Monday, August 2, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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Blue's crowded ackfieldladen With talent
With Minor and Brown
gone, Wolverines will
lean on young,
By TIM ROHAN
Daily Sports Writer
Former Michigan running backs
Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor
fought through injuries in their last
year as Wolverines in 2009, and the
duo still managed to shine - even
though they had to share carries
with each other as well as losing
some to Michigan quarterbacks
in coach Rich Rodriguez's spread
The running game for the Wolver-
ines is less defined than it was years
ago, and no one is going to carry the
football 250-plus times next season.
That's because Michigan has anoth-
er crowded backfield, with no clear
talent that stands out above the rest.
Brown and Minor were supposed
to carry the offense last year, and
they tried. Minor rushed for 502
yards and eight touchdowns and
Brown ran for 480 yards and four
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Michigan sophomore running back Vincent Smith, pictured left, and junior Mike Shaw, should share the majority of carries for coach Rich F
touchdowns - Brown even ran for a
career-high 187 yards against East-
ern Michigan on just 13 carries.
But those two are gone now, and
Michigan's leading returning rusher
is sophomore quarterback Denard
Robinson. He averaged 5.1 yards a
carry last season and finished with
351 yards rushing and five touch-
Sophomore quarterback Tate
Forcier isn't a slouch either, and he
had his fair share of plays within
Rodriguez's spread-option offense.
Forcier ran for 240 yards and three
As for the true running back posi-
tion, the Wolverines have about five
players who could share carries.
Sophomore Vincent Smith might
be the favorite to garner the largest
share of carries, but he's recovering
from an ACL injury and missed the
Spring Game due to an injury suf-
fered at the end of last season. He
averaged 5.8 yards per carry in just
under 50 carries last season.
Junior Mike Shaw is the veteran
of the group, and during his Michi-
gan career, he hasn't really had the
chance to be the go-to guy in the
backfield. He was overlooked because
of Brown and Minor last year, and his
freshman year was the Sam McGuffie
show in Ann Arbor.
All the while, Shaw showed the
ability to catch the ball out of the
backfield. tie averaged over five
yards per carry his freshman year
and saw that fall to 4.4 yards per
carry last year. He's carried the ball
just 42 times in each of his freshman
and sophomore years.
At the very least, Shaw could be
a change-of-base running back who
could also moonlight as a threat to
catch the ball out of the backfield.
Redshirt sophomore Mike Cox
made his big splash against Delaware
State last season, rushing for 82 yards
on 11 carries and scoring two touch-
downs. In that game, albeit against
inferior competition, Cox showed he
could be a physical back that could
Rodriguez this upcoming season.
also run away from defenders.
And the final two candidates to
carry the ball for Michigan in the fall
are running backs who have never
played a down for the Wolverines.
Redshirt freshman Fitzgerald
Toussaint and true freshman Ste-
phen Hopkins each drew praise
during spring practice, with both
receiving important reps during the
Spring Game. He could factor in as
one of the quicker running backs,
and could be dangerous in breaking
off some long runs.
Hopkins is the big back of the
group, listed at 236 pounds. Hav-
ing a big back that's agile is always
important - around the goal line
especially. That might be Hopkins's
calling card and one reason to avoid
Each running back brings some-
thing different to the table. Com-
bined with the quarterback's ability
to run, Michigan could improve on
its rushing numbers from a year ago.
And with a more experienced and
more conifortable offensive line, that
will only help the running game.
If Smith is healthy, he showed the
shiftiness and big-play ability to be a
versatile first option at running back
for Rodriguez. Behind him, it could
come down to who is producing the
Rodriguez will have the luxury
of letting the play on the field truly
decide who gets the most carries in
Projected starter: Vincent Smith
Surprise player: Mike Cox