At runningback, the Michigan football team has many options, but its best weapon is questionable for this Saturday’s home opener against Western Michigan.

How will the loss of Brandon Minor affect Saturday’s outcome?

Choices

Before Wednesday’s practice, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said senior Brandon Minor was “limping around a little bit” due to an ankle injury and would be questionable Saturday. Replacing Minor at the starting spot would be senior Carlos Brown, with freshman Vincent Smith, sophomore Michael Shaw and fifth-year senior Kevin Grady also getting carries.

Minor wore a green jersey Wednesday, denoting limited contact. Other times during fall camp, last season’s leading rusher has endured practice-limiting injuries, including headaches from an early August car accident.

“It’s kind of frustrating, because the offense and defense go at it a lot, talking a lot of junk, so I just hate to see them talk junk and run their mouths – it just makes me want to get out there,” Minor said on Aug. 18.

Known as one of Michigan’s toughest backs, Minor routinely receives praise from the coaching staff and teammates. After an injury-ridden 2008 season, many expect Minor to be poised for a breakout year and possibly a 1000-yard season, should he stay healthy.

Quarterback query: Whether or not Minor will join the Wolverines this Saturday, who will be handing the ball off is still to be determined.

Rodriguez reiterated his plan to play his three quarterbacks — redshirt junior Nick Sheridan and freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson — against the Broncos.

But that isn’t to say no one has stood out.

“All three of them have done well in spurts,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just that no one has really separated themselves to say, ‘Hey, he is solid. That guy is going to take all of the reps.’

“I didn’t expect that to be. …You find out more in a ball game. That’s why the first game, the first couple of games, you find out more about what you have on your team, and what you need to adjust to, than any other time.”

All three quarterbacks continue to take reps with the first team offense. In the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference on Tuesday, Rodriguez called Sheridan the “safe” option because of his year of experience in the offensive system, but has noted the development of Forcier and Robinson.

Rodriguez said he expects to name his starter sometime Thursday after considering a number of different aspects.
“A little bit might be field position,” Rodriguez said. “A little may be, what do we want to open the game with? What kind of series of plays, what part of the offense do we want to approach the opening series or the opening couple of series with? That will probably make the determination. The rest of it is flow or feel of the game.”

Lean on me: The recent Detroit Free Press report alleging Michigan exceeded NCAA limits on practice and conditioning times has brought on a media onslaught from many directions.

But for Rodriguez, that has also meant personal support.

“I’ve had a lot of coaches who have reached out,” Rodriguez said. “You normally get that anyway for the first game, but I’ve got a lot of friends in the business, a lot of good people out there. Support from our fans has been tremendous. The players’ parents, and a lot of the players, they’re really focused and excited.”

During Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches’ teleconference, Minnesota coach Tim Brewster outwardly supported Rodriguez saying he didn’t “believe that Michigan was overextending their players. It’s unfortunate this publicity has come out.

Rich Rodriguez is a heck of a football coach.

He’s been doing this a long time, and it’s just very unfortunate.”

Before Wednesday’s practice, Rodriguez did not seem at all phased by the outside noise or investigations. His tone was ordinarily upbeat when discussing the Wolverines’ upcoming game, only turning curt when the allegations were broached.

“You just do what you’re hired to do. You grind away and coach these young men, get together with your coaches. That’s what you always do – you stay focused on the task at hand. The task at hand for us is Western Michigan, and this season. Our coaches and our players are all doing that.”

Notes: Rodriguez said fifth-year senior Jason Olesnavage will be the starting kicker this Saturday, but the competition is still ongoing. … Along with Minor, sophomore cornerback Boubacar Cissoko and freshman wide receiver Je’Ron Stokes wore green jerseys, denoting limited contact. Rodriguez said Monday that fifth-year senior guard Tim McAvoy will be out several weeks with a knee injury.

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