Tape It Up: Bruised Backups

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Bruised Backups

Losing a starter unquestionably derails any team's strategic planning for the short term at least (and long term at most), but losing a backup can be just as devastating. After a weekend of scrimmages around the nation, Auburn and Michigan are both feeling the effects of losing backups, and that's about as fun as a root canal.

Auburn is still looking for a quarterback to back up junior starter Brandon Cox, and after Sunday's post-scrimmage practices, that search is going to go on even longer. Redshirt freshman Neil Caudle was diagnosed with a separated throwing shoulder over the weekend and was expected to choose a course of treatment sometime this week. Any option he chooses will keep him off the field for at least a month, leaving the Tigers scrambling to fill that backup spot.

Attrition also took its toll on the bunch, leaving just three names in the mix - Junior Blake Field is unquestionably the most experienced, while redshirt freshman Steven Ensminger has been practicing on an exercise bike while his shoulder discomfort subsides. True freshman Kodi Burns made some plays during the Tigers' scrimmage on Saturday, but the coaches gave him a grade of 61 (out of 100) after reviewing his ability to run the correct plays, audible at the line of scrimmage and make good desicions in the pass game. Mental mistakes dropped his score considerably, leaving Auburn rather uneasy as the days continue to fall off the calendar.

The mood at tailback is comparable in Michigan, where sophomore running back Carlos Brown broke his hand in practice last week. The tailback was caught up in a pile in practice when someone fell on his hand, dashing his chances of competing with Brandon Minor for the backup spot behind four-year starter Mike Hart, much less becoming the threat on punt and kick returns the Wolverine coaching staff was hoping for.

Brown split time between tailback and quarterback last season, earning 41 yards on 16 carries.

With the transfer of Mister Simpson and Kevin Grady tearing a knee ligament, Michigan will likely have to turn to freshman Avery Horn to fill the gaping holes at tailback.

No top team ever wants to rely on freshmen, especially true freshmen, to contribute effectively in their first year of collegiate football, and although third-string tailback may not seem like a critical position to fret over losing a player with game experience, the more a team can maximize on-field experience and minimize the inevitable rookie mistakes, the better off that team's chances will be. With injuries picking off tailbacks left and right these days, Michigan can't possibly feel comfortable with a true freshman making his way up to third on the depth chart.

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