The Wolverine

October 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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True freshman Thomas Rawls played versus Eastern Michigan (two attempts, four yards), but he is still learning when to try to run through a defender and when to run around one. Photo by Per Kjeldsen Freshmen Still In The Mix Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson isn���t hesitant to use his freshmen, and he���s proven it many times over the years. From Tyrone Wheatley to Mike Hart, even Brandon Minor, U-M���s freshmen have gotten their opportunities. It was no surprise, then, when Jackson said in fall camp that freshmen Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes had bright futures. That hasn���t changed, he said Sept. 22, even though Rawls has played sparingly (two carries, four yards in one game) due to a shoulder injury and Hayes had yet to see the field. Rawls��� injury was a learning experience, Jackson noted. The frosh is like Minor and redshirt sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint in that he���d rather go through a tackler than around him. ���I���ve got a couple guys like that; that���s why they���re both banged up,��� Jackson said. ���But you can���t play the whole game like that. I don���t care who you���re playing. ���Rawls is going to have to learn. Right now, he���ll run through you more than Fitz will.��� At times, it���s warranted. And when he���s good, Jackson continued, he���s very good. ���He���s an explosive guy ��� very powerful, tough as nails,��� he said. ���He can go the distance with the ball. He���s just a young guy who���s got a lot of talent, and it���s all wrapped up into one. Right now, you���ve got to be able to pick and choose, put him in places where he can have some success, and he���s going to be fine.��� That means avoiding situations in which he has to think too much at this point, including pass protection on third down. He���s even gotten better in that aspect over the last several weeks, Jackson added. ���He���s not bad because he���s a tough kid. He���s just learning,��� Jackson said. ���It���s a maturation process because of all the different looks. He���ll be fine. A lot of times a kid won���t look too good, but it���s just because he doesn���t know where these pass rushers are coming from.��� Hayes, meanwhile, has yet to carry in a game and didn���t dress for the San Diego State contest. He���s a redshirt candidate, though he still has a bright future. ���He shows a lot of talent,��� Jackson said. ���Justice is one of those guys that right now is just a little too light. He plays like he has a big body and like he���s a big back, but he���s not a big back. He���s 170 or 180 pounds, and he���s like a lot of them ��� he���s got to learn how to play like a lot of them, play small, yet big. ���That���s one of the things right now that���s caused him the most problems.��� ��� Chris Balas 38��� the wolverine��� ������ October 2011 State, setting up the Aztecs��� only touchdown in U-M���s 28-7 win. Shaw, meanwhile, nearly earned the right to start in the opener before Toussaint made his late run. He has areas to shore up before he sees the field consistently. ���He���s still out there every day, working hard. He���s got to do some of the things I���d like to see him do a little better, but I���m not discounting him at all,��� Jackson said. ���He knows we���ve got to get better as protectors. I need another guy or two who are going to be better protectors, and he���s got to be a better protector. He knows that.��� The injury bug is the concern with Toussaint. The redshirt sophomore has shown toughness between the tackles in his four games, and his vision, once a major concern, has improved. His next step: trying to go around defenders rather than through them. An extended stay on the sidelines is a factor that could change U-M���s offensive fortunes. ���I���m just hoping that doesn���t happen. It���s like looking at [fifth-year senior cornerback] Troy Woolfolk going through some of those injuries,��� Jackson said. ���You hope that these things don���t happen, and you���ve got to be optimistic. But it���s a rough shot.��� Rawls��� absence against the Aztecs wasn���t surprising, given San Diego State���s penchant for the blitz and Rawls��� limited experience in a passblocking role. That���s put a lot of the onus on Smith, only an inch or two shorter than former U-M running back Mike Hart but several pounds lighter. It���s his size that could keep Smith from being a 20-carry guy, Jackson acknowledged, and his workload is not likely to change, even with Smith���s production through four games. ���Because of his stature and the size of the defense you play against, you can���t say you���re going to play Vince out there and let him carry the ball 20 times and then let him pass protect another 20,��� Jackson said. ���I don���t think you can do that. He wouldn���t last. ���But he���s a very, very valuable football player for us, and as a coach in my shoes, I���ve got to make sure I���m playing him where he���s needed, more so than where I just put him out

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