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Posted on Wed, May 23, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football team still in search of a No. 2 running back, and it may not be Vincent Smith

By Nick Baumgardner


Starting tailback Fitz Toussaint, above, will ideally get at least 20 carries per game for the Michigan football team next season. The question is who'll get the eight to 10 carries as the No. 2 back,

Melanie Maxwell |

At this point, two things are crystal clear in Al Borges' offensive backfield.

Denard Robinson will start at quarterback and Fitz Toussaint will get first dibs as the team's featured running back.

But who else is in line to carry the football for the Wolverines in 2012?

If the Michigan football team's offensive coordinator has his way, Toussaint will be on the field for most of the game.

But he's not foolish. Sometimes guys need a rest. And the task now is to find out who will give it to him.

"If you're trying to get (Toussaint) the ball 20-something times, it may mean another back gets the ball eight to 10 times -- I don't know," Borges said. "But what we don't want is to divide those carries up evenly, I don't like that, never have.

"I would think, yeah, there's a defined No. 2 and No. 3 at every position. But we want a featured running back."

During spring practice, coaches and players raved about the development of sophomore running back Thomas Rawls.


Thomas Rawls (38) had a strong spring, capped by a two-touchdown performance during Michigan's spring game.

Angela J. Cesere |

Rawls, a 5-foot-10, 219-pounder from Flint, was exceptional in the team's spring game as well, finishing with two rushing touchdowns.

"Thomas has had a good spring," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said at the time. "He's one of those guys, when you look at the body of work, with his physicalness, he's hard to tackle.

"You've got to give him credit for that, and he's a good football player."

Michigan coaches also talked extensively about the development of redshirt freshman Justice Hayes, a former four-star prospect who benefited from a year on the sidelines in 2011.

Ironically, the player who seemed to be talked about the least during spring practice was senior Vincent Smith -- who was second to Toussaint among running backs last season with 298 yards and two touchdowns.

Smith might not be in the conversation for the team's No. 2 running back slot, but that doesn't mean he won't see the field in 2012.


Vincent Smith's pass protection and pass-catching ability makes him an ideal third-down back.

On the contrary, Borges says. Smith may actually be used quite a bit.

"Vince plays a different role, he's kind of a slash number, if that makes any sense to you," Borges said. "He'll come in the game and carry the ball a little bit, but he's situationally in the game a lot. Just as you'd put a third wide receiver in the game to replace a tight end, Vince goes into the game on third down, maybe in the slot, maybe in an empty formation or the backfield. But he'll always play that role somewhat.

"That doesn't fit as much into our first down (scheme) as much as I'm talking about, spelling backs and things like that."

Borges insists that Smith -- regarded as Michigan's best pass-protection running back -- will continue to serve the role of a third-down back, when necessary.

Smith caught 11 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns last season, and has been referred to by Hoke as perhaps "pound for pound" the toughest player on Michigan's roster.

So he'll certainly see the field, but not likely on first or second down.

That, in Borges' and Hoke's eyes, is Toussaint time.

"Once you've established a running back, he's your running back," Borges said. "The other guys come in when he's tired or he's banged up a little bit, just to spell him.

"And then you get him back in there."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Sat, May 26, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

Le'Veon Bell, Larry Caper and Nick Hill. The BADgers have an even better 3 back tandem. Where's the threat?


Wed, May 30, 2012 : 12:14 a.m.

Bell had 217 touches for 1215 yards (5.6 per play) and Fitz had 193 touches for 1069 yards (5.5 yards per play). Bell won the starting job from a 2010 first team All Big 10 RB, Edwin Baker. Fitz won the starting job from a bunch of bums. Bell is a stud and future 1st round NFL pick. A 2 star recruit from suburban Columbus. Defenses focus on him when trying to stop the MSU running game. Fitz had better get his degree! Defenses focus on Robinson when trying to stop the UofM running game. Bell is going to run up and down the field at will on October 20th. Where's the threat?


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

Fitz put up more yards than Bell last year and will again this year. (Better average too)


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:24 a.m.

The best and only talent Michigan has at RB is #28 and Justice Hayes. Neither is elite but its the best we will get considering we never have and will never be able to recruit top level skill position talent :( Such a shame that no matter how great of an o-line we can put together, we will never have a supertalent running behind it. Maybe Borges can pad up .

Darius Cole

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Drake Johnson is going to surprise a lot of people. I love this kid's potential.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:52 a.m.

football... who cares?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

apparently you do, taking the time to read and comment.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

That's good Tally Ho but this site is for fans to contribute. This site is not a vehicle for a disrespective attack on another persons character or handicaps. Making fun of a persons weight or emotional instability is not contributing to this sports site it is showing that the antagonist is a shallow person with little or no knowledge of the intangibles of the game of football and cast of characters involved in making it successful and exciting for all of us that are true fans of the sport. Good luck to you !


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:17 a.m.

Excuse me Hailmary , but as one who is in a position of seniority on this site, it is my job to encourage the free-flowing of ideas which welcomes all opinions in regard to the Michigan experience. Tally please excuse Hailmary for such an action unbecoming of a Michigan Man. I am sure it was unintended. He knows not of what he does.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

There is no excuse for rudeness or your profanity take it elsewhere.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

This site is for WHAT??? WHAT A JOKE!!! There's very little knowledge of football on this site, it's mostly bias based. Although, I was jokingly making a point ( not about his weight ) it would have been ok if it were about RR, 1 of his remnants on the team or an Afr. Am. player that got in trouble. So don't give me your crap about what this site represents, you're just defensive because of the person I kidded...that's all.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

Bubble Screen to Vince! C'mon Gorgeous, just call it for once!


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

Michigan–Ohio State football rivalry Total meetings 108 Series record Michigan leads, 58–43–6 First meeting October 17, 1897 Michigan 34, Ohio State 0 Last meeting November 26, 2011 Michigan 40, Ohio State 34 Next meeting November 24, 2012 Largest win Michigan, 86–0 (1902) Longest win streak Michigan, 9 (1901–1909) Current win streak Michigan, 1 (2011–present) Trophy None Since 1969- Michigan leads 21-19-2 ( 1 no contest) THE World University Rankings 2011-2012 18 University of Michigan United States 57 Ohio State University United States We beat them in academics too!!!


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Seriously - who cares? Its only this coming year and last year that matter.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

You can never have too many running backs. I think under Bo, there were 3-4 that would routinely play and get a lot of carries (granted he didn't pass as much), but we can do that. Just give Fitz his carries to get into a rhythm then the others earn time by not putting the ball on the ground, and making tacklers miss.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

I know that we have other games, but I keep thinking about the Michigan State game because that's the one team these days that we are playing that Michigan seems not to be able to figure out (arguably, Iowa, too, but--yes, I'll say it--MSU is more important). These coaches figuring out which backs can do what and be productive in which situations is incredibly important to that MSU game, because we know they're going to try to stop the run and make Denard pass. I don't care what I read in the spring and summer--I think there's only so much improvement you can get out of Denard passing, especially against a very strong defense. So, the coaches have to figure out a way to make the offense work against MSU in other ways than just working with Denard, and the running game has almost always mattered against MSU. Some on ESPN and other sources are picking Michigan in 2012 to win the B1G or be the best in the B1G, but nothing will change against MSU--another favorite--if the offense doesn't figure some [more] things out when facing the best defenses. I think we'll see the same thing against Alabama.


Wed, May 30, 2012 : 12:16 a.m.

If you think that the MSU defense is "physical" wait until you play 'Bama! LOL! Where's the threat?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

I don't think there's too much to figure out. Sparty has had a nasty, physical defense that Michigan cannot move.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

MSU has beaten UM over the past 4 seasons because they have been more physical. Hoke is bringing in physical players, as well as coaching physicality, so I'm confident that UM being outmuscled by the Spartans won't last. This year, it will still be extremely tough to match MSU physically, especially with how thin UM is along the lines, but we're getting there. Like edjasbord says, hopefully we'll have just enough to get them this year.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

I will only believe that Denard's passing will improve if he completes over 70% of his passes in fall camp, rather than just 70% like last year. The thing that stands out to me about that 70% completion rate Borges tossed out in camp and the poor completion and interception rate we saw in the season is coaching. If there is such a glaring difference, then something is not being done right in camp. Situational contexts were not being properly constructed. Game days weren't properly mimicked. We can only hope that will be corrected this fall camp. I think we will have a really big challenge with MSU. We might, this year, have more talent (as opposed to last year), but I think they will still be the tougher team. Lets hope we can be just tough enough.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

Whoever is the best will play, this will sort itself out.......


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:53 a.m.

By these types of articles you can see what type of running game that Mich. is trying to evolve into. I agree that the second and in my opinion 3rd running backs are very important to Al's scheme and to that 1st back. We are Mich. and we're coming at you brother and your not going to have an easy time stopping us. If our number 1 back needs a breather we're still coming at you with our number 2 back. In a couple of years Brady will have 4 yrs. of his recruits in place and then, "Let the games begin".


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

Hail - I too was very, very impressed by the 173 yards of total offense that Borges' offense gained vs. the mediocre ACC defense he faced with 5 weeks of preparation vs. VTech. LOL! In truth, you smack Michigan in the mouth and they fold up like cheap tents...but don't tell that to anyone in Ann Arbor! Where's the threat?


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 10:45 a.m.

What college team is it that you coach? ted, you are a funny fellow. When you reach my age you'll be able to laugh at yourself and realize your foolish folly.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:33 a.m.

Sorry Hailmary, but it is a very simple-minded, stupid approach on how to run an offense.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:32 a.m.

"We are Michigan and we are coming at you and you are not going to have an easy time stopping us unless you are Alabama, USC or any other team with speed up front.

Matt Patercsak

Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:51 a.m.

its obviously Rawls, there is no discussion. I have faith that Drake Johnson will have an impact in fall camp, but Thomas the train is well established as the back up. Vince is a different position Al said


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:30 a.m.

Rawls runs a 5.32. Looked good in the spring game cause he broke two tackles. I think his other offer was from Ball St.