|Thomas Rawls (with ball) joins the Battles of the Stiff-Arm|
Thomas Rawls, a 5'10", 210 lb. running back from Northern High School in Flint, MI, has committed to Michigan. Rawls played high school ball for the son of running backs coach Fred Jackson. He had long been a Michigan fan and it was well known that he would choose the Wolverines if given an offer. Unfortunately, that took awhile, because his academic success left things a little bit murky. Rawls needed a qualifying score on a recent standardized test to firm up the offer. Once that happened Brady Hoke quickly sent him an official offer.
Rawls is a 3-star recruit to all three major recruiting services. Scout.com ranks him as the #77 running back in the country. He had other offers from Central Michigan, Cincinnati (where he was recruited by former Michigan defensive line coach Steve Stripling), and Toledo. If Rawls hadn't received the offer from the Wolverines, he most likely would have become a Chippewa.
As a junior Rawls had 138 carries for 1,056 yards and 16 touchdowns. Due to a senior year injury, he only played seven games; however, he still rushed the ball 150 times for 1,582 yards and 18 touchdowns. That's 10.55 yards per carry and 226 yards per game. He also caught 4 passes for 85 yards and 1 touchdown. As a linebacker, he had 101 tackles as a junior and 37 as a senior.
Rawls definitely has some good qualities. He's a big kid with thick legs, built powerfully and low to the ground. He has patience and allows blocks to develop in front of him, which also shows good vision to see cutbacks and running lanes. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him as a high school runner is the way he keeps his shoulders facing north and south when he makes his cuts; this allows him to break some tackles that other running backs wouldn't.
However, as mentioned above, Rawls is only a 3-star prospect to all three services. For some odd reason, Michigan fans think his low star rating is due to his academic difficulties. On the heels of the Demar Dorsey fiasco, I'm not sure how Michigan fans could get that confused about star ratings. Scout, Rivals, and ESPN don't care about players' ACT scores. If a kid is a 5-star talent on the field, he could be dumber than a fencepost and still garner a 5-star rating. There are plenty of highly rated kids who go to prep school, junior college, etc. I don't understand why the scouting services would suddenly be holding an academic grudge against a random kid from Flint.
Many fans want to compare Rawls to Mark Ingram, the Flint product who won the Heisman for Alabama in 2009. Admittedly, Rawls and Ingram have some physical similarities. Both are approximately the same height and even have similar gaits. But Ingram (who was a 4-star recruit) is and was quicker than Rawls. Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady. Grady broke state records for rushing, but he ended his four-year Michigan career in 2009 with 200 career carries for 783 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He simply didn't have the speed or elusiveness to succeed in the Big Ten; luckily for him, his power got him on the field as a senior . . . at fullback.
Perhaps Rawls can contribute at fullback or in goal line situations at Michigan, but I'm not expecting Rawls to be a star for the Wolverines. I would be glad to be wrong, because he worked hard to get qualified. But he deserves his 3-star rating, and I think he's more of a role player than a feature back.
Rawls gives Michigan 18 commitments and a second running back (Justice Hayes is the other) in the 2011 class. There are approximately five other players who might announce for Michigan in the coming days - Chris Barnett, Frank Clark, Darian Cooper, Jake Fisher, and Leilon Willingham. According to some insiders, Michigan would take all five if every one of them wanted to commit.
TTB Rating: 68