March 13, 2008

Spring preview: Grady, Minor adapting to spread

Carlos Brown. Carlos Brown. Avery Horn. Sam McGuffie. Michael Shaw. Terrene Robinson. Each back seems to be a perfect fit in Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. But juniors Kevin Grady and Brandon Minor aren't ready to be pushed aside quite yet …

"I've heard the talk that Kevin is a bigger back and doesn't fit into this offense, but I think he fits in wonderfully," East Grand Rapids head coach Peter Stuursma said. "No. 1, he can pass protect, which they're going to need back there. He can catch the ball - he has awesome hands and caught a lot of balls for us - and the third thing is, the spread creates running lanes and Kevin is still extremely dangerous when he gets into space.

"If you're one-on-one with a defender, the kid that can juke you or run over you and keep on going is every bit as dangerous as the kid that can cut outside and pick up a few extra yards with his speed."

Minor is also a good enough receiver and he's improved his blocking, but he doesn't seem to have the same immediate explosiveness or cutting ability of Grady. Still, he's working to prove he deserves an opportunity to compete for the starting job.

"When I saw him two weeks ago, everything was positive," Varina High School offensive coordinator Blande Wolfe said. "Brandon is the type of back that can adjust to anything, and he told me he's working the hardest he's ever worked on increasing his speed.

"Obviously, he's more of a downhill runner, but he can catch the ball, and I know that Coach Rodriguez is among the very best offensive minds out there. Brandon has a talent and I'm confident Coach Rodriguez will find a way to utilize him."

Following a strong freshman season in which he rushed for 238 yards and two touchdowns, Minor took one step forward and one step back last year. He was afforded the opportunity to step in for an injured Mike Hart, but suffered his own injury against Purdue in Week Six. Minor returned to the lineup to rush for 157 yards against Minnesota, but had a difficult time building on that performance. He finished the year with 385 yards and a score on 90 carries (4.3-yard average).

Grady missed all of 2007 after suffering a partially torn ACL in spring ball a year ago. In two seasons as Hart's backup, he rushed for 670 yards and eight touchdowns on 55 carries (3.4 yards per carry). Though he never shied away from competition, Grady might appreciate having two years to compete for playing time without facing the constant comparisons to Hart.

"You never want to get hurt, but certainly it could be a positive," Stuursma said. "Kevin is a glass half-full kind of kid and I knew all along he was going to react to the adversity positively. I've been impressed with him. If you put something in front of him - a challenge - he's going to rise to meet it. Right now, he's conditioning to get faster, stronger, and from what I hear he's really getting after it."

Grady has embraced the new coaching staff and their new methods. According to Stuursma, he has been a leader in the off-season workouts, proving to younger teammates that through hard work anything can be accomplished.

"I just spoke to him recently, and he's extremely positive about his situation and about what's going on at Michigan," Stuursma said. "He told me the new staff has created a lot of energy and he's excited about everything they're doing. He can't wait until spring practice starts and he can't for next season. In transition, there is always opportunity and Kevin intends to make the most of his."

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