The Wolverine

2013 Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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RB seven in the box, and we can throw on you when you creep that safety up near the line of scrimmage. "I'm excited to coach this type of offense again, and I'm excited for our running backs." Putting It All Together With fifth-year senior Fitzgerald Toussaint sitting out Michigan's spring practices while recovering from a season-ending leg injury, Jackson worked junior Thomas Rawls, redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes and redshirt freshman Drake Johnson hard, intent to weed out their weaknesses in the hope that one or two would prove worthy of the starting job. While they all improved, no one truly stood out among the field. "I would have expected Rawls to jump out because he has the most experience, but that didn't happen," Jackson said. "What happened was Justice got better. Rawls and Drake Johnson got better. "I don't think anyone emerged because they all evened out. They all ended up being pretty good football players, people you can count on. Primarily that's what I saw, and to say one guy stuck out, I don't think they did, but for the things I asked them to do before spring to improve their games individually, they all went out and did that. "The bad part about me saying that is that what they showed me is one guy can do something better than the other guys. And someone does something else better. They all have something that makes them unique, and maybe we don't have the all-around back out of those three, so you'd have to rotate them based on game situations." A 5-10, 217-pounder, Rawls appeared in eight games a year ago, starting against Ohio State and playing extensively in the opener versus Alabama. He struggled in both contests, rushing for 11 yards on 11 carries. Overall, he finished with 242 yards and four scores on 57 touches (4.2 yards per rush), excelling in wins over Massachusetts (42 yards), Purdue (22 yards) and Illinois (90 yards). Jackson was responsible for recruiting Rawls out of Flint, Mich., and once compared him to Alabama Heisman Trophy-winner Mark Ingram. He maintains a belief that Rawls could be a bell ringer for the Maize and Blue, and knows the junior just needs to find his swagger. "What happened with Rawls last year was he lost some confidence in that first game. He tried to get it back as the year went on, but it probably took longer than anticipated," Jackson said. "By the end of the year, we were using Denard as a running back, and the opportunities for Rawls just weren't there. "That first game, he was jacked. We didn't have Fitz, and Rawls was ready to show what he could do, and then we ran into a great Alabama defense. I think that performance took its toll, but you Redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes made his career debut in 2012 as a reserve running back versus Massachusetts, carrying the ball three times for 19 yards and his first career touchdown. photo by lon horwedel Running Backs Look To Rebound From Sub-Par 2012 Season in Michigan history, and if his and Toussaint's totals could be combined, When Fitzgerald Toussaint finished his junior campaign with 514 yards a theoretical No. 1 back would have been good for 1,780 yards, 38 yards rushing, he threw his name into the record books, albeit in an unflattershy of the U-M record (Tshimanga Biakabutuka, ing manner. Toussaint's production marked the 1,818 yards in 1995). third-lowest total by a U-M No. 1 running back Lowest Season Totals It doesn't work that way, of course, and so the over the last 50 years. By No. 1 RB 1963-2012 running backs were left with a marginal figHe missed two full games and three quarters Year Running Back Yards Att. YPC ure that didn't look much better when Thomas of a third game after suffering a season-end1963 Mel Anthony 394 103 3.8 Rawls, Vincent Smith and Justice Hayes were ing leg injury against Iowa. Had he remained 2009 Brandon Minor 502 96 5.2 factored in. Michigan's tailbacks and fullbacks healthy, and continued running the football at 2012 Fitzgerald Toussaint 514 130 4.0 mustered only 946 yards on 245 carries (3.9 his average of 55.6 yards per game, he was on 1984 Jamie Morris 574 118 4.9 yards per rush). pace for 667 yards, which would have moved 1966 Dave Fisher 637 131 4.9 This season, with those stats serving as motihim up this list (see chart) but not off of it com1965 Carl Ward 639 112 5.7 vation, and the return of a pro-style offense, the pletely. 2005 Mike Hart 662 150 4.4 running backs are ready to put up big numbers. Factoring in Denard Robinson's 1,266 yards 1964 Mel Anthony 702 145 4.8 "Every running back on this team is excited," rushing, the Maize and Blue didn't fare so poorly 1972 Ed Shuttlesworth 723 157 4.6 1978 Harlan Huckleby 741 154 4.8 Toussaint said. "We know all eyes are on us. Our overall; their 183.8 yards per game falls short of coaches are going to feature us. Our teammates the 221.5 they averaged in 2011 and the 238.5 need us. The fans want to see what we can do. We're ready." they averaged in 2010, but betters eight campaign marks since 2000. — Michael Spath Robinson's tally, meanwhile, ranks as the 19th-best single-season effort The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 89

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