Michigan freshmen tailbacks Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes may get first action against EMU
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
After two games, Rawls has not seen field, nor has fellow freshman Justice Hayes.
Could that change Saturday against Eastern Michigan (Noon, BTN)?
"Maybe," coach Brady Hoke said Wednesday before practice. "Depending on where we get, they may play."
The Wolverines (2-0) are trying to get their running backs going after they combined for just eight carries and 10 yards in last week's win against Notre Dame.Sophomore Fitz Toussaint is entrenched as the starter and played well in the opener against Western Michigan, but sat out against the Irish with a shoulder injury. His replacements had little impact.
Sophomore Stephen Hopkins led the way with five carries for 8 yards, junior Vincent Smith had one carry for 3 yards and senior Michael Shaw had two carries for minus-3 yards.
Rawls and Hayes might get their shots against Eastern Michigan, which is 2-0 but struggled to beat FCS-member Alabama State last week.
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Hoke now has a better grasp of what they can do after evaluating them since the start of the preseason five weeks ago. Neither enrolled in time for spring camp, which set them back during the tailback competition in fall camp.
"I think Rawls is a strong runner," Hoke said. "He's got good vision and pretty good balance. He's got a pretty good burst. Justice is a guy who has great quickness, catches the ball well. He's doing a lot of things for us on our look team, sometimes lining up at wideout just because of numbers. He's maturing."
Rawls is a 5-foot-10, 220-pound downhill tailback from Flint, which also is Ingram's hometown. He went on to star at Alabama.
Hayes, who is 5-10, 175 pounds, is a smaller, shiftier back from Grand Blanc.
"He’s not a pile-driving guy," Jackson said last month. "He’s a guy who if he were in a phone booth, he’d probably make you miss. He’s got great quickness."
Offensive coordinator Al Borges said recently it was possible one of the freshmen running backs could be redshirted. If both play against the Eagles, that would become unlikely.
"We're not going to be afraid to play freshmen," Hoke said, referring to any position. "The best players have to play. If they're the best, they'll play."