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Posted on Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 2:48 p.m.

Michigan running back Vincent Smith relishes chance to break free, looks forward to Hawkeyes

By Jeff Arnold


Michigan running back Vincent Smith scores against Bowling Green earlier this season. Lon Horwedel |

Vincent Smith realizes that when people talk about the effectiveness of the Michigan football team's running back, they are more than likely referring to sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson.

That's hard to argue with considering Robinson has accounted for 991 of the 1,784 yards the Wolverines have covered on the ground as well as nine of Michigan's 21 rushing touchdowns.

But having a dynamic playmaker like Robinson in the playmaker only opens up opportunities for Smith, who, along with Michael Shaw have combined for nine touchdowns and 560 yards though six games.

Adding to that total may be tough Saturday when Iowa bring its Big Ten-best run defense to Michigan Stadium (3:36 p.m., ABC), presenting perhaps the biggest challenge the Wolverines' ground game has faced this season. Trying to solve the Hawkeyes along with sharing backfield space with Robinson were among the topics touched on in a conversation with Smith.

Q: With the kind of ridiculous numbers Denard Robinson has put up this season, do you feel like that frees up the rest of the running backs or does it bring more attention to what you are trying to do as a whole in the running game?

A: He pretty much opens the running backs up and makes us feel like one of these games is going to be a breakout game for us. We have faith in that, and we know that chance is going to come for us to make a big impact on the offense because (the defense) is going to be keying in on Denard. So we're pretty excited about that.

Q: You use the word exciting, and people who play in front of Denard have described what it's like to see him break into the open. As some who shares the backfield with him, what's it like for you to see him hit a hole in the line and break out?

A: It just feels like we have another running back there, so it's pretty amazing. We don't talk about (running) a lot, but we know he loves the big runs and loves the long runs. But he also loves to throw it, so whenever he's in a position to make a play, we know he's excited too.

Q: After you tore your anterior cruciate ligament last season, how hard was it to miss time on the field when you knew the starting tailback spot would be open in the fall?

A: It was pretty frustrating and at times it got hard, but I think keeping my focus was the main thing. I knew I had to be patient in order for it to heal properly. At home, I did little things at home like calf raises just trying to get strength back into it when I wasn't at (Schembechler Hall) working on it.

Q: Do you think you've gotten past the point of doubting how strong your knee is to the point where you feel like you can do everything you did before the injury?

A: I trust it more than I did before (the injury). Each week, it gets better and better. And the more that happens, the more I trust it and the more I have confidence in it as the weeks go by. I feel like I can do more things on it every week.

Q: Do you feel like you're moving closer to maybe having the kind of breakout performance you've been waiting for?

A: I feel like I'm getting very close to that - very close. The key is just being patient and ready to make an impact whenever my number is called.

Q: When you look at Iowa, you're talking about a defense that hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown this season. When you hear that, what do you think?

A: I guess that just shows us that we he will have to prove ourselves. Coming into this game, we know it's going to be a dogfight, and we're just going to have to work to gain every yard we can.

Q: But when you hear no rushing touchdowns allowed, that's got to give you some motivation to be the team to break that streak doesn't it?

A: Yeah, there's a lot of motivation, because it makes you want to challenge their defense in the rushing game. Their front four is very talented, and they depend on their front four a lot. So I guess on my front, (the challenge) is breaking through the line of scrimmage as fast as I can. But our guys up front have to maintain leverage on those (defensive linemen) up front and if we can do a good job up front, we'll be good.

Jeff Arnold covers sports for and can be reached at (734) 623-2554 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyparnold.



Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 7:26 a.m.

I agree with Maizenbluedoc. Smith is not an inside runner and would be much better running outside the tackles or catching passes. Having a tiny running back like him can be a real problem in the Big Ten, especially when you face tough run defenses like Iowa. He can't often get the tough short yardages you need to move the chains. And he's not going to be nearly as effective of a blocker. In this game, I'd like to see Hopkins and Shaw getting the ball more. And I agree that we're going to need to throw the ball VERY effectively to win this game. Robinson will be able to get yards against Iowa, but he's going to have to show great judgement when he runs and pick his holes.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 11:02 p.m.

Metric, I hate to say it, but I agree with you. I honestly thought, after all the years of winning, that we Michigan fans were different than the annoying, whining, excuse making Spartan fans whose only lament was "next year." If nothing else, the RR era has taught me that I was wrong and we UM fans are not at all different from MSU fans or whining, myopic fans anywhere.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:01 p.m.

Wow, some posters on here are sounding a lot like some MSU fans during the John L. Smith era. "Next year, blah, blah, blah." I'd be worried about that.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 8:25 p.m.

While I like Smith very much and he is a very exciting runner, for his sake, I do not understand why RR insists on running him up the middle. Smith isn't built for that type run. He is better running outside. Also, the more he is run up the middle, the possibility of injury is greater.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 7:13 p.m.

Q: Did you that studies have shown that you could get that "half" step back if you lost the five pounds on top of your head? A: Yes I have heard that. Drob and Tay, etc...and I have talked about it. But it is just to darn cold up here in a2. But somehow the "coach" keeps saying how hot it is. Can't figure that one out myself.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 6:17 p.m.

I agree that Smith has worked hard and he is doing a good job; and he will be even better next year. We are NOT going to beat Iowa with our running game. Our "O" line has been good, but running on Iowa is too much to ask. To beat Iowa, we need to effectively throw the ball. If we can score over 30, we will win. Looking forward to Michigan being very sharp on Saturday, and catching the ball.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 6:09 p.m.

I think he could be a major threat next year. The ACL is always a two year deal.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 3:46 p.m.

a2d2... i think you are on the wrong blog??? you wan't the star war's blog... go straight to jupiter and hang a right, it's about 1/light year away... good luck... GO BLUE...


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 2:56 p.m.

More Q&A with Vincent Smith:. Q: Do you think that Dee Hart's arrival next year will mean less playing time for you? A: Didn't you hear? Dee decided to go to Alabama. We're going to use that scholorship to get a kicker or a linebacke or something.. Q: Wait a minute. There's a new QB coming in next year, too. Denard isn't worried, is he? A: What do you think? Denard is faster than me and you combined.. Q: Final question: How many more points will the Wolverines score against Iowa Saturday? You know they have the #1 ranked defense in the free world. A: Did you hear Dee Hart is going to Alabama?