The Vikings are set with their top two running backs on the depth chart but have been searching for a stabile No. 3 for some time.
That could explain their interest in Texas A&M running back Christine Michael, a gifted athlete with a one-year history of trouble with a new coaching regime.
The former Aggie had a disappointing and frustrating senior season, as a coaching change that resulted in a new offense and some apparent personality conflicts all contributed to a drop in production and divergent views between player and coach.
Michael was a rotational back in 2010 and led the team with 631 yards and four touchdowns before a broken right leg ended that season. In 2011, he rushed for 899 yards and eight touchdowns, but a late-season torn ACL prematurely ended that season as well.
He returned for his senior year, but that didn't go as he hoped, either. Instead of an injury, it was a conflict with the coaching staff.
"It was frustrating, but it was something I had to overcome, get over," he said. "It was for the most part a tad frustrating."
Still, the Vikings had enough interest in him to schedule a private workout, one of four teams that have done so with him, according to a CBSSports.com report after covering the Texas A&M pro day.
Michael's athleticism showed through at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at 220 pounds, jumped 10 feet, 5 inches in the broad jump (second-best among running backs), and blew away the competition with a 43-inch vertical jump – easily the best among running backs and 1½ inches higher than any other combine participant.
On the field, the one knock on his game is his ability to pass protect, a common flaw in rookie running backs.
"I will just say my freshman and sophomore year, being an immature player on the field, I was all about running the ball. I was all about scoring," Michael said. "But as I got through my junior year, senior year, all-star game and even to this point now, I realized that what makes a complete player, what makes a great player, is what he does when he doesn't have the ball in his hands. Knowing pass protection, knowing what other the other guys are doing on the field, and just being a complete player, a complete person and being more mature."
Maturity was a common theme in Michael's media interview at the combine as he tried to put his disagreements with the coaching staff behind him.
He said the issues started at the beginning of the season when he lost his starting spot.
"Things kind of got shaky. This time I just let it go. Everything happens for a reason. I just wanted to go to the next thing. My next focus was on the (East-West Shrine Game). When I got there,
I felt like a lot of pressure was off. I felt welcomed. I felt free. I just felt like I was ready to play," he said.
"You take the guy who was at the end of last season and kind of compare him to the guy I am now, I've learned a lot. That's the thing – you live and you learn. For the next time those things come about, you know how to handle those things."
Michael says he feels he and A&M coach Kevin Sumlin are now "real good friends," but he admitted that the coaching change and the change in offensive scheme, along with losing his starting spot, all piled up and made him "stubborn."
But he still didn't put all his troubles in the past. At the combine, Michael overslept and missed two interviews with teams, according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt, another red flag for any team that is thinking about investing a mid-round pick in him. Despite all the issues he had his senior season, which lasted through the Cotton Bowl (he didn't play in that), Michael said he doesn't regret coming for a final season.
"Not at all. It was great. The reasons I came back, we have a great fan base, 12th Man. I had great teammates, a great offense, pretty much a great offensive line. I don't regret anything as far as coming back to A&M. I enjoyed all four years," he said. "It was a blessing to be a part of that. When you come from somewhere like I came from, to go to college, to play football on the collegiate level, it's a blessing. I don't regret anything. Everything happens for a reason."
Despite all the issues and the disappointment of entering the season as one of the highest rated running backs and exiting in the coach's doghouse, he still rushed for 12 touchdowns as mainly a short-yardage back.
A private workout would not only give the Vikings another chance to see his athletic abilities, but also talk to him further and see if they believe he has matured or if he isn't worth the risk.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings to work out athletic running back
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