A Running Back look from a March, Aug and Oct posts, lets review how this has shook out.
Who will be our starting running back come
UCONN? WMU? Michigan has a stable of young and capable running backs who could(will anyone ever?) break out. We could have a running back by committee Won't have a running back by committee which I am in favor of. I never liked that RR wouldn't stick to Shaw or whoever when they got a roll on. Its been so long it feels like since we have had a "good" running back. I love you B.Minor but we haven't had that stud at Michigan since Mike Hart. Minor could have been but he was hurt too much and being made of glass isn't a Michigan running back trait. I think for Michigan to have the season we all want them to have, someone needs to break out of the pack as that stud Michigan back. Lets take a look...
Coaching Change and Running Backs
With the new coaching change I like Michigan's chances of finding a solid running back for the first time since Mike Hart. I was never crazy about Rich's use of out running backs. No one could ever find a rhyme. We would just switch the back on a down basis. No Hoke will stick with 2 or 3 at the most. Someone is gonna be featured. The question is who?
Shaw as of today is listed as the number one back with Smith. I expect him to do well if given enough carries to get going. I think he is a RB who needs to get a rhythm going. Denard and Shaw in the back field is a serious home run threat but with Shaw's history it's also a serious negative yardage threat as well. I am sure we will see both Shaw and Smith in many sets so this could be very interesting to see who gets the carries.
Shaw has been banged up since late in the BG game. He sat out the IND game and than ripped off a nice run up the middle in the MSU game. After that he hasn't been seen much. It's hard to tell if thats more due the coaches liking the V.Smith more or his injury has caused this. I will guess it's the bad knee more than anything. I am hoping he can get back to 12-15 carries at PSU. He seem to be on to something vs BG(yes almost baby seal) by hitting his holes and not dancing. Lets hope Michael Shaw has learned something and can get back on the field.
Is this the year Shaw becomes a stable running back for Michigan? Most say if you weren't a good running back by your 2nd or 3rd year then you will never be. I think Shaw still has a chance. I think the pro style looks will help him. Not as much thinking and with the way he runs it suits him. The dude runs hard. If he ever breaks one off he will be gone. Last year Shaw was building on something before getting hurt in the ND game. After that his carries became sporadic. Shaw never was much of a factor after that. I think Shaw is one of the favorites right now to win the job. The coaches gotta love his style and if he can keep healthy can be a good weapon for this offense and help Denard stay off his ass.
V.Smith didn't lose much of any ground from being out all spring. Guys like Mike Cox could not hop Smith with him being out. He is a great grind it out type of RB. I can't see him busting a 60 yard TD but he will move the sticks for you which is more important in the big picture(as Mike Hart). He also shows a great skill of catching out of the back field which Mike Shaw might lack. V.Smith is the "OR" right now with Michael Shaw so we will be seeing a lot of both of them come this Saturday. They are really a great combo since one is a speedster and Smith is the grind man. If one fumbles they will have Mike Cox waiting in the wings.
V.Smith seem to be RR favorite back. "He's not a fumbler" Rich said. Well that was said after he put one the turf after the Michigan was driving on Iowa. So now thats Smith and Hopkins who have coughed one up. Gotta wonder if Hopkins might start taking some carries away from Smith. You gotta like Hopkins better up the middle. I hope the Power I Smith up the middle play is trashed. So far its been for a loss and a fumble. Brian of Mgoblog and Magnus of Touch the Banner have expressed a desire to see less of Smith and I have to agree. Hes a good 3rd down back and catches well out of the back field and in the slot but as a guy who gonna get you 80-100 yards and break something open and keep a defense off Denard.... The kid just isn't that. Rich seems to love the kid, not sure if he raking his yard or what but I doubt V.Smith is heading to the bench. I like V.Smith but he needs to be given less carries IMO.
Vincent Smith. The teachers pet with the last staff? Maybe. But I still think he has a place in the offense. He seems like a perfect fit for 3rd downs since he can pass block well and catch out of the back field. Smith on 1st and 2nd down? I think the days maybe over with. He did look to have his speed and quicks back after looking a little slow from the injury in 09. I wouldn't count out Smith but I think his days as a starter are over.
Mike Cox has a great blend of Speed and Power but has he learned the play book and cleaned up the mental mistakes? As of today Mike is listed 2nd on the depth chart. He should get chances this Saturday to prove that he may be worth starting. Mike still seems to be the dark horse or wild card of the group. It wouldn't be surprising if he became the man but it wouldn't be surprising if he sunk of the depth chart either. He's got the tools but does he have the brawn?
A big Swing and a miss on my part. Figure Mike might get his chance vs IND but I guess I was wrong. V.Smith took much of the load with Hopkins getting a carry. I just don't know anymore about M.Cox. He must be clueless on blocking assignments and everything else. He has the most gifts physically but can't put it together mentally. I am sure it's pretty frustrating to the coaches when they need a guy like him on the field. I still would wish he would get a small shot. Just give him a few carries here and there and see what happens. If I had to guess... Mike Cox will have to improve in the off season and come out next year looking to make a impact in the spring camp. What I am saying.. He won't see the field this year.
Are Magnus(24th best player on the roster) and I the biggest Mike Cox fans in the world? I would say so. I can see the talent oozing out of him but he fails to put it together. We hear about flashes in practice but then we hear about fumbling and mistakes. I haven't heard as many rumblings about mental issues as years past but this offense is a bit better suited for him. If I had to guess Cox gets a few carries in the first game vs WMU. You have to see if maybe he is just a gamer and poor practice player. I don't think he starts vs WMU but he gets a look. If he can't protect the QB though then he will never play. That is what it may come down to for him. If he doesn't find his way onto the field this year then he will not be asked back for a 5th year.
“He’s a good player,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen enough. I didn’t have my blinders on.”Alright maybe this isn't a ton of hype but many people on the boards have added to his hype. I know he can be good and I hope he is but I just wanna see it.
With lots of internet rumblings and the super Fred Jackson hype of being "Mike Hart but faster". Fitz has more hype than most RBs get before taking a snap. Hype doesn't matter if you can't stay healthy. Right now that hype is stuck at the 4th spot on the depth chart. A lot may have to do with his health and being banged up. Some saying he may not even play vs UCONN. This is pretty concerning since he seems to be injury prone just like Mike Hart. It would be interesting to see if Fitz would have been the number one back if healthy. We may find out in a few weeks when he will be finally healthy. He better hope that another back hasn't ran away with the job. Poster FormerWolv even said Fitz was the clear number one back. We will see how true it is once he is healthy.
Not much has changed since the 30th of Aug. Fitz got his chance in BG game in which he looked good. He did make a nice run(you could drive a truck through the hole) but was caught from behind by a MAC LBer. His knee still looked to be holding him back. He than put the TD on the next play. Everything great right? WRONG! He found a way in two plays to hurt his shoulder and has been out since. So what we have learned is that Fitz is B.Minor but x100000 in being injury prone. It looks like he may be dressed for PSU game but lets hope he doesn't cough before the game.. He may be in street clothes by kick off.
Here we are again. The Fitz hype train is rolling right along as always. He got glowing reviews the other day when a former kicker was at the latest scrimmage called Fitzs his MVP for the day. People say I am hater on Fitz but I am not. I just think the guy has been a practice hero since he came to Michigan. I would love for him to snag the job so that we have "a running back" that is the for sure man. I wish any of them would. He just gets hurt all the time. You are no good to anyone if you can't stay healthy. I still like his chances to start or play a lot on Sept 3rd. The season is less then 2 weeks out and he is getting the praise. He did the same last year before getting hurt. Maybe this is the year that Fitz stays healthy and gets that shot that makes him a starter.
The Hopkins love train is starting to gain some speed half way through the season. He looked good running tough vs a great Iowa team. Many are calling for him to get the load of carries and count me in. Hopkins may get a major chance vs PSU this Saturday. The young horse is gaining a lot of confidence and it will be interesting to see what kind of chance Hopkins will get.
Hopkins had a nice little season last year. He was good around the goal line of course but didn't do much outside of that. Did fumble a few times. I think again he can be used as a full back and running back. Rumor has spread that he has been in the dog house for some reason and may not even dress for the opener. Not sure how much I believe that but its out there. I don't think he wins this job just because he is a bit limited. He is a great bowling ball but he needs great line play all the time to gash a defense on a regular basis. He will be a situation type of back.
As for the new kids
Austin White is off the team(holds back mean things to say). Hopkins still getting praise and could see a snap here or there. He could be our 2010 goal line back but we will see. He is sitting at 4th or 5th right now so he is a spot duty guy if others don't hold their own.
Rawls and Hayes have gotten some nice pub by none other than Fred Jackson. But what does that really mean? Not much. Rumor is that Rawls is a bit banged up in the shoulder and has gained some Fitz like love from the fan base. Hayes I think might be a year away from getting in on this party. He could be an option at WR but again a RS may not hurt. I see Rawls getting maybe a carry or two vs WMU but I can't see him jumping anyone. Not this year.
Predictions from my squawking
So who is the our starting back come fall and vs UCONN? If I had to guess right now I say Shaw shows and does enough to be that starter come game one. It won't be by much and will have to show a lot to keep his starting job for the first three games.
I hate to say this but I told you so... I told you so. Shaw starts with V.Smith and both could be yanked for Cox if either don't produce or turn the ball over. Shaw doesn't have many fans so this is great shot to show what he can do. Without Rage or Gesundheit in his way anymore he will be given a chance to showcase his skills. UM will be pounding the rock on Saturday, lets hope someone steps up and produces.
I hate to say this but... I was wrong. Shaw hurt... Smith "meh" and Cox glued to the bench. Oh and Fitz is a scarecrow. So the running back position is a bit of a mess. Something Michigan isn't used to. Someone has to step up and help Denard. If I guess what will happen the rest of the year... Shit I dunno. Shaw gets some more carries since he is back to feeling better and Hopkins steals some carries from V.Smith. Either way we may be a year away from solving this issue(lets hope).
Here we are again.. Who is the running back? I dunno...Who knows. I hope to god this is the last year I have to write this. I will do one more if someone grabs the job.. I'll do it out of just pure joy. I miss having a great UM back. So as of today if you asked me I got two dudes in mind. Michael Shaw and Fitzs. Those two seem to be getting the reps in practice from reports. I expect one of those two to start vs WMU and see the major part of the carries with Cox coming in at 3rd. I think Cox will get a few too but those are the two main guys. Smith will be seen on 3rd downs.
The question will be if Shaw and Fitz can stay healthy enough to become the man.. or men. If they fail then we move on to Cox and maybe even Rawls. You know the coaches would love to have a guy or good idea going into the ND game but I am not sure they will. Should be interesting. Lets hope this post won't have to repeat through out the season.
Shredders Running Back Depth Chart(8-23-11)