When it came to identifying the head-turners at Michigan's fall camp this year, Brandon Minor's name was near the top of the list. The Richmond, Virginia native impressed coaches and teammates alike with his outstanding blend of size, speed, and vision. Michigan fans got a glimpse of that exciting skill set when he ran for 24 yards on his first play from scrimmage. When asked to look back on his first few months in a Michigan uniform, Minor was extremely modest in his assessment of his performance.
"I think I performed well," he said. "I fit right into the system because I'm used to running that anyway. I came in and fit in good with it."
Minor's early success was a bit surprising to some because many pundits considered him to be a better fullback prospect than tailback coming out of high school. That evaluation was due to a 4.7 40 he ran at a combine prior to his junior year. What most didn't know, however, was that he was running on an injured leg at the time. The big name colleges ignored his aberrant 40-time and stayed hot on his trail. That continued to be the case even after he tore his hip-flexor prior to the start of his senior season. When the end of his recruitment finally drew near, Miami, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, and Michigan were the last programs left standing. When he finally chose to don the Maize and Blue, there were a few vocal detractors that questioned his choice because of the depth at his position in Ann Arbor. That, though, was never a factor for the confident youngster.
"It's just like anything else," Minor said regarding the full depth chart at Michigan shortly after his commitment. "If you work hard, you get results. I know that Michigan got a commitment from another running back, but that doesn't mean anything to me, I'll go in and play wherever I go."
"I wasn't intimidated at all," reiterated Minor this weekend. "That's why I came here. Everybody was like, 'why are you going up there? They've got two established runningbacks.' I was like, 'I'm just going in to compete and try to win a national championship.' Whether I get carries, or I don't…I just support this team. I don't worry about it."
According to Minor, that same team-first attitude has been evident in every player at his position. The strong depth has been anything but a hindrance to his progress. As a matter of fact, he feels that his transition to college ball has been eased by his fellow backs, especially Mike Hart.
"I just use (the other running backs) as learning tools," he said. "I just watch them to see what they do to see how to be successful. I just learn from them. Every time they come back to the sideline they tell me what to look for. The one that has helped me the most has been Mike Hart. People are surprised when they hear me say that, but he has coached me up on a lot of things."
Hart's most recent lesson came Saturday after the 6-0, 210-pound freshman was belted by Central Michigan safety Curtis Cutts.
"He got hit pretty good," Hart said laughing. "He's a young guy. He came through the hole, got tripped up, and he didn't lift his head up. He just has to realize that once you get through that second line of defense, that third line of defense is going to come down hard. The safety came down real hard and hit him. He just has to get his head up quicker. Next time he'll be prepared for it."
"Actually I didn't see (Cutts), to tell you the truth," said Minor. "It might have looked like I saw him because I was looking out the corner of my eye at the other person. When I ran through the hole, I shed a tackle. As soon I looked back, I got blasted (laughing)."
Though Hart joked with his teammate about the play, he made sure to let both Minor and everyone else know that the youngster's strength and concentration on the play was impressive.
"He was fine (physically) and he did a great job holding on to the ball," Hart said. "When you get hit like that, not seeing the guy…and you hold on to the ball…he did a great job."
Like every other back on the roster, Minor has paid particular attention to ball-security. He constantly replays in his head a frequent piece of advice he receives from runningbacks coach Fred Jackson.
"Don't fumble the ball," Minor said. "That's all (Coach Jackson) says (laughing). I didn't fumble (Saturday). When the ball came loose, I was well on the ground. They just beat me up under the pile (laughing)."
With a few carries now under his belt, Minor is even more confident in his ability to be a contributor to this year's team. When asked if he had any shred of nervousness about playing at Notre Dame this weekend, the freshman tailback dismissed the notion entirely.
"No, I can't be," he said. "That's when you mess up."