Al Borges: Michigan RB Thomas Rawls is 'next guy' if Fitz Toussaint unavailable against Alabama
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
But when Toussaint was indefinitely suspended last month after a drunken-driving arrest, the Wolverines were thought to be doubling back in this year's camp.
Turns out, that competition is essentially over before it started.
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said Wednesday that sophomore Thomas Rawls likely will get the call if Toussaint is unavailable for the season opener Sept. 1 against Alabama.
Senior Vincent Smith was the primary backup last year.
"We're just going to the next guy -- we're not really changing anything," Borges said during a news conference at Schembechler Hall. "Thomas Rawls is going to be that next guy. Vince is going to do what he's done, and on we go.
"The key to these situations from a game-plan perspective is try to make it as seamless as you can. Just go."
Borges said Rawls could even challenge Toussaint -- who eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier last year in his first season as the starter -- when he is eligible to return.
"Thomas is going to get a good chance, and Fitz is going to get a good chance," Borges said. "Justice Hayes is in the fold too."
Rawls has only 13 career carries, 10 of which came against Minnesota last year, but his physical running style gave him a slight edge over the more-seasoned Smith.
Borges said he'll know more after the team begins hitting in full pads later this week, but for now, Rawls is the guy who will get the call against the Crimson Tide -- last year's No. 1 rush defense.
“He’s reckless -- he runs with a demeanor that’s aggressive," Borges said. "He looks like he’s mad when he runs. He’s a tough guy. When you hit him, you’re going to feel him, I promise you that.
"There are times when he’s simply not interested in avoiding you.”
Smith, a senior, will retain the role he had last year, when he played primarily on third downs. He's excellent in pass protection, and also highly effective as a target in the passing game.
"Vince is going to pretty much play the same role as a year ago, and that wasn't always on third down," Borges said. "He was in there sometimes to spell backs. We'll just see how it shakes out."