Posted at 6:00am -- 8/20/2011 GBMWolverine: Coach's Corner -- Michigan..."/> Posted at 6:00am -- 8/20/2011 GBMWolverine: Coach's Corner -- Michigan..."/>

GBMWolverine: Coach’s Corner — Michigan Football — Offense — Plenty of Questions and Some Potential Answers — Part III of IV


Posted at 6:00am — 8/20/2011

GBMWolverine: Coach’s Corner — Michigan Football — Offense — Plenty of Questions and Some Potential Answers — Part III of IV

Next, let us turn to the running backs and the realities and possibilities for 2011.

Coach Borges has made clear he wants a featured back, one that can carry most of the load. His reasons for the above center on continuity and rhythm. A featured back gets an offense in a grove, ala Mike Hart or Chris Perry.

The search continues as the staff has put the starting job on try-out status. Each back has some strengths. The best options at running inside are probably Hopkins, Smith (because of vision) and maybe even Cox. The best shot at outside running may be Shaw and Fitz T. The best combination of both may be Shaw and Smith. No Michigan back has shown great ability inside or outside, but a back is generally only as good as the offensive line.

To get to the front of the line a back must first run effectively between the tackles and second be very effective at pass blocking. Michigan will almost certainly in passing situations use many three-receiver formations with one back in the backfield.

Regardless of running ability, a back will not see significant time unless the blocking is adequate to give Denard time to execute the offense. This skill has been a primary focus of practice and will continue throughout the season. One would think Hopkins could pull this off, but apparently not yet. Last year saw Smith taking on rushers many times with mixed success; any failure was certainly not due to toughness. This skill (pass blocking) is not only physical but also an attitude. Think back to some of the great blocks Mike Hart threw at blitzers while at Michigan and Indianapolis.

And so the coaches hope the competition spurs one to the front, but that may not happen. If not, Coach Borges may go to situational packages and temporarily eat his dream.

Who can catch the ball out of the backfield on swings and releases? Smith and Shaw would seem to have the advantage in this situation. Who can pound the ball on third and one the best? Hopkins and maybe Cox may hold the advantage here. Who runs best with both zone blocking schemes and traditional iso-blast? That answer is currently a guess.

As stated, all backs depend on he offensive line. The linemen now have some extra experience and work well together as a unit. The group is simply not Wisconsin and struggles to get more than two yards straight ahead against very good competition. Some size and strength has been added, but the group collectively still gives away 10-20 pounds to most Big Ten units. There is intelligence, toughness, speed, and potential for future performance. Molk will need to stay healthy and Lewan needs to make up for lost time and convince himself the injury is in the past. Barnum is athletic but still a little undersized. Others will fight it out.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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