While preparing for the upcoming season during fall practice,
fifth-year senior fullback Kevin Dudley decided he’d have a
little talk with Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.

Chris Burke
Fifth-year senior Kevin Dudley enjoys his duties blocking for freshman running back Mike Hart. (TONY DING/Daily)

Dudley had played in 24 games over his career, notching 12
starts (11 of them coming in 2003). But he had yet to receive a
carry — instead focusing all of his effort on paving the way
for Michigan’s running backs.

So Dudley decided to ask Michigan coach Lloyd Carr to give him
the ball every once in a while. And the request has paid off.

Well, sort of.

Through Michigan’s first six games this season — all
of which Dudley has started at fullback — the fifth-year
senior has carried the ball twice, for a total of 11 yards. And
while the two plays called for No. 32 have satisfied his request,
Dudley keeps hoping that Carr will utilize him again.

“I’m not going to turn (carries) down,” Dudley
said.

At Franklin County High School in Brookville, Ind., Dudley
enjoyed a hugely successful career on the ground, rushing 525 times
for 45 touchdowns and almost 3,300 yards during his prep days.

But during his time at Michigan, Dudley has been a blocking back
from day one — using his thick, 6-foot-1, 236-pound frame to
help the running backs post big numbers.

“It’s not really (frustrating),” said Dudley
about his lack of carries. “I’ve never really gotten
any (at Michigan) to have taken away.”

While Dudley hasn’t had many opportunities to run the
ball, freshman Mike Hart has. Hart, now fully entrenched as
Michigan’s top running back option, exploded for 160 yards in
Michigan’s win over Minnesota on Saturday.

Hart has rushed for just shy of 500 yards on the season —
and no one is more impressed with his efforts than the guy leading
him down the field.

“Mike Hart is just stepping up unbelievably,” Dudley
said. “Being able to pick up the reads and everything, it
takes some people two years to figure it out — the way
he’s come in and done it in two months, it’s just
unbelievable.”

One of the knocks on Hart coming into Michigan was that he might
not be big enough to stand up to the punishment of Big Ten
football. But Dudley, who has prided himself on delivering some of
that punishment to Michigan’s opponents, says that Hart
isn’t about to back down from anyone.

“When he lowers that shoulder, he gets the job
done,” Dudley said. “I think the one play I really
figured out that he was going to be the real deal was when we ran a
screen pass to him (against Notre Dame). He went up the sideline
and ran over a (defensive back). I was like, ‘He’s
here.’ ”

One of the challenges that Dudley has had to endure this season
is making the adjustment from blocking for Heisman Trophy-finalist
Chris Perry, to blocking for the stream of backs that have flooded
into Michigan’s backfield this year.

Hart — who Dudley describes as “shifty”
— is the clear-cut No. 1 back for now, but six different
Wolverine running backs have received carries during key moments
this season. That means Dudley has to pay attention to who’s
running the ball.

“It’s sort of different, especially on the sweep
plays,” Dudley said. “(You have to know) how a guy runs
and what you will have to do to the defender.”

For the time being, Dudley will continue to focus on his
blocking assignments — he claims he doesn’t have any
plans to ask for more carries. That’s not surprising because
Dudley doesn’t exactly see himself as one of the Wolverines
more vocal leaders.

“When it gets intense, I’ll start yelling, (but)
I’m definitely laid back,” Dudley said. “I pretty
much let my actions on the field speak for themselves.”

Time will tell if those actions include what Dudley’s
really hoping for: carry No. 3.

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