14. Michael Carter | CB | Senior | 5'11” 185 lbs. G TK INT PDEF 5 10 0 0 (*- See asterisk below for a note about Carter's 2011 stats.) Photo credit: University of Minnesota Athletic Department
Michael Carter enters his senior year holding a tenuous grasp on the starting cornerback position opposite Troy Stoudermire. What will he do with it? Will Carter finally become the steady, consistent starting cornerback that he showed hints of during his freshman year? Or will he continue to do what has made up his first three years at Minnesota?
Once again, Carter is saying the right things during spring practice, taking responsibility for his previous poor attitude and poor classroom performance.
Carter’s resurgence this spring has been surprising. I fully expected junior college transfers Martez Shabazz and Jeremy Baltazar to surpass him on the depth chart, but after spring practice, here we are with Carter apparently re-dedicating himself and ready to contribute.
Still, Carter said similar things last spring and then nothing changed. In 2011, he played in only five games on a team that was desperate for secondary help. His season stats* include 10 total tackles, zero interceptions and zero passes defended. For comparison, he bested those numbers in one game as a sophomore, when he made 11 tackles, forced a fumble and picked off a pass against Northwestern. He appeared in 12 games as a freshman, which is equal to the aggregate total from his sophomore and junior years.
* - Worth noting: The Gophers’ official site has Carter registering 10 tackles in five games, although cfbstats.com and ESPN.com don’t have Carter listed as playing in the Illinois game. Either way, the point is clear: He didn’t play much in his junior year.
Carter came to Minnesota as a four-star recruit, allegedly turning down scholarship offers from Miami and Florida, the ninth and third-ranked recruiting classes in 2009, according to Rivals. He unseated a popular senior as a true freshman and appeared in 12 games. Maybe it was a case of too much, too soon, but Carter started having problems in the classroom and suffered a nagging toe injury, ending 2010 on an academics-related suspension.
At a risk of repeating columns and turning into Rick Reilly, the problem with Carter is not talent. It’s that during his first three years, he didn’t apply himself. You can teach a person anything, complex fields like rocket science, brain surgery and how to play the “field” cornerback position, but you can’t teach someone to care about rocket science, brain surgery or the nuances of the field cornerback position. If Carter is successful, part of the credit will go to defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys for keeping him out of man coverage, but mainly, Carter’s on-field success will come once he decides to be successful and apply the work that goes into it. He will be successful because Michael Carter decided to care about
rocket science, brain surgery and playing football in the Big Ten conference.
If Carter isn’t able to deliver on his potential, the Gophers actually have relative depth at cornerback this year. I write actually because I don’t remember the last time you could say that. Junior college transfers Baltazar, Shabazz and Brien Boddy all seem capable and will be able to contribute immediately. Boddy could redshirt being that he is a sophomore; Baltazar and Shabazz are juniors. That trio puts pressure on Carter to deliver, but it also gives the Gophers a large safety net in case he regresses to the production of his last two years.