Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Running Backs Preview: Michigan vs. South Carolina

Denard Robinson should start at tailback for Michigan
Starter: Redshirt junior Fitzgerald Toussaint, a two-year starter, broke his leg against Iowa and will miss the bowl game.  The person who should start at the running back is senior Denard Robinson (6'0", 197 lbs.), even if he is able to throw the ball a little.  Robinson has run the ball 154 times for 1,166 yards this season (7.6 yards/carry) and scored 7 touchdowns.  In the two games since returning from his elbow injury, he has played a good deal of running back and totaled 220 yards on 23 carries (9.6 yards/carry) and 1 touchdown.  Redshirt freshman Joe Kerridge (6'0", 244 lbs.) starts at fullback but rarely touches the ball, notching just 1 reception for 12 yards on the season.
Backups: Sophomore Thomas Rawls (5'10", 218 lbs.) has been the main backup to Toussaint throughout the year.  He carried the ball 57 times for 242 yards (4.2 yards/carry) and 4 touchdowns.  He lacks some speed and vision, and he doesn't run as physically as one would expect from a back with his heft.  Senior Vincent Smith (5'6", 175 lbs.) has been forced into action in situations that don't fit his skills; he has carried the ball 32 times for 88 yards (2.8 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns.  His biggest strength is as a receiver out of the backfield, where he has caught 9 passes for 65 yards and 1 touchdown.  Little used redshirt freshman Justice Hayes (5'10", 183 lbs.) amassed 83 yards on 16 carries (5.2 yards/carry) and 1 touchdown in blowout wins over Illinois and UMass.

Starter: Much like Michigan, South Carolina will be missing its starting tailback (junior Marcus Lattimore, who has decided to leave early for the NFL Draft) due to a leg injury.  I have always thought Lattimore was overrated as a college running back, but he was the best the Gamecocks had.  His absence leaves the job to fifth year senior Kenny Miles (5'9", 193 lbs.), who ran the ball 99 times for 358 yards (3.6 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns.  He also has 16 receptions for 168 yards (10.5 yards/reception), so he's a threat out of the backfield, too.
Backups: Freshman Mike Davis (5'9", 216 lbs.) has been very effective for a third-stringer with 52 carries for 275 yards (5.3 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns.  No other player has notched more than 5 carries this season.

The true running backs on these two teams are not very impressive.  Nobody on Michigan's team seems to have much of a chance to turn into a star, and the best prospect on either squad appears to be Gamecocks freshman Davis.  However, the most dynamic player is converted quarterback Robinson, who has the ability to break a big run at any given time.
Advantage: Michigan

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