ANN ARBOR - Brandon Minor insists his ailing ankle is feeling better. His coach's response: Show me, don't tell me.
Minor has turned pregame warm-ups this year into events worth watching. Is he out there with his University of Michigan teammates? If so, does that mean he'll play? Only Minor seems to know of his availability from week to week.
"I got on him a little bit the other day because he may be saying he wants to play but in pregame warm-ups he's telling us otherwise," UM coach Rich Rodriguez said yesterday.
For what it's worth, Rodriguez said Minor has done more in practice this week "than he's probably done in a month or more." A month ago Rodriguez expressed similar optimism regarding Minor's status, and what ensued was a two-touchdown, 95-yard performance in a loss at Iowa. But Minor (70 carries, 322 yards, five TDs) has since participated in just one of three games unless you count his one-carry against Illinois as participation.
As of yesterday, Rodriguez planned to start Minor on Saturday against Purdue, which would be Minor's second start of the year. Coincidentally - or maybe not - Minor has been said to be the healthiest in the two weeks running back Carlos Brown has sat out practice. Brown, who missed the Iowa game with a concussion, was limited Tuesday because of tendonitis in his knees. Rodriguez didn't say whether Brown will play Saturday but did reveal that running back Mike Shaw, who missed last game with a sprained knee, will be available.
Rodriguez maintains that a lengthy recess isn't a viable elixir to cure Minor's ankle.
"[Minor] may be tricking us and telling us he feels better, but I know he really wants to play," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez' use of Minor on Saturday was bizarre. Minor was inactive until his unsuccessful carry on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the third quarter and returned when the game was out of reach, at which he was used strictly as a pass blocker. Rodriguez didn't offer a great explanation why Minor couldn't play when the game was close but was used once it got ugly.
Though Minor's health is always in question, what he can provide the team is not. He's its strongest and most physical runner and is considered the Wolverines' best blocking back.
"We're different when he's running downhill," Rodriguez said. "It gives a different dimension to our offense that we need, frankly."
NO HARM: The Big Ten agrees with Rodriguez that Mark Ortmann did not punch an Illinois player in the groin Saturday and issued a statement to the university Tuesday stating no penalty would be incurred against the Wolverine offensive tackle. Rodriguez said Ortmann shoved an opponent in order to free himself following a play in the second half.
LINE ADJUSTMENT: Rodriguez said Patrick Omameh could start at right guard and Mark Huyge at right tackle because of Perry Dorrestein's recurring back issue. Huyge began the year at right tackle but moved to right guard as part of the line shift when David Molk got hurt. Omameh played significantly Saturday at right tackle in place of Dorrestein.
SHORT YARDS: Receiver/punt returner Martavious Odoms (knee) has practiced sparingly this week and his status for Saturday is unknown. … Rodriguez said as of now Kevin Leach will start a second straight game at middle linebacker. … Rodriguez said Tuesday's practice was "spirited."
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