Ridiculously Early 2009 Preview: Running Backs

The Ridiculously Early 2009 Preview: Quarterbacks lives here.

Welcome to the second installment of our ridiculously early 2009 preview. Last time we took a look at the QB situation. Today we will address a slightly brighter spot of the offense...running backs and fullbacks.

Okay, we're a tad older in the RB department. Although it should be noted that sophomore Michael Shaw, who saw some pretty decent time as a RB last season, is listed as a WR on the spring roster. But I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the backfield once or twice this year. Why is this? Because we actually have a pretty good shot at having a QB who can run AND throw...and not fumble the ball 3 times a game, so we need all the WRs we can get.

The obvious standouts are seniors Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown.

Many, if not all Michigan fans are waiting for Brandon Minor to have the kind of season we all know he can have. We've seen flashes of sheer awesomeness from him. Even in a few games last year come to mind...Penn State, Purdue...and Minnesota in 07.

Last year he rushed 103 times for 533 yards and 9 touchdowns. And there is no question that with McGuffie gone...the full weight of the rushing attack will fall on his shoulders. I fully expect him to be durable enough to stay healthy to last the entire season. And with Michigan hopefully able to take to the air with better and more success than they did in 08, that should open up more for Minor and his fellow backs on the ground.

A successful year in 09 would be probably somewhere in the 1200+ yards area. A good gauge for most Michigan faithful would be Mike Hart's 06 season where he rushed for 1562 yards and 14 TDs on 318 carries. Of course Minor probably won't see the ball over 300 times this year...especially with fellow backs Carlos Brown and Kevin Grady.

Carlos Brown has always been the kind of back that probably could be a great back at a mid-major...but has shown that he can provide as a very capable #2 on the depth chart for a school like Michigan. At 6-0, 206...he has the size to be durable and tough, and is also speedy enough to hit the holes or get to the outside and turn the corner.

On the road at Illinois in 07 was his breakout performance. Stepping in for an injured Mike Hart, he rushed 25 times for 116 yards. The following week against Minnesota, he stepped up again for 137 yards and 2 TDs on 13 carries.

He saw limited action last year due to injuries. But is I expect him to be a viable option for this year. He's very similar to Minor in size and might be a bit speedier. Odds are you won't see more than one back next to Forcier or whoever is QB at the same time, so Minor and Brown should be able to split RB duties 70/30.

Also in the mix is 5-9, 226 senior Kevin Grady.

More of a fullback than a finesse runner, Kevin Grady is great for getting those tough yards. Had his best season so far as a freshman in 05, rushing for 483 yards and 5 TDs on 121 carries. Production has dropped off since, but only due to lack of carries. He's always been a pretty dependable runner, gaining yards almost every time he touches the ball.

He's also battled injuries and discipline issues during his career. He did not see the field at all in 2007 after a spring injury. And then he missed the 2008 opener due to a drunk driving charge.

A solid season for Grady would probably look like 100 carries and 600+ yards. However, due to a senior-heavy RB position, I expect Grady to be called in for mostly short yardage situations. Let's face it, this isn't exactly the kind of guy that thrives in a spread-option type of offense. But he's a good back and should anything happen to Minor or Brown, it's nice to know that we have another senior with 3 varsity letters.

From there, the RB position gets smaller and younger. Junior Jimmy Potempa (5-7, 178), and highly touted freshman Vincent Smith (5-6, 158) will likely not see much action this year unless the line of succession gets very short.

Potempa saw very limited action in 07, playing in 3 games with career totals of 18 yards on 6 carries. Vincent Smith comes in as a rivals 3-star recruit from Pahokee, FL who enrolled early this spring. He was the #36 ranked RB in the nation. He's small, like McGuffie was. A red-shirt season would do wonders in building size and strength.

And finally, red-shirt freshman Michael Cox (6-0, 215) will likely see some action this year as a backup. Rivals had him ranked 30th coming out of high school in the RB position.

So there you have it. Not too much mystery involved in who's the creme of the crop. The expectations could not be higher for this class of RBs. For all of the uncertainty there is at every other offensive position, RB should be the one that gives us the most dependable output. Of course, I just screwed us with that comment.

But all kidding aside, the success of anything the offense does will rely 100% on how well the offensive line performs. And we'll address that position next.

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