Michigan evaluating running back Mike Cox closely this spring
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
When Avon (Conn.) Old Farms football coach Kevin Driscoll saw Mike Cox over Christmas break, Cox appeared “really psyched” about spring practice.
“He just felt really good about things, and when I’ve seen him before he was kind of down a little bit,” Driscoll said. “He wasn’t sure that he was going to fit in in the Michigan system, they weren’t going to go with big backs. He hung in there and he’s going to be just great. He’s going to make a huge difference for them.”
A 6-foot, 210-pound sophomore, Cox has his first legitimate chance to crack Michigan’s rotation at running back this spring.
He redshirted two seasons ago and played sparingly last year (13 carries for 113 yards), but is one of three candidates to fill Brandon Minor’s role as big running back.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said he’ll evaluate Cox, who was recruited for former coach Lloyd Carr’s system, closely this spring.
“Now is kind of his time,” Rodriguez said. “I think he feels more comfortable now and he’s certainly a guy that we feel is going to hopefully be ready to contribute a lot more this fall.”
Cox hasn’t taken regular carries since his junior year of high school - he broke his ankle early in his senior season - but Driscoll said workload won’t be an issue.
“He’s tough as nails,” Driscoll said. “He’s very tough and they’re going to have a hard time with him because he’s a big guy that’s really fast. That’s the trouble. He’ll hit you, too. He’s not going to back down from anybody.”
Along with Cox, Michigan is auditioning several other replacements for Minor and Carlos Brown, the Wolverines’ top two running backs last year.
Speedster Mike Shaw is the only experienced back taking part in spring practice. Vincent Smith, last year’s No. 3 rusher among running backs, is still recovering from a torn ACL.
Redshirt freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint is expected to be in the playing group next year somewhere, and true freshmen Stephen Hopkins and Austin White are two of seven early enrollees.
“I think we have great depth at that position,” offensive lineman Steve Schilling said. “I think there’s a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. Shaw’s more of a speed/slasher back. You get guys like Cox and Fitzgerald Toussaint that can pound it a little bit. And we get Vincent back, who was kind of a do-all back, can catch the ball out of the backfield, too. So I’m excited to be able to block for them and I hope they make some big plays for us.”
BigTenNetwork.com will live stream Michigan’s April 17 spring game and the network will carry a replay of the game at 8 p.m. that night. Wisconsin’s spring game also will appear on TV that night (11 p.m.) and live online.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.