May 8, 2014

Marcus Ray: Talking U-M fullbacks

Former Wolverine and current Big Ten Network analyst Marcus Ray remembers a fullback in Chris Floyd who could rock the world of opposing defenders, along with getting an occasional carry or two. Fullbacks aren't in demand like they once were, though.

Certainly U-M offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier might have to get creative with the fullbacks the Wolverines have on hand. In 6-0, 247-pound redshirt junior Joe Kerridge, 6-0, 240-pound junior Sione Houma and 6-3, 243-pound redshirt freshman Wyatt Shallman, Nussmeier has a collection of bigger blockers.

Where they fit remains to be seen.

"When you have a true, 1980s, 1990s fullback, sometimes coordinators don't know what to do with them," Ray said. "They just become another guy. They don't help you.

"The only way the fullback is going to help you nowadays is in the pass game, where they can pass protect. When you go to a one-back offense and the fullback is back there, you almost tip your hand offensively, that the tight end will release, or that the back is going to leak out. And the fullback is a non-threat."

Of Michigan's potential fullbacks, Ray likes what he sees from Shallman, who is listed as a running back.

"Wyatt Shallman reminds me of Aaron Shea from a versatility standpoint," Ray said, referring to the former U-M tight end. "Wyatt can actually line up at the 'Y' tight end, he can become an 'H,' shift off the ball and play wing. You can move him around.

"He has the body type to block defensive ends, play tight end, H-back and fullback. When Wyatt is in the game, you can have a guy like A.J. Williams on the ball on one side, and Wyatt Shallman off the ball on the other side."

Kerridge has the most experience among the contestants at fullback. He's shown ability to block, swing out of the backfield to make a catch, and do the dirty work the position demands.

"I think Joe is athletic enough to do all these things," Ray noted. "His success is going to be predicated on how Nuss decides to use the fullback in his system."

Houma, meanwhile, can show up the best as a pass protector, Ray insisted.

"He's tough," Ray said. "I like his attitude. He loves football. When you watch a kid like that, they're enthusiastic, they're always looking for contact.

"I think he's limited athletically, as far as putting the ball in his hands. I'm not sure he can run the fullback dive and get you four or five yards a carry.

"He is a guy that can cut block. He moves well enough to get out on the perimeter and block smaller guys, and can chip on a defensive end. I just don't think you should ask him to do too much."

Nussmeier remained noncommittal in the spring about how much he was going to ask any of his fullbacks to do. That's yet another question to be answered, as more of the offensive plan gets rolled out and installed come fall camp.

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