John McColgan, Michigan's forgotten starter, about to take on bigger role at fullback in new offense
Playing fullback for Rich Rodriguez is sort of like being a designated hitter in the National League.
You’re just not needed.
No one knows that better than Michigan senior fullback John McColgan, who received just as many carries the past three seasons as Rich Rodriguez himself.
That is to say: None.
But Rodriguez is out as coach, Brady Hoke is in and, suddenly, Michigan will be counting on the walk-on from Saginaw to contribute in a way he hasn’t since high school.
Quarterback Denard Robinson isn’t worried.
"He'll get downfield on a couple pass plays, and he'll be one hard guy to bring down."
Michigan is ditching Rodriguez’s spread-option attack for a pro-style offense that is predicated on the power-run game and I-formations. That is a sharp departure from Rodriguez’s spread-option offense, which favored small, quick skill players, particularly in the backfield.
He rarely employed a fullback expect for in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Rodriguez did not sign a single fullback recruit during his tenure. Former Saline High School standout Vince Helmuth, the Wolverines’ last true fullback commit who was recruited by former coach Lloyd Carr, transferred after one season under Rodriguez.
It left a void at the position. That didn’t matter under Rodriguez, but is an issue for Hoke and Borges, who plan to employ a power-run scheme that uses big linemen, tight ends and fullbacks.
That’s where the 6-foot-1, 240-pound walk-on from Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central comes in — not that Michigan has much choice.
“(McColgan is) a tough guy,” Hoke said at the team’s media day last week. “He’s done a tremendous job there for us. ... When you look at it, he’s one of the true fullback bodies that (we) have.”
What is the fullback’s role in the new offense?
“Get the running back in the end zone,” McColgan said in a video published last week by the school. “That’s the fullback’s role, right there. It’s getting your man every play, basically.”
Hoke already has garnered a commitment from Utah fullback Sione Houma for next year. Until then, though, Michigan’s depth at the position is tenuous at best. McColgan and true freshman walk-on Joe Kerridge are the only fullbacks listed on the roster.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges said he plans to bolster depth at the position by getting another player snaps there.
“Assuming that there is always the possibility of someone getting hurt, we have actually messed with some other guys, and I don’t want to say who,” Borges said. “It is really pivotal, really important from our grouping perspective, that we don’t expose (who) right now.”
One possibility is sophomore running back Stephen Hopkins, who received snaps at fullback during the spring game. He also has good size at 6-foot, 228 pounds, which would help him in the blocking game.
Borges emphasized no matter who is slotted at fullback, McColgan will be the primary player at that position.