The Wolverine

October 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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there and say, ���He���s out there playing.������ One area where he is needed is on third down. Smith led the Wolverines in receiving against San Diego State with 44 yards, including a 32-yarder on a screen that set up a touchdown. ���Vince is my third-down back, and he���s going to play it. That���s his role,��� Jackson said. ���He has probably the best hands of those guys. He seems to run routes as a wide receiver would run the route, and those kinds of things make him that valuable. You���d like to say you can play him every down, but those situ- ations you���ve got to have him in. ���If he���s getting dinged up before you get to that down and distance, then you���re playing somebody in that position that you don���t want to play with, who is not ready to play in that spot yet. That���s why you���ve got to pick and choose.��� The chance that one of the backs rushes for 1,000 yards this year is slim, which might be a problem in some years. This year, though, it means the more things have changed ��� with the inclusion of some prostyle looks, etc. ��� the more they stay the same. Robinson���s feet give the Wolverines their best chance to win, and his running backs will play complementary roles. ���Regardless of what he does, because of what he showed last year, Denard is going to help the backs eventually, because you���ve always got to account for Denard,��� Jackson said. ���It���s going to help us tremendously, regardless if it���s read, spread stuff or if we���re in our basic West Coast stuff.��� So far, though, they���ve shown some ability to provide explosive moments of their own, with the hope of more to come. ��� Tiny Vincent Smith Carries A Big Chip Michigan running back Vincent Smith has heard it his entire life: ���Too small��� ��� or, if people are being polite, ���just not big enough.��� ���All the time. All the time,��� Smith said with a grin. ���Forever, since I was in little league.��� He heard more of the same in the spring, when analysts opined head coach Brady Hoke was looking for a bigger alternative. It continued into the fall, when senior Michael Shaw and redshirt sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint emerged as one and two heading toward the opener, with Smith considered the third-down back. Through four games, though, Smith has emerged as UM���s most dependable back. He���s averaging a team-high 8.5 yards per rush and 44.8 yards per game. He���s also the Wolverines��� third-leading receiver with five catches for 70 yards. ���Once I have the opportunity I just step up to the plate, and people look over the size,��� Smith said. ���So I always have to prove guys wrong and just step up to the opportunities.��� But if he could be a bit bigger? ���If I was a couple more feet, I���d feel good about that,��� he joked. ���I still have a long way to go. There���s a lot more stuff I have to learn, so whenever I get there, I get there. I���m just trying to get there every day.��� But he provides something at the position nobody else can. His quick feet led to a late touchdown reception against Notre Dame that put the Wolverines on top. Two weeks later, Smith���s balance on a 32-yard run, and later on a short touchdown run, were two of the key plays in Michigan���s 28-7 win over San Diego State. When U-M���s pro-style look has stalled, Smith has usually been there to pick up the slack. ���It hasn���t been that different, because I played this type offense in high school,��� he said. ���It���s pretty much the same background.��� Smith understands, though, that the competition will continue throughout the fall. ���It���s just a big battle, because everybody in the backfield is competing. Whenever someone���s number is called for the opportunity, you���ve got to step up to the punch and help the team out. That���s our job: to run the ball. Whatever we need to do in the game plan, that���s what we need to do to Smith ran for a touchdown versus San Diego State, and his score off a screen pass versus Notre Dame helped fuel U-M's comeback. Photo by Per Kjeldsen step up and contribute to the team.��� That he���s doing it on one of college football���s biggest stages isn���t lost on him. Though several still look at him and wonder why he���s out there, those closest to him in Pahokee, Fla., always provided the support that yes, he was capable of playing at a football powerhouse like Michigan. It���s that support that has helped give him the confidence needed to succeed. Right now, he���s the one making the most of the running backs��� opportunities. ���There were just high hopes in high school with all my coaches,��� he said. ���Everybody believed in each other. I came from a small community and everybody���s like rooting around you, so everybody had high expectations for me. ���I couldn���t have dreamed for anything bigger than this. I���m at a great place.��� ��� Chris Balas October 2011��� ������ the wolverine��� 39

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