1.) Fitzgerald Toussaint (Sr): 5-10, 200
2.) Thomas Rawls: 5-10, 217
3.) Justice Hayes: 5-10, 192
4.) Derrick Green: 5-11, 240
5.) De’Veon Smith: 5-11, 224
The running back position is probably one of the more curious positions on this Michigan roster. Not only because there is a surplus of talent in the pipeline, but where or to whom are the carries going to?
In 2011, we all assumed that Michigan had found their guy of the future in Fitzgerald Toussaint. In 2012, it was apparent those hopes were slightly off base. Finishing with just over 500 yards, a nasty leg break late in the year against Iowa added the exclamation mark to a disappointing season. Granted, a bad season is not all Toussaint’s fault, the offensive line is to blame as well.
But, the biggest question mark with Fitz is if he can come back 100% healthy. He proclaims that he is healthy and also went as far as saying that he will be the starting running back. We know what he is capable of, but will returning from a broken leg separate him further from the 2011 season? Only time will tell. The competition is incredibly tight and there are others on the roster looking to damper his proclamation of being a starter.
With the move to a more power running game, it suits returning junior Thomas Rawls’ skillset perfectly. Considering he has had in game experience, he is definitely a candidate to see playing time. The major gripe with Rawls has been his inability to produce. Granted he has had little time to shine, but the chances he did have at the end of last season were disappointing to say the least. Rawls is a big and physical back who has the physical ability to run you over but won’t necessarily burn you if he finds a crease. Weighing close to 220 pounds, his size is definitely something the Michigan coaching staff have been looking at through recruitment. Coming out of high school there was a comparison of fellow Flint native Mark Ingram, but Michigan fans have yet to see those comparisons come through. Once a fullback has been established in the system, Rawls could see greater success lining up than in seasons past.
The potential of this 5-10, 192 pound running back has yet to be untapped. Only a redshirt sophomore, one could argue that he may not have a spot on this depth chart. But, if used correctly, he could be a very valuable piece. RS Sophomore Justice Hayes returns heavier and set to make an impact on this Michigan offense. He is slightly smaller than Toussaint but has a lot of speed, “giddy up” if you will. I think there is a definite spot for him. The coaches could want speed out there, or throw out a two-back system, Hayes could be that guy if he earns the coaching staff’s trust that he can be productive. Not to mention, Hayes is absolutely benefiting from Norfleet’s move to the slot. As he is really the only pure speed back on the roster.
The biggest conundrum on the roster is where the two freshman will fit in. In one corner, you have Derrick Green. A highly publicized commitment, brings a lot of hype to campus day one. In the other corner is oft forgotten De’Veon Smith. Don’t forget about De’Veon Smith. Weighing in at 240 pounds,
Green has the body size and muscle to be a legitimate candidate for day one starter. Which wouldn’t surprise me at all if that is what happens. Not only can Green run you over, but he also has the burst of speed to hit holes and make defenders miss. He isn’t a five-star recruit for nothing, he has an elite skillset. With Smith, he could be the perfect complement to Green if the coaching staff decided to use two running backs in the future. Smith is not as physical and not as fast as Green, but arguably has better vision. The statistics don’t lie, both are very talented football players poised to make an impact on this team.
Derrick Green will eventually take over and lead the running backs this season. He is way too talented and physically read to lead to waste an eligibility year grooming him. I think Green is the difference maker Michigan has been looking for on offense and it will be proven this year.