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Posted on Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan football over-under: Will spring game star Thomas Rawls log 50 carries?

By Kyle Meinke


Thomas Rawls scored the only two touchdowns of Michigan's spring practice this year. Is that a sign of more to come?

Angela J. Cesere |

This story was updated at 12:50 p.m. to correct a factual error. Thomas Rawls attended Flint Northern, not Flint Central.

Fred Jackson, the Michigan football team's longtime running backs coach, stood before the assembled media last year and offered some high praise for true freshman tailback Thomas Rawls.

"He's like Mark Ingram," Jackson said, alluding to Alabama's Heisman Trophy winner, "but faster."

Early August is high season for coachspeak, and Jackson has a flair for it, so the praise was taken with skepticism. But Rawls continued to be lauded by coaches, first during fall camp, then throughout early season practices.

Michigan Football Over-Under

This is part of a 14-day series featuring 2012 Michigan football-related debate from sports writers Kyle Meinke and Nick Baumgardner.

July 11: Can the Michigan offense maintain its production?

July 12: Can the Michigan defense be as stout in 2012?

July 13: How many wins will Michigan collect away from home?

July 14: Can Denard Robinson reduce his interceptions into single digits?

July 15: How many sacks will Michigan's defensive line muster?

Monday: Will Devin Gardner become a full-time receiver?

Tuesday: How many true freshmen will see the field next season?

Wednesday: Uniforms: How many will Michigan wear in 2012?

Thursday: Will Fitz Toussaint reach his goal of 1,600 rushing yards?

Friday: How many underclassmen will declare early for the NFL Draft?

Today: Will Thomas Rawls log more than 50 carries?

Sunday:Will Roy Roundtree pick up where Junior Hemingway left off?

Finally, he broke onto the field against Eastern Michigan, becoming the only true freshman to receive a carry last year. He finished the season with 13 rushes for 80 yards.

Rawls was solid, although didn't provide many fireworks. He did at this year's spring game, though, when he led the Wolverines in rushing, scored the only two touchdowns of the day and launched himself into serious consideration for time in this year's rotation.

He won't overtake starter Fitz Toussaint, but could he catch senior Vincent Smith, who logged 50 carries as the primary backup last year?

Let's hash this thing out, shall we?

Over-under: Thomas Rawls will log 50 carries

Kyle Meinke: Offensive coordinator Al Borges says he prefers to ride one featured tailback, eschewing the tailback-by-committee approach favored by Rich Rodriguez.

Still, 50 carries is not a very high threshold for Borges, who has had at least three players receive 50 carries in five of his past eight seasons. That leaves more than enough carries for quarterback Denard Robinson to get his, and still have two tailbacks reach 50-plus touches.

It happened last year with Robinson (221 carries), Toussaint (187) and Smith (50).

So, it's probably not a matter of whether a second tailback will get 50 carries, but who. And all indications are that guy will be Rawls, not Smith.

Smith is a nice player. He is highly effective on screens and remains the team's best blocking back, so he'll maintain a role, particularly on third downs.

But when it comes to rushing, there's no question Rawls is the better option. He could be the eventual heir to Toussaint in the backfield, and the Wolverines likely will try to get the sophomore as much seasoning as possible.

Prediction: Rawls is the best rusher on the current roster not named Toussaint, and he's the future. For now, he will be the primary backup, and that means he'll get to 50 carries. Take the over.


Nick Baumgardner: Rawls entered school in 2011 drawing rather unfair comparisons to former Alabama superstar Mark Ingram.

Most of that seemed solely based on the fact they attended the same high school (Flint Northern), but regardless, he found his way onto the field occasionally last season and definitely made a name for himself this spring.

Everyone -- from Brady Hoke to Fitz Toussaint -- seemed to rave about Rawls' play during camp. And in the spring game, he proved why. He bulled his way over and around people throughout the afternoon, easily ending the day as the most consistent surprise.

Vincent Smith finished with 50 carries a year ago, the second-most of any running back on the team -- behind Fitz Toussaint's 187.

While the absence of Michael Shaw should provide a few more carries this season, one would expect Toussaint's number of 187 to take a decent rise.

Rawls is absolutely an Al Borges-style running back, and if anyone spells Toussaint on first or second down, it'll likely be him. Smith should primarily be used in a third-down capacity, meaning his carries may actually dip (though his playing time won't).

Rawls seems more than ready to make the jump for more playing time, but how much can he realistically expect behind Toussaint -- a player Borges has dubbed his unquestioned starter?

Prediction: Borges is a big proponent of keeping the offense flowing as normal. Unless Toussaint needs a pull from the oxygen mask, or gets hurt, he'll likely be on the field for most of every game.

So, unless the Wolverines are involved in a lot of blowouts, I don't think Rawls will see a ton of carries next season. I'll take the under.



Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 11:39 p.m.

Knowing what we know now, after the Fitz Touissaint arrest... will Thomas Rawls log 50 carries? You bet!


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 11:39 p.m.

Can I change my vote?


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

If Rawls is beyond good... how can Borges keep him off the field or away from the ball? Toussaint will have to work extra hard to maintain his primetime position. Michigan may end up giving Shoelace fewer chances to run with the ball since he won't be needed as much!


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

Thomas Rawls attended Flint Northern

Marceil Davis

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

Rawls did not go to Flint Central or Flint Northwestern. Very big mistakes to make. They are both rival schools to his alma mater Flint Northern! Ingram went to Grand Blanc then transferred and graduated from Flint Southwestern.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

Thanks for getting it right!


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

Short answer: Rawls well over 50 carries, unless he gets injured. Reasons: 1) the season is long enough to support that. 2) Borgess will want a fresh pair of legs in there whenever he can. Although is Rawls is destinend to be number two on the depth chart, the Michigan offense will be the three headed monster it is intended to be. That being the passing game, the running game and the Denard option-read game. Borgess will also go with the hot hand so if Rwals finds holes that Toussaint can't during a game, Rawls will get more carries. Bottom line: a long regular season will provide plenty of opportunities for two tailbacks, number 1 and number 1a (Rawls). Michigan need not be up 28-zip to take Toussaint out for Rawls.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

we are blessed with a lot of talent at running back and more coming. . . i don't care if it's over or under as long as they produce and we end the game with a "W". . . football can't get here fast enough, let the games begin!! GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

Yes umgoblue47, I agree, "Let the games begin" the sooner the better.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

"He's like Mark Ingram only faster". He is and he will carry the ball 50+ times. Remember when Michigan offered him his scholarship. He had no stars. Only got three stars because Michigan offered him and he didn't go to a MAC school. Diamond in the rough they call Flint.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

Big bruising backs like LeRoy Hoard and others come to mind. These kind of backs make the opposing defenses think about every tackle and t he pain of it. We're headed in a good, big, tough direction and I think it's great. In the day when opposing teams thought of a game with Mich as painful it was great to be part of it as a fan and you could smell the hits. It's all coming back and sooner than later. I hope our entire coaching staff keeps their noses clean the BTN coaches have a target on their backs since ohio and Penn State.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

i agree hailmary and scott. . . coach HOKE will keep everybody, coach's and player's on the straight and narrow! GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

Our coaches biggest vice seems to be gluttony. Thank goodness. But Hoke should get everyone together once a week and say "Remember Joe poop. If anyone commits any crime, I'll turn you in, and fire you on the spot.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

This boils down to Fitzgerald staying healthy. If he does, then Rawls won't get his carries.

Paul R Lamse

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

If UM gets an early lead in most games, Rawls will get the over, as the tendency will be to run instead of pass. But if not, the under. Also, if Rawls learns to block like Smith (why not) he'll get those carries, too. Over! I can hardly wait. Go Blue!


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 11:08 a.m.

Rawls Did not go to Flint Central. Ingram went to Grand Blanc, a suburb of Flint. We have 2 running backs at michigan from the Flint area and I think both will get their fair share of playing time. I will stick with Fred as he is from Flint as well and obviously knows a bit more about our people.