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Running backs will get chance to shine against EMU

September17, 2011: Eastern Michigan

By KEVIN RAFTERY
Daily Sports Editor
The Michigan football team's
running backs were supposed to be
an asset this year.
Five different backs - redshirt
sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint,
redshirt junior
Michael Cox, Eastern
senior Michael a
Shaw, junior
Vincent Smith, Michigan
and sophomore Matchup:
Stephen Hop- Eastern
kins - all had the Michigan 2-0;
potential to have Michigan 2-0
breakout years When: Satur-
and take over the day, 12p.m.
starting role. Where: Michi-
"I know all of gan tadium
them are ready S
to play," quarter- T Radio:
back Denard Rob-
inson said at Big
Ten Media Day in
late July. "Hopkins is the big back,
Shaw has the speed and the moves,
you got Vincent Smith with quirks
and shakes....You gotMike Cox. It's
goingto be crazy."
But two games into the season,
the running backs are a concern.
Toussaint grabbed hold of the start-
ing position against Western Michi-

gan and delivered, tallying80 yards
and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
But in the process, the injury-prone
back hurt his shoulder, sidelining
him for the Notre Dame game last
week. Shaw took over the starting
duties against the Irish but did little
to convince anyone he should be the
No. 1 back, as he lost three yards on
two total carries. Hopkins had five
carries for just 10 yards and a fum-
ble. Smith has been a solid third-
down back but no longer appears
to be in the running for the starting
job.
"Of course I am (concerned about
the running backs)," said Michigan
offensive coordinator Al Borges
after practice on Tuesday. "But
I'd be more concerned about them
if they had more carries and you
weren't getting the yield that you
wanted."
But against Eastern Michigan
on Saturday, the backs should have
a chance to tally up a significant
number of carries - at least in
comparison to the limited number
they've seen so far, which is in part
due to the rain-shortened game
against the Broncos and partly due
to the Wolverines' inability to put
together a sustained drive against
the Irish.
"The first game, we had a chance

to get them rolling a bit," Borges
said. "They weren't doing too bad.
But (against Notre Dame), we just
found one heck of a time getting
into any rhythm. When you're not
rhythmic, you're not getting first
downs, you're not converting third
downs, you don't get the turns, and
you don't get the snaps."
Toussaint leads the running
backs with just 11 total carries.
Shaw has six, Hopkins five, and
Smith three. On Saturday, each one
could have the opportunity to sepa-
rate himself from the pack against
an inferior Eastern Michigan team.
If Michigan can build a sizable lead
in the first half, each back should
get his touches - possibly even
freshmen backs Justice Hayes and
Thomas Rawls.
"It will always depend on how
fast they learn, maturity-wise,
and all those things," Hoke said of
the freshmen. "I think they're OK.
Depending on where we get, they
may play."
But while the Wolverines should
clearly have the edge over the
Eagles overall, the Eastern Michi-
gan run defense is one of the team's
biggest strengths and could present
a challenge for Michigan.
The Eagles have allowed just
41.5 yards per game on the ground

in their wins against Howard and
Alabama State and have notched
10 total sacks. Eastern Michi-
gan's early success should give the
Michigan running backs even more
incentive to prove they can perform
well against a solid defense.
And while it will be up to the
running backs to perform, it'll also
be up to the offensive line to prove
that they can help the backs be suc-
cessful.
"I'd like to think (the running
backs' struggles is on us) 100 per-
cent," said redshirt sophomore
offensive lineman Taylor Lewan.
"I would like for (Toussaint) or

Shaw or anybodythat's runningthe
ball to be able to walk through the
hole rather than have to squeeze
through."
The running backs should get
their carries Saturday, but Lewan
and the Wolverines are still focused
on what's most important.
"I think Eastern Michigan is a
good team," Lewan said. "They're
not ateam to overlook at all. That's
the truth. Every Saturday is an
opportunity to get a 'W' and to
make our record even better. And at
Michigan, it's 10 wins ayear,11wins
a year that we want. Anything less
than 11,12 wins a year is a failure."

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