Happy Monday Maize and Blue! Today we will be continuing our series of position previews for the 2011 season. This series is designed not only to give you all a close look at the Wolverine stars but also to give you a look at the players who may not be in the spotlight but still play a very important role on the team. The many talented Michigan RB’s will be the focus of today’s edition.
Let’s Face it, the only thing we know about the running game (RB’s not Drob) this year is that it will be more prominent than it has been over the last couple of years. It is because of this we will be focusing on the group of RB’s (in order of how long they have been a Wolverine) vs. who will be starting. And don’t think for a second that just because there is not one premier back that this group is not talented, because in this system any of these backs could turn into the next Mike Hart.
The longest tenured RB’s of this group are Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith. Shaw was a highly touted recruit out of Ohio who features blinding speed and the ability to make people miss. Unfortunately for him RBs have not really played a huge role over the last few years. But this is all going to change now and Shaw will have his one chance (he’s the only senior of the group) to show his talent. Speaking of talent the small and elusive Vincent Smith has plenty. If any one of the running backs in this group could have been considered a feature back it would have been Smith. Smith’s only real setback as a Wolverine was a Torn ACL at the end of the 2009 season. VS has bounced back nicely from his injury and led this group of running backs last year with 588 Yrds and 5 TDs. The only concern with Smith is because of his size you worry about durability, but lucky for him the Wolverines have plenty of backs to share the load.
This is where things get a little complicated with RB’s Michael Cox, Stephen Hopkins, and Fitzgerald Toussaint. I have heard great things about all of these RB’s but none of them have been able to get to the front of the pack to be considered a starter. We have never seen much of Cox and Toussaint, in fact they played in a total of 3 games last season. Either one of them could be more incorporated into the game this year but more than likely the favorite to make some noise in this group would be the large Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins is unique in that he is the only true Power-Back in these first 2 groups weighing in at 228 pounds. Although he is only a sophomore SH appeared in 11 games last year taking 37 carries for 151 Yrds and 4 TD’s. Having a battering ram like him will really compliment this speedy group of RB’s.
Last but not least are the freshman and players who have not seen much playtime during their Wolverine careers. The main Highlight here is the future Wolverine Backs. High School standouts Thomas Rawls(3* recruit) and Justice Hayes(Ranked as the 14th best RB nationally) are the newly added recruits this season. I expect Justice to really be a special back and could even see some field this year.
I have been saying for the last few years that this group of backs is really special and just has not had a chance to show their full potential. As Wolverine fans we are always looking for the next Chris Perry, Anthony Thomas, and Tyrone Wheatley. But the truth of the matter is sometimes running back by committee is a great way to use each backs talents to the fullest without wearing any of them out. Take a look at the NFL and many Colleges the days of one star RB is overc most teams need 2 or more backs to make it through the season. And this is one of the reasons I think the Wolverines are in a great position to return to one of nations leaders in rushing(Without having Drob do it all)