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Does Michigan have the deepest backfield in the Big Ten?

If you look around the conference there are no doubt some talented running backs in the Big Ten. Evan Royster is a 1200 yard back who can slash and gash with a great combination of size and speed, as well as great vision. Royster is accompanied by Stephon Green's top end speed. At first glance John Clay is a traditional Wisconsin back, with phenomenal size and the ability to bang it out between the tackles.

However, with a second look we see that Clay has another gear very similar to Beanie Wells, and is probably the most complete back in the conference in terms of NFL potential. Even without Beanie Wells, Dan Herron and Brandon Saine could keep Ohio State's running game more than just a respectable compliment to Terrelle Pryor. There are some teams with question marks at running back, having to replace proven workhorses like Javon Ringer and Shonn Greene.

Iowa's Jewel Hampton is proven in the sense that he had nearly 500 yards rushing and a 5.1 yards per carry, along with 7 touchdowns. Those numbers should definitely increase with more work. Among those great individual talents there may not be any team that has more depth and wealth of talent at running back than Michigan. Brandon Minor finished 2008 with 533 yards rushing, nine touchdowns and a 5.2 yards per carry with only four starts!

Along with that he has 1156 yards rushing in his career and 12 touchdowns. Carlos Brown has recorded 545 yards and four touchdowns in his career, although he has been limited to very few opportunities and faced injuries last year that only gave him significant reps in one game. Kevin Grady started out with a solid season as a true freshman, but struggled after an ACL injury kept him out of action in 2007.
He has still recorded 703 yards rushing in his career, along with nine touchdowns.

Sophomore Michael Shaw rushed for 215 yards and 5.1 yards per carry as a true freshman last season. With all of these guys combined with freshman early enrollee Vincent Smith point to a variety of ways to attack opposing defenses.
Ultimately, this is a group that has suffered a combination of sitting behind Mike Hart, learning a new system behind an inexperienced offensive line, and some tough luck staying healthy. However, it's not crazy to think this group is going to have a breakout year, nor that this is possibly the deepest running back unit in the Big Ten.


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