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Full-pads practices will determine lead running back

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Mike Shaw is one of a handful of running backs that has a shot at locking down Michigan's feature back spot. Buy this photo

By Michael Florek, Daily Sports Editor
Published August 11, 2011

After four days of the Michigan football team’s camp, only one thing is clear regarding the Wolverines’ feature back to start the season: no one has any idea who it is.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges and senior running back Mike Shaw have said as much, while Michigan coach Brady Hoke said it twice in the same week.

But the decision shouldn’t take too much longer. Full-pads practices start Friday. For the first time this fall, Hoke will have the chance to truly “hear football” for the first time, a requirement for picking the right back.

“It’s hard to judge to some degree until we start really putting them down and seeing them protect with a big linebacker coming,” Hoke said. “How are they going to hold up there?”

Hoke mentioned that he hoped the next eight days would bring out a front-runner, leaving him the rest of camp to start focusing on game planning for the upcoming season. Those days will be filled with full-pads practices and the occasional two-a-days. And those practices will need to be heard a lot more than these last couple.

“I told them last night I didn’t hear (practice) yesterday,” Hoke said. “I heard it a little better today, but hearing football is important. It kind of tells you what’s going on, but luckily it’s not September 3rd.”

In the meantime, any thoughts about the coaches have at running back aren’t being transmitted to the players. Shaw mentioned that running backs coach Fred Jackson has been making sure that everyone is rotating through each string of offense.

The only thing that is known is that there will be a featured back who gets around 25 carries a game. For Shaw, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

“That’s what Michigan football is,” Shaw said. “It’s one guy and there’s a pride factor where every single running back wants to be the man, so it comes with the territory I guess.”

The running backs' biggest adjustment to Borges’ pro-style offense comes from lining up behind the quarterback instead of next to him in the shotgun. That adjustment may be especially big for the two freshmen running backs, Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes. Both are finishing up summer classes and have missed some practice time.

But the adjustment is eased by Jackson, the only position coach who was retained in the coaching transition from Rich Rodriguez to Hoke.

“A lot of guys know that they have to step up their games, because if we don’t show him, he’s been with us and we’ve been with him for such a long period of time, the clock on playing time is going to dwindle,” Shaw said.

NOTES: Linebacker Brandon Herron mentioned in a video on MGoBlue.com that he had been moved to weak-side linebacker … According to Hoke, both redshirt sophomore Seth Broekhuzien and freshman Matt Wile have been successful punting … Martavious Odoms’ left-forearm cast was something he used in the summer. It comes off in two weeks and hasn’t hampered his ability, according to Hoke … The coach also noted that no receiver outside of Hemingway and Roundtree had separated themselves from the pack.


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