Mike Hart: Too Much of a Good Thing?
Against Minnesota, Mike Hart carried the ball 31 times for 195 yards. It marked the third time this season (of 5 games) that Hart has carried the ball 31 times in a game (Vanderbilt and Notre Dame being the other two games). That is a lot of work in a season that is not halfway complete. Prior to playing game 4 (the Wisconsin game), Jim Carty of the Ann Arbor News did an excellent article on the vagaries of overusing Hart as the season progresses. It is a difficult balance to strike. Michigan wants to use Hart enough so that they will win but they want to save him so that he will be fresh enough to contribute late in the season when they will need him to contribute big in order for the Wolverines to win. The problem is that in trying to "save" him for down the road is that the Wolverines could lose a game along the way Hart could have helped them win. It appears the Michigan coaches have clearly determined that they will continue to rely on Hart heavily and they are counting on the fact that he is in great shape and is a determined player to get them through the season. Personally, I would like to see Hart's carries limited to 25 rushes per game unless Michigan is really in a desperate situation. Kevin Grady and Brandon Minor are very capable backups and can split the remaining 15 carries a game between the two of them. Some fans are down a little bit on Kevin Grady for alleged fumble-issues but I think he remains an excellent tailback. Grady's fumble against Minnesota was simply a great play by the defender and could have happened to anyone. Unfortunately, it happened to Grady. The coaches understood that though and Grady reappered later in the game and scored a touchdown. Minor, a true freshman, brings a different look at running back than either Hart or Grady and he has performed well in limited action gaining 77 yards on just 15 carries this season. Although everyone loves to have the ball in Hart's hands, he takes a pounding and that takes a toll over a long Big 10 season. Let Grady and Minor shoulder some of the burden so Hart can be as fresh for OSU as he will be this week for MSU. Go Blue!
*Note: Photo of Mike Hart by David Guralnick/The Detroit News