Finally healthy, Brandon Minor could be headed for a breakout season
Brandon Minor isn’t in the business of making bold predictions, not after all he’s been through.
So when someone suggested this week that he might finally be on the verge of a breakout season, all Minor could do was smile.
“That would be nice,” Minor said. “But I ain’t looking at it like that. That’s just going to have to fall into place. We got team goals first.”
Cautiously optimistic, Minor is grounded by the realism of his three frustrating years at Michigan.
He played sparingly and in Mike Hart’s shadow as a freshman and sophomore, then, before he could stake claim to the feature back role in Rich Rodriguez’s new spread offense, tore ligaments in his right wrist during spring practice last year.
Minor underwent two surgeries in the offseason and gutted through 11 games last fall a virtual one-armed man. The pain was so intense he couldn't carry the ball in his right arm and couldn't lift weights.
“I could barely get 145 (pounds) up,” Minor said.
Still, Minor showed enough in rushing for a team-leading 544 yards last year that he's considered one of the best returning backs in the Big Ten.
“He could be” a 1,000-yard rusher, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He’s got to get enough carries and he’s got to do the right things.
"We'd like to have two (1,000-yard rushers). That'd be kind of spoiled. I think we had that one time before (at West Virginia). But those guys, one thing about it, when they’re hungry and fighting and competing, they’ll try to make the most out of every opportunity I’m sure.”
For all its depth problems, Michigan is surprisingly stocked at running back.
Along with Minor, fellow seniors Carlos Brown (the speedster) and Kevin Grady (the grinder) have started games in their careers; sophomore Michael Shaw, one of the fastest players on the team, is healthy after a fragile first year; and true freshman Vincent Smith has turned heads a week and a half into fall camp.
Rodriguez has said several backs will be in the rotation this year, but Minor stands out as Michigan’s best hope for big things in the running game.
“He’s very, very competitive, he’s in great shape, so for both he and Carlos in particular, we expect big years out of those guys,” Rodriguez said. “Those are guys that I won’t say have had bad luck, but they’ve had some tough luck, not really been healthy, and now they are.”
Minor did miss time early in camp with recurring headaches from a recent car accident. But he returned to contact drills Monday, practiced fully Wednesday, and is ready to reclaim his place atop a crowded depth chart.
“We don’t really look at it as a competition,” Minor said. “We look at it as getting better because we’re going to play four backs, we’re going to play a lot of backs. We’re just trying to get each other better, learn off each other’s mistakes and we’re looking pretty good out there.”
Dave Birkett covers the University of Michigan football team for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org