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April 12, 2011 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 7

- Borges won't name starting back soon

By TIM ROHAN ning style his offense covets
Daily Sports Editor last Tuesday. "As you ask that
question, I'm trying to put some
A year ago, Michigan running of our better runs in my mind
backs coach Fred Jackson boast- together. Cox has done it. Shaw
ed about how he couldn't tell his came back the other day, he did
backs apart. it. Stephen Hopkins is just that
They were interchangeable in kind of runner, period."
the offense and that's the way Then there's Fitz Toussaint,
he liked it - for Rich Rodri- who was rarely healthy enough
guez's offense it didn't matter, to see the field last season, but
the running back wasn't in the whom Jackson has also com-
spotlight. pared to former Michigan
Now that Rodriguez is gone, running back Mike Hart. And
that's a big problem - new don't forget Vincent Smith - a
Michigan football coach Brady 5-foot-6, 180-pound tailback
Hoke and offensive coordina- with quickness tailor-made for a
tor Al Borges are searching for spread offense.
a horse to which they can hitch The same guys were inthe mix
their wagon. And since Hoke's last year. No one overwhelmed
hiring, Jackson has repeatedly Rodriguez, though Smith and
mentioned how excited he is Shaw were almost exclusively
that the running back would Denard Robinson's wingmen in
be a factor in the offense once the backfield in 2010. In the new
again. offense, it's anyone's job to win
The physicality Hoke wants once again.
isn't lost on the running backs. "To say we have a frontline
It's the position that might back, a guy we're saying, 'This
epitomize the transition from guy's the guy' - we've had
Rodriguez to Hoke this fall. flashes of excellence from all of
During practice on April 5, them and that's not a decision
coaches yelled at each runner we have to make today," Borges
during the individual drills to said. "But I like those kids."
finish his run even after he was Smith led all of the backs with
down on the play. Each one had 601 rushing yards last season,
to continue on a sprint up the but his numbers were dwarfed
field after the play had ended. by Robinson's 1,700 yards on the
Their job description has ground. Borges' goal is to keep
been defined and expanded. But Robinson in games though and
who will get the carries? avoid injury by reducing the 256
"At one time or another, every times the quarterback carried
* back (has shown flashes)," the ball last season. That was
Borges said of the downhill run- 120 more carries than Smith,

who was the second-most used
runner, got in the ground game.
Of the running backs Borges
mentioned, Smith was the only
one who really inspired more
than a few words. Borges called
Smith a "true football player,"
adding that, despite his size,
Smith could be an effective
runner in the power offense,
and that Smith is highly coach-
able. Hoke called him a "tough
little guy," during the Michigan
coach's radio show on Monday.
Last year, there were times
Smith had to lead block for Rob-
inson on running plays. And
Borges has noted the Pahokee,
Fla. native's willingness to do
the dirty work.
"Vince is going to be involved
in any way you ask him to be
involved," Borges said. "If you
want him to run, he's broken a
long run in scrimmage before.
He has that to him. He has some
speed. He has some quickness.
"But what Vince (has) - he
has good football awareness.
I don't know how to explain it
sometimes - we coaches call
it football IQ. Vince has a good
football IQ. You tell him some-
thing and he understands what
you're talking about and he can
do it."
Though Borges spoke highly
of Smith, the offensive coor-
dinator said he won't name a
starter this spring.
Borges almost took offense to
the question of who would start,
saying it was too early, just eight

Junior running back Vincent Smith ran for 601 yards on 136 carries last season, leading all running backs.

practices in, to declare a leader.
After all 15 practices are com-
pleted with the Spring Game on
April 16, he will sit down each
back and go through their indi-
vidual evaluations.
They've all had their own
flashes. And the competition is

simple, really.
Impress Borges enough, and
the job is yours.
"He has to do more flashes,"
Borges said of what someone
must do to earn the starting gig.
"And be complete -block in pro-
tection, run the football (and)

be consistent. I think that's the
deal, the guy who demonstrates
the most consistency is going to
play the most."
Added Hoke: "At the end of
the day, we'd like to settle on
who that lead back will be. And
we're not at ihat point yet."

Michigan's big bats could carry
it past in-state rivals this week

By EMILY BONCHI
Daily Sports Writer
The No. 4 Michigan softball
team is coming off an impres-
sive weekend, having forced
the mercy rule twice in a pair
of blowouts
against Pur- Westem
due.
Now, Michi- MiChigan at
gan will take a Michigan
break from Big Matchup:
Ten competi- WMU 10-23;
tion and host Michigan 35-3
two in-state
rivals - West- When: Tues-
e Mihgn day 6 P.M.
ern Michigan
on Tuesday Where:
and Central Alumni Field
Michigan on
Wednesday.
Though the games won't
count toward the Wolverines'
conference record, Michigan
coach Carol Hutchins wants her
team to use its weekend surge as
fuel, while still taking the con-
tests one game at a time.
"We talk about putting every-
thing behind you because yes-
terday doesn't have anything to
do with today," Hutchins said
Sunday.
Michigan (5-1 Big Ten, 35-3
overall) has had a solid defense
this season as a whole, but the
recent resurgence in the batter's
box is what the Wolverines will

need in order to stay ahead of
their competition.
Junior third baseman Aman-
da Chidester ledthe way last
weekend with a grand slam to
earn this week's Big Ten Co-
Player of the Week accolades.
"It's the same approach every
time," Chidester said. "We just
have to see the ball, hit the ball,
have fun. It's all about our ener-
gy. When we have good energy
out on the field and in the dug-
out, it carries out to our hitting."
Sophomore second base-
man Ashley Lane and senior
first baseman Dorian Shaw also
made strides last weekend that
the team can put to use. Lane
knocked out her 13th home run
of the season. She leads the
Wolverines with 14 multi-RBI
games. Shaw snapped a seven-
game slump by earning her first
RBI since the end of March.
But games always seem more
intense when the competition is
local.
The Broncos (4-4 MAC, 10-23
overall) had a rough start to
their season after a 17-0 loss to
No. 3 Arizona State - the same
team Michigan edged 1-0 on
March 17. Western Michigan
enters Tuesday's matchup com-
ing off an extra-inning loss to
Buffalo to tally its fifth loss in
April alone.
The Chippewas (5-3, 20-12)

will pose a greater challenge for
the Wolverines on Wednesday.
Central Michigan is on a six-
game winning streak, having
taken each game by eight runs
or more.
.J th games.will hedecided at
the plate.
"It's all about confidence,"
Chidester said of Michigan's hit-
ting success. "So we can't look at
anything different. We just have
to go out there the same way
every time."
The Wolverine lineup cur-
rently includes six players with
batting averages of.300 or high-
er. Though the Broncos have just
two players batting over .300,
the Chippewas' lineup includes
six starters who hit over .300,
and four more players who've
chipped their way into that
bracket as well.
If Michigan doesn't stay con-
sistent at the plate as it did last
weekend and earlier in the sea-
son, it could very well havea loss
on its hands.
But Hutchins is confident that
if Michigan stays on its toes and
takes its in-state foes seriously,
the success will come.
"The season is a journey and
it's a long journey and you have
to stay even-keeled," Hutchins
said. "So I think we'll do a nice
job and stay within ourselves
and keep working."

Redshirt junior Garrett Stephens's solo home run gave Michigan a lead over Purdue in the 10th inning on Sunday.
Wolverines look to start
turnaround against

By NEAL ROTHSCHILD
Daily Sports Writer
Each time the Michigan base-
ball team earned a big win this
season, itfailedto followitupwith
a winning streak. The Wolverines'
inability to get
into a 'rhythm Bowling
this year can
be attributed Gn at
to these losses Michigan
that followed Matchup:
what otherwise Bowling Green
could have been 11-16; Michi-
momentum- gan 8-21
changingwins. When: Tues-
But Michigan day 6:05 P.M.
hopes to change
its luck this here Stadum
week when it
hosts two Mid-
American Conference opponents:
Bowling Green and Toledo.
The Wolverines (2-4 Big Ten,
8-21 overall) are coming off a 6-5
come-from-behind victory over
Purdue on Sunday. The Boiler-
makers led 5-1 for the majority of
the game, but Michigan scored
four runs in the eighth inning
before grabbing the lead in the
10th with redshirt junior Gar-
rett Stephens's solo home run.
Freshman Alex Lakatos staved
off Purdue's rally to lock down
Michigan's first win in more than
a week.
Michigan coach Rich Maloney
will look to carry the momentum
from the game into Ray Fisher
Stadium.
"We're feeling a lot better about

ourselves," Maloney said after
Sunday's win. "If we would have
lost those three games, that would
have been really hard. But what
an opportunity. We've got to get
some momentum. We've never
had any the whole year, and it sure
would be nice to win a couple ball-
games."
On Tuesday, Michigan will be
squaring off against the Falcons
(5-4 MAC, 11-16 overall), who
have lost six of their last eight
games. They are led by shortstop
Jon Berti, who is hitting .385 this
season with 11 stolen bases, and
catcher Ryan Schlater, whose four
home runs nearly rival the num-
ber of home runs the entire Michi-
gan team has.
Meanwhile, Toledo (7-2, 16-15)
is riding a nine-game winning
streak and leads the MAC West-
ern Division. The Rockets' top hit-
ter is center fielder Ben Hammer,
who is hitting .360 with 13 RBI.
Maloney said sophomore Ben
Ballantine will likely start on
Tuesday, but will not throw many
innings because he will be needed
for the weekend series. Freshman
Jake Engels is expected to take
the mound on Wednesday.
"Anytime you can knock off
Michigan, it's huge for MAC
teams," said Maloney, who
coached Ball State for seven sea-
sons. "They're going to come in
here and they're going to have
a good chance of beating us and
we're going to have to play well to
win."c
Michigan will be looking to

increase its production at the
plate. The Wolverines crossed
the five-run threshold for the first
time in nearly a month on Sunday.
Sophomore center fielder Patrick
Biondi had the big bat in West
Lafayette, going 7-for-13 in the
series with five stolen bases.
Biondi said he is starting to feel
more comfortable at the plate.
Lakatos, who was recently
moved into the lineup for his
offense, had recorded a hit in six
straight games before Sunday.
"I'm hopeful that our bats will
carryintothis week andhopefully
find a way to win and get some
more confidence," Maloney said.
Though the two wins would
have negligible significance since
they are not conference games,
they could make all the difference
in jump-starting Michigan's per-
formance in the Big Ten season.
Michigan is in a group of four
teams who are 2-4 and a game out
of the sixth spot - the final quali-
fying seed for the Big Ten Tourna-
ment.
And in the next three week-
ends, the Wolverines will be
squaring off against Illinois, Iowa
and Ohio State, who are all within
a game of Michigan.
"That nine-game stretch has a
good chance of determining the
fate of our season," Maloney said.
"Hopefully, we'll play better
this week and carry it over to the
conference series with Illinois.
Hopefully, we keep ourselves in
the middle of the pack so we have
a chance to make a playoff push."

Senior first baseman Dorian Shaw recorded her first RBI since March during last weekend's series.

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