The lack of depth at the running back position was quite clear if you glanced at the Michigan sideline in the Big House on Saturday.
During the final spring practice of the year, running back Mike Hart wasn’t dressed, and his fellow backmate, sophomore Kevin Grady, paced the sidelines under the assistance of crutches.
Grady is the most recent addition to the long list of injured Wolverines this spring. Last week, he tore his ACL. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said the tailback would undergo surgery to repair it today.
Carr went on to address Grady’s status for next season.
“We’ll have to see how the surgery goes this Monday, and he’ll begin the rehabilitation process,” Carr said. “The good news for him is he does have three years of eligibility left (sic). Depending on what happens this fall, we’ll see where that takes us.”
Even though he was relegated to the sidelines, Grady looked upbeat as he sat on the bench. The Grand Rapids native stayed for the entire practice and even listened in on some of the offensive huddles and the running backs’ meeting at the conclusion of the practice.
After coming to the Wolverines as a well-regarded prospect, Grady has been stuck behind Hart for two seasons. But Carr said that Grady finally found his rhythm in the offense this spring.
“Kevin was having an outstanding spring, and he was developing the patience it takes to play at that position – particularly in this offense,” Carr said.
But now Grady will have to wait for a chance to reach the potential he showed during high school. He led East Grand Rapids High School to two state championships (2003 and 2004).
The junior broke almost all of the Michigan high-school rushing records, but had yet to find his comfort level as a Wolverine.
With Grady a question mark, Michigan won’t have the luxury of a deep backfield, which was evident on Saturday.
Freshman Brandon Minor, the lone healthy back on the roster right now, took just a few snaps during the final spring practice. Because of the injuries, the coaches didn’t want to risk another with Minor. Instead, fullbacks Vince Helmuth and Mark Moundros took the majority of the carries.
The good news for Michigan is that freshman Carlos Brown, who moved to cornerback at the beginning of spring practice, will return as a running back for next season. He wasn’t with the team on Saturday.
With Grady’s status up in the air, Brown’s return to the offense is a blessing for the Wolverines.
“I think he’s going to be coming back and he’s going to be competing,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “And that’s nothing but a positive for him and us really, especially with Kevin’s injury.”
After amassing 483 yards on 121 carries as a freshman in 2005, Grady was inconsistent last season. He came into his sophomore year slimmed down and armed with high expectations. But Grady struggled to hold onto the ball and saw his playing time diminish. He carried the ball just 55 times for 187 yards.
But even with the disappointing injury, Hart knows Grady is optimistic about his recovery.
“That’s one thing about Kevin, he has a great attitude about everything,” said Hart, who also sat out of spring practice after having surgery on his left shoulder. “He’s not down, he doesn’t think less of himself. He knows what he has to do.”