miss, and can start running downhill. Rodriguez still maintains that nobody has one the starting job at this spot either. And while a few months ago I would have called you crazy if you said McGuffie might start at some point during the year, don’t be surprised if that happens if he gets off to a good start. Regardless he will play and I think get 5-10 touches a game, if not more as the year progresses. Expect to see him in the slot position as well, as in the backfield. They will move him around a lot IMO.

2b. #20 Michael Shaw 6’0” 185 Fr. Trotwood, OH (Trotwood-Madison)
Shaw is still listed as a WR on the roster on MGoBlue, but Rodriguez has made it pretty clear that Shaw is a running back, mentioning him with McGuffie and the backs while making the distinction between them and the slot guys like Odoms, and Robinson. Even though Shaw is a running back, he will see plenty of time at the slot position too, like McGuffie. Shaw, just like McGuffie, brings speed. He is fast, and since he is speedy and has picked up the offense quickly like McGuffie, he also has “done enough to earn significant playing time this year.” Starting off the year Shaw will probably see the field just as much as McGuffie. Then, whoever performs better between the two of them will probably see their touches increase, while the other is put back to more of a backup role. There is not as much hype surrounding Shaw, unless you’re a bitter Penn State fan who is angry that we snake-oiled him away, but the consensus on Shaw has been fast, fast, very fast. I expect a lot from Shaw and McGuffie in terms of changing up the pace and making some big plays on the ground. This offense is not going to very consistent with all of the inexperience. But big plays will come at times, and the speed of these guys gives them a good chance to make the plays whether from out of the backfield or the slot.

3a. #34 Avery Horn 5’10” 185 RSFr. Hanford,CA (Hanford)
Horn might have performed the best out of the three back in the spring game. He is very fast, and once he cuts to the outside, it’ll be tough to catch him. With the incoming freshmen, he probably saw his chance to contribute go down, but if he gets the chance, he could make some big plays and earn some PT.

3b. #24 Kevin Grady 5’9” 228 RSJr. Grand Rapids, MI (East Grand Rapids)
It’s sad that he got his D.U.I. because all of his coaches and teammates were saying he was probably playing better than ever after rehabbing that torn ACL. He looked pretty good in the spring and was up there competing with Brown and Minor for one of the top two spots. He will get his chance to play again, if he doesn’t make any more mistakes, but now the freshmen will have a chance to impress first, and I’ll bet that one of them, at least, makes a big impression. That means Kevin’s chance will probably be slim to see the field. When I asked Rodriguez in the spring if they were thinking of making Kevin a fullback in the Owen Schmidt mold, he said flat out “No.” Kevin is a running back in the coaches’ mind, not a fullback. I hope Kevin does some things to show he can be the Schmidt type fullback because IMO he has all the tools to fulfill that role. And it seems more and more like his chance at running back is fading away barring injury.

1. #44 Mark Moundros 6’1” 232 RSSo. Farmington Hills, MI (North Farmington)
When asked about the fullback spot, from spring through fall so far, Moundros has been the guy Rodriguez has mentioned. Moundros started 7 games at fullback last season and his role this season will be mainly as a lead blocker, though I think his use will greatly diminish this year in the Rodriguez scheme. If Rodriguez had the Schmidt type, then the fullback would be used a lot more. And while many Michigan fans, including me, think Grady fits that mold, the coaches don’t agree for whatever reason, at least for now. But when the fullback is in, it should be Moundros. And I really hope he doesn’t get any carries (0 carries all last year and just 3 receptions).

2. #32 Vince Helmuth 6’1” 261 So. Saline, MI (Saline)
Helmuth may get in at times as well. A lot of people think he could step up this year and actually be the starting fullback, again, when we use a fullback. I think this stems from his frame (261 pounds). Seems like the coaches still like Moundros, but who knows. This position really should not be too important this year, but anybody who can block could help that inexperienced O-line.

IMO this is certainly the strongest and deepest unit on the offense. Minor, hopefully has learned to lower the shoulder a bit to run up the middle more effectively; Brown possesses the speed, size, and athleticism that gives the offense a lot of options of where to put him and how to get him the ball; and the freshmen bring speed that will make them dangerous in space. These four guys together I think can help make the absence of Mike Hart a little less glaring. The running game will be very different than running off tackle every first and second down. A lot more emphasis will be placed on getting these guys in space, with the exception, maybe, of Minor (who is the big question mark, hopefully he can be the banger).

Current Grade: B+ If Minor cannot be the tough inside runner that fans and the coaches hope he will be, then this gets bumped down to a B- since there would be a lack of a guy to gain a couple yards on third down, at least until Grady can play again. If Minor can be that guy, and the freshmen turn out to be outstanding, then this gets into the A range. The offense will lean heavily on the back field. For the offense to be the least bit successful, these guys will have to be great and make big plays often. The potential is there.

Tomorrow we will have the receivers and tight end preview.


Anonymous said...

Sorry for my bad english. Thank you so much for your good post. Your post helped me in my college assignment, If you can provide me more details please email me.

xlpharmacy said...

Actually is a good list of players, i read that some of them are going to another team because their contracts are done, some of them really worth the prices but other ones should start to practice properly and think about the future.

Anonymous said...

health benefits of garcinia cambogia[/url] is the best paunchy on fire extract readily obtainable in superstore now a days. Let slip upto 10 kg in 1 month. garcinia cambogia select