The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 23 M SMALLER BACKS HAVE MORE TO PROVE The key to getting on the field at Michigan as a smaller running back isn't always great vision, speed and feet, though any of those qualities certainly help. For a back weighing 195 pounds or less — redshirt junior Justice Hayes (190) and redshirt freshman cornerback convert Ross Douglas (186) qualify on this year's squad — it's about being physical enough to handle the rigors of pass blocking. Mike Hart (2004-07) was considered a small back, but he weighed more than 200 pounds, running backs coach Fred Jackson noted, and would bust a blitzing linebacker and often knock him off his feet. Vincent Smith (2009- 12) was much smaller, only 5-6 and 175 pounds, but he was tough as nails. "When you're that size, you've got to be able to anticipate what a blitzer is doing before he even knows," Jackson said. "That's where Vince was so good. He'd go get a guy before he got started. If you let him get on top of you, you aren't going to have a chance." Recently graduated Fitz Toussaint was as tough as any back he's had, Jackson said, but he struggled at times last year, never really developing the knack for pass blocking. Hart and Smith did. Hayes is getting there, while Douglas still has a lot to prove after switching positions. How quickly they pick it up will probably determine how much they're able to contribute this year. "You can't play on third down if you can't pass block," Jackson said. "We're still working on who that third down back is going to be. In Rich Rodriguez' offense, we didn't have the backs pass block. In this offense, we do. Michael Shaw, Sam McGuffie, guys like that were little, so we'd run them out. If they were going to blitz, we'd throw them the ball. "That's not the way this offense is set. You've got to block folks, and if they are coming downhill, we're going to beat you with our receivers or run it right through them." WE ARE MICHIGAN BLUE! HAIL TO THE VICTORS VALIANT! At w w w . s t o n e m a s c o t s . c o m • 18 inches and 67 pounds of pure MICHIGAN pride • PREMIUM cast stone • officially licensed • HAND PAINTED • Made in U.S.A. ORDER YOURS AT WWW.STONEMASCOTS.COM & Enter promo code "MICHALUMNI" for a special discount S t o n e m a s c o t s . c o m M & Leprechaun ads 2014.06.05.indd 1 6/5/14 12:06 PM Redshirt junior running back Justice Hayes, who is listed on the roster at 5-10, 190 pounds, looks to emulate the example of Mike Hart and other recent small but tough backs for U-M. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 8,10-12,14-28,30-32.IMA.indd 23 6/19/14 5:01 PM

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