You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

When Michigan RB Thomas Rawls runs, 'you got to get out the way'

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan sophomore running back Thomas Rawls is emerging as the favorite to back up Fitz Toussaint -- or start for him, should it be needed.

Angela J. Cesere |

The Michigan football team's first preseason practice was held Monday without pads.

Just imagine the poor souls tasked with wrapping up sophomore Thomas Rawls, who, pads or no pads, isn't going around his guy -- he's going through him.

"That's a tough guy," senior quarterback Denard Robinson said. "When he runs the ball, you really get out the way. That's what kind of guy he is. He's an aggressive runner, and if sees a guy -- he just might try to run him over."

Even without pads?

"Oh, yeah," Robinson said. "That's just how he runs. Runs angry. Every time I see him run the ball, you got to get out the way."

That tenacity ultimately is why Rawls, not senior Vincent Smith, appears to be the leader to replace starting tailback Fitz Toussaint if the junior is not available for the start of the season.

Toussaint was arrested last month in Ann Arbor on a drunken-driving charge. He was held out of Michigan's first workout Monday, and his availability for the season opener Sept. 1 against Alabama has yet to be determined.

Rawls and Smith, as well as redshirt freshman Justice Hayes, received the bulk of the practice carries in Toussaint's stead.

Smith posted 50 carries for 298 yards last year as Toussaint's backup, but offensive coordinator Al Borges said he envisions the senior as more of a situational back who is better suited for pass protection.

Rawls, conversely, has less experience but more potential.

He rushed just 13 times for 79 yards last season as a freshman, but consistently impressed coaches in practice. He broke through in the spring game, scoring the Wolverines' only two touchdowns.

Now, the 5-foot-10, 218-pounder is emerging as the favorite to back up Toussaint -- or start for him, should it be needed. Jobs won't be awarded after just one day of camp, but the early returns on Rawls are flattering.

"Rawls is angry," coach Brady Hoke said approvingly, a nod to the tailback's punishing style.

Hoke spoke at length last year about ratcheting up the physicality of practices, and wants to see the same this year, pads or otherwise.

That's exactly what Rawls brings.

"He just runs hard," Hoke said. "He's hard to tackle, he's physical, has pretty good balance."

Rawls won't wrestle the lead tailback job from Toussaint, who rushed for 1,041 yards in his first season as the starter. But he's emerging as a favorite to earn the backup spot -- a position of increasing importance, with Toussaint's status hanging in the balance.

Michigan seems to like its options.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 3:07 a.m.

I don't imagine that's what the 'Bama D will be saying but best of luck.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

Okay class, let's guess which person from the list below is the MSU fan: - Scott - Hailmary - Slobodon Dobodon Seriously?


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

I would say Slobo...but he doesn't even know Gholston's first name.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

your answer is all of the above ?


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

Are the poor souls the Alabama linebackers or his scout team buddies?


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

I imagine Brady Hoke likes what Thomas brings to the table as a power runner.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

If Rawls plays well against Alabama then Fitz may not see the field this year. For Fitz that may be the best thing. A truncated season will cost him millions in the NFL draft, or keep him from playing at all.

Shlobodon Dobodon

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

I'm sure Bill Gholston will step right aside for you. lol Good luck with that.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

His name it Tom Gholston.

Shlobodon Dobodon

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

That must be why the umich offense was so effective.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 10:08 a.m.

Show nuf! He will run right through anyone. But to make things interesting lets see how the game goes on Oct. 20th, game time TBD.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

Who's "Bill" Gholston?


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

That would probably be a good idea.

Robert Granville

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

As if Gholston will have the chance. Taylor Lewan dominated him last year... every single play.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

I love the Wolverines but I am worried about them skipping English classes.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 10:05 a.m.

Talk is talk... as long as you write a paper correctly what is the big deal. Many folks need to learn about culture. Sure, represent yourself using the best language possible but communication is not always about talking like your are reading a speech. These guys are accountable in a way we could never realize, as the expectations to represent Michigan is a stressful en devour. Sometimes talking like you are at the playground is a stress reliever.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

I think that there is educated man talk and there is football talk. If you are walking across campus, you should get out of the way of the bicycle. If you are on the football field, you should get out the way of Thomas Rawls. It don't bother me none when it's football, but if he is looking for a job as a sports announcer, then it would bother me very much.

Bruce Kennedy

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

Reminds me of the time I was reading a letter to the editor, in Sports Illustrated. The author, of the letter, was bemoaning the fact that an article, published by SI, about Anthony Carter, quoted Anthony as saying.."We be...". The author was obviously upset with the fact any senior, at the University of Michigan, would be quoted as saying "We be". But the author went on to say that Anthony's use of the phrase "We be" could be excused because Anthony was majoring in Pre-Professional Football, at Michigan.

Mr. X

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

You might also want to worry about the writers. "Just imagine the pour souls..." Who is pouring out these souls?