Amidst all the hype for Mike Barwis in the 2007-08 offseason, one of the most interesting Barwis qualities I heard was this: By doing "prehab" (workouts normally used by physical therapy patients) Barwis and his staff didn't have a serious long-term injury in 2007 at West Virginia. Having spent considerable time in physical therapy for various injuries, I thought this was interesting because I still do exercises I learned in therapy, and I feel much healthier because of them.
I was hoping for a relatively injury-free season, but that has not been the case. Saturday's game against Miami (OH) saw starting left tackle Mark Ortmann go down with a possible dislocated elbow (he was in a cast and a sling after the game) and starting running back Michael Shaw miss most of the game with a pulled groin. These injuries come on the heels of Brandon Minor (hamstring), Carlos Brown (finger, hip, shouler), Greg Mathews (ankle), Junior Hemingway (shoulder, hamstring), and Mark Huyge (ankle) suffering bumps and bruises that have limited their playing time as well.
So far none of these injuries has been crippling. Michigan's stars have stayed healthy, and nobody other than Ortmann seems to be out for an extended period of time. Still, on a team seriously lacking depth, an injury or two to starters could be devastating. Bryant Nowicki, a walk-on, ended the game protecting the blind side of quarterback Nick Sheridan, formerly a walk-on himself. That didn't cause any problems against Miami, but it may if Nowicki plays against more talented teams. I would not be surprised to see right tackle Steve Schilling slide to left tackle for the Notre Dame game next week. And while Sam McGuffie ran the ball fairly well against Miami, it's pretty clear that Michael Shaw is the most dangerous running back Michigan has seen since Tyrone Wheatley.
This is not to say that Mike Barwis is at fault. No matter how strong players get, there will always be injuries. (Just ask that Lithuanian power lifter who became famous for dislocating his elbow during the Olympics.) The team does look faster, stronger, and better conditioned in 2008. But if Michigan continues to suffer even minor injuries for the rest of the season, it's going to be an even longer year than we all thought.