Saturday, January 27, 2007

Back to the Future for #23

The one area in which Michigan exhibited a talent deficiency in 2006 was in the defensive secondary. With the graduation of All-American cornerback Leon Hall, the situation looks even murkier heading into next season. Additionally, Michigan is likely to have a new defensive secondary coach as Ron Lee, who coached the cornerbacks last season, was let go from the staff. It is unknown whether Defensive Coordinator Ron English, who coached the safeties in 2006, will continue to coach the safeties next season or whether Coach English will turn over the entire secondary to the new coach when same is hired. No matter who coaches the secondary next year, it will be a difficult challenge with the thin talent to be deployed. However, to improve that situation the Wolverines should repeat history.

Although the Wolverines have a lack of talented players in the defensive secondary, they are loaded at running back. Carlos Brown wound up as #4 on the depth chart at running back in 2006 during his true freshman season. Brown was an early enrolee who arrived at Michigan in January of 2006 and he was expected to challenge for serious playing time behind Mike Hart last season. However, a combination of illness and the emergence of true freshman running back Brandon Minor severly limited Brown's playing time. At the Monday press conference during the week of the 2006 Ball State game, Coach Carr was asked about putting Brown in at running back and Coach Carr responded: "I'm disappointed that we haven't had an opportunity to get him some playing time. I'm disappointed in that, and hopefully that will come because he is a guy with a lot of ability. Sometimes the season just doesn't work out like you want it to." On the season, Brown only carried the ball 16 times for 41 yards. The number of carries for Brown is not likely to increase much next year as Mike Hart, Kevin Grady and Brandon Minor all return at running back in 2007. However, Brown is way too talented to just leave buried on the depth chart at running back.

Carlos Brown is acknowledged as being incredibly fast (second on the team only to Morgan Trent) and athletic. He arrived at Michigan after having played both ways in high school at Heard County (Ga.) High School. In high school, he played both cornerback and free safety and amassed 203 tackles, 11 forced fumbles, 11 interceptions, 4 fumble recoveries and 25 pass break-ups during his prep career. A switch to defense at Michigan for Brown (who wears jersey #23) would be beneficial both to Brown and the Wolverines. It gets Brown on the field as a starter, which he likes, and it fills a glaring hole for the Wolverines which will please Coach Carr.

A move by Brown (#23) from the offensive bench to a starting spot in the defensive secondary is reminiscent of a successful move made by Michigan legend Jim Betts (#23) during Coach Schembechler's second year as Head Coach of the Wolverines. As legend has it, Betts and defensive secondary coach Dick Hunter talked about having the incredibly athletic Betts come over to the defensive secondary which had been decimated by graduation after the 1969 season. The problem was that Coach Schembechler had to be convinced first. Betts, who was the Wolverines' backup QB to Don Moorehead, marched into Bo's office and told Bo that he was switching over to the defense for his senior season. Nobody told Bo what he was going to do and he decided that Betts would play both positions. That was fine with Betts. He won the Meyer Morton Award in 1970 given to the player who exhibited the most promise and improvement as a result of annual spring practice. He started every game of the 1970 season at safety and amassed 45 tackles, 4 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries for the 9-1 Wolverines. He played his best game of the year during the year's biggest game as he tallied 14 tackles and an interception in the Ohio State contest.

Carlos Brown should do as his number-sake (#23) Jim Betts did before him and switch to the defensive side of the ball where he can star for the Wolverines next season. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Carlos Brown from 2006 Michigan Football Media Day by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News.
*Note 2: You can learn more about Michigan legend Jim Betts from, but not limited to, the following books: Tales from Michigan Stadium by Jim Brandstatter (2002); Michigan: Where Have You Gone? by Jim Cnockaert (2004); What it Means to be a Wolverine by Kevin Allen (2005); Photo of Jim Betts from TK Legacy Michigan Signature Series card.
*Note 3: Special order a #23 jersey from the M-Den to wear at The Big House while Carlos Brown plays defense (maybe) in 2007.

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