BY NATE SANDALS
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 7, 2008
Sam McGuffie was already one of the best-known players on the Michigan football team before he ever arrived on campus.
Thanks to his YouTube.com highlight reel, which includes footage of him leaping over an opponent, the true freshman from Cypress, Texas achieved near-legendary status before ever donning the maize and blue.
But in his first game, Michigan's loss to Utah, last week, McGuffie struggled to showcase his talents, gaining just 17 yards on eight carries.
Well, give McGuffie a mulligan on that one.
He gave Michigan fans what they'd beenn waiting for Saturday against Miami (Ohio).
“First game, I was nervous,” McGuffie said after the win. “I had first-game jitters, Big House jitters. Now that I had my first game out of the way, this game I didn’t have to think as much, I could just play.”
Just playing seemed to work well for McGuffie, who rushed for 74 yards on 17 carries and added 32 yards on three receptions.
What really wowed the fans was McGuffie’s big-play potential. His longest gains of the day were a 26-yard run and a 27-yard reception.
“Sam is the quickest I’ve seen,” Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson said. “We didn’t have a lot of times where he could show his quickness in the first game, but now that he’s hitting his reads, he’ll be a lot better in the Notre Dame game than he was in this game.”
As a team, Michigan picked up 206 yards on the ground, a vast improvement from the loss to Utah, in which the Wolverines managed just 36 yards.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez described the offensive line’s play against Utah as “below average,” but the young unit showed noticeable improvement in just one week.
“They’re coming around, play by play,” Michigan offensive line coach Greg Frey said. “Every time they get experience in the system, it helps them out a little bit. I think they were getting on their zone tracks a little better today.”
McGuffie was quick to credit the offensive line for his impressive day. As Frey pointed out, Michigan’s offensive scheme requires that all 11 players be on the same page, but when it clicks, “it’s special.”
The coaches expect those "special" moments to become more and more common, as the Michigan offense gains experience, . The improvement from week to week should be more noticeable than in past years because of the new system and the bulk of young players with playing time.
“Each game helps them tremendously because they feel more comfortable with what they’re doing,” Jackson said. “I’m talking about on any play, not just a run play. In pass protection, Sam was better today. On route technique, Sam was better today.”
But most Michigan fans weren’t too concerned with McGuffie’s pass protection skills while they stood outside Michigan Stadium hunting for autographs.
McGuffie was by far the most popular player. A pack of fans three to four deep surrounded him as soon as he stepped outside the barricades. Listed at just five feet 11 inches, McGuffie almost got lost in the crowd, but there was no question who the fans were circling.
In just two weeks, fans have already been electrified by McGuffie’s skill and star potential.
“I hope he’s a good interview for you guys,” one fan remarked to a reporter as she watched the crowd around McGuffie. “Because he’s going to be getting a lot of your attention.”