BY ANDY REID
Daily Sports Editor
Published October 5, 2009
With the Michigan football team posting a measly 28 rushing yards in Saturday’s loss to Michigan State — including just 17 by running backs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor — coach Rich Rodriguez knows he has some work to do on the offensive line.
But until center David Molk recovers from a broken foot he sustained against Eastern Michigan, Rodriguez’s options are limited.
Molk is back in the weight room and participating in things like the power clean, according to defensive lineman Mike Martin. But it could still be two to four weeks before Molk sees the field.
“He should be out of his protective boot that he's been wearing,” Rodriguez said yesterday. “He was with (athletic trainer Paul Schmidt) yesterday doing some things, snapping the ball and all that, but I'll see him this afternoon and see how he's doing."
The Wolverines were averaging 270 rushing yards per game with Molk. In the two games without him, they are posting just 88.
Defensive stability: After redshirt freshman J.T. Floyd stepped up and replaced sophomore Boubacar Cissoko as the starting cornerback opposite stalwart Donovan Warren, it was clear the Michigan coaches wanted to make a few changes with the defense.
More changes will continue, and not only in the secondary. Rodriguez said yesterday that the coaches have entertained the possibility of switching things up other positions including linebacker.
“Yeah, every job is up for grabs every week,” Rodriguez said. “It sounds like coach speak, but our guys know they have to play at a certain level. Jonas (Mouton) and Obi (Ezeh) have played very, very hard. … I think Jonas is a very active player, and Obi has played solid, as well, but we can all play better.”
Currently, sophomore J.B. Fitzgerald is behind Ezeh at middle linebacker and redshirt sophomore Kevin Leach is No. 2 to Mouton at will linebacker. Leach started for the entire Eastern Michigan game, when Mouton was suspended for an apparent punch in the Notre Dame game.
The coaches are opening the competition on the defense in order to try and find a group that will best bond together and find consistency on Saturdays.
"You take away a couple of those scramble plays, their big third and long passes, and it was a pretty solid effort,” Rodriguez said. “But you have to count those. Those are part of the whole deal. … We've got to be more consistent I think is the word in all three phases, particularly defensively."
Mealer’s story: On Christmas Eve 2007, redshirt freshman lineman Elliott Mealer and his family were in a horrific car accident, which killed his father and girlfriend and left his brother paralyzed. Mealer also tore his rotator cuff while trying to rescue his brother.
Tonight at 7 p.m., ESPN’s weekly investigative newsmagazine show “ESPN E:60” will broadcast a feature about Mealer’s story.
“Lisa Salters reports how after the tragedy, Elliott needed to heal not only physically, but emotionally,” the show’s press release states. “He found comfort at the home of his girlfriend’s family and inspiration from his brother, who was fighting to walk again. Elliott also found a new family at the University of Michigan, where Rodriguez supported him as he redshirted his freshman season.”
Rodriguez elaborated yesterday on how Mealer has adjusted after the accident.
“He does not want to be coached or treated any differently, and he told us,” Rodriguez said. “We talked about that the first time I met him. I said, ‘Listen, we're here for you’ and all that, and he said, 'Coach, I just want to be treated like everyone else.' And so we have. We get on him on certain things, and we pat him on the back, but we also appreciate what he's been through.”
Rodriguez said the Michigan players and coaches have helped Mealer with the tragedy, but his family, who travels from Wauseon, Ohio for every game, have been there with him every step of the way.
“He's got a wonderful family,” Rodriguez said. “His mother Shelly and his brothers are just terrific people. They're always the last people I see after the game. They're tailgating champions now. They'll be right out there tailgating until long after everybody is gone.”