Jason Avant is just patiently waiting for his turn.
The true freshman wide receiver has logged significant playing time on special teams this season, but when it comes to making big plays and catching the football – something he did with regularity at Chicago’s Carver Military Academy – things haven’t gone his way.
Despite lining up a few times each game with the first-string offense, Avant has fewer receptions than kicker Philip Brabbs (one).
“He’s got a great attitude, and he understands that he’s playing behind a senior (Ron Bellamy),” said Willie Simpson, Avant’s coach at Carver.
There’s no question that Avant, who runs a 4.4 40-yard dash and has a 39-inch vertical leap, has the potential to make a quick impact for the Wolverines.
“He’s a potential Heisman Trophy winner,” said Simpson, who still talks to Avant often. “Wait till he and (sophomore Braylon) Edwards get together next year. Oh my goodness. It’s just a matter of when they’re going to him. He makes everything look easy.”
The thing that the 6-foot-1, 206-pounder has done easily at Michigan is put defenders on their backs. He has been compared to former Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Michael Irvin for his blocking ability and toughness.
The Michigan coaches are using Avant in run-blocking situations with the first unit, and against Purdue, an Avant block on the corner spurred Chris Perry for an eight-yard gain.
“Avant is as tough and competitive of a kid as we have,” offensive coordinator Terry Malone said. “As a true freshman, it’s amazing what he does.”
“I’ve never seen a receiver as strong as he is, blocking down field like him,” Simpson said. “I haven’t seen freshmen around the country block like that.”
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said that Avant has been “a little banged up” the past two weeks. The former high school basketball star “made one of the great catches you will ever see on a day when we were not in full pads (at practice),” Carr said. Avant extended himself for the catch, but when he came down, he landed awkwardly.
“It wasn’t enough to keep him out,” Carr said. “I can see him playing more as we get into this. He has a great future here.”
“When they give him a chance, he’s going to show what he can do,” Simpson said. “Sometimes, you just have to do what the coaches tell you.”
Soft sand: While Perry has been battling an ankle injury the past few weeks, it’s been starting fullback B. J. Askew that has taken over at running back. Carr said that one reason for Askew’s emergence as the backup tailback is that he wasn’t able to give Tim Bracken and David Underwood enough carries in nonconference games.
The other reason? Carr’s desire to get fullback Sean Sanderson on the field.
“He has soft hands,” Carr said of the redshirt freshman. “If you look at the film on him in the first game and you look at him today, he looks like a different guy. We will get him the ball out there.”