Tuesday, July 9, 2013

2013 Season Countdown: #51 Thomas Rawls

Thomas Rawls
Name: Thomas Rawls
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 217 lbs.
High school: Flint (MI) Northern
Position: Running back
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #38
Last year: I ranked Rawls #18 and said he would be a part-time starter. He started one game and had 57 carries for 242 yards and 4 touchdowns.

I made a mistake and ranked Rawls too high last year. I decided to believe Fred Jackson, and I will never, ever, ever do that again. In 2012 Rawls looked like the guy I thought he was coming out of high school. He doesn't break tackles the way someone his size should, and he doesn't have breakaway speed. However, he did have good games against Illinois (9 carries for 90 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown), Purdue, and UMass, for whatever those accomplishments are worth.

Rawls has now had two years to prove himself a capable runner, and he has yet to do so. Whenever starter Fitzgerald Toussaint returns to health, I think Rawls will find himself #3 on the depth chart behind Toussaint and freshman Derrick Green. Rawls might have some value as a backup fullback, but he does not appear to be starter material. Former 5-star Kevin Grady followed a similar career path from failed tailback to fullback, and while I'm not totally writing Rawls off from contention for backup duty at tailback, I just think there are better guys in the pipeline.

Prediction: Backup running back; 30 carries, 130 yards, 2 touchdowns


  1. I don't blame you for overrating him last year because he did get insider hype. UM has not had what I would consider quality RB depth in a long time. So observers are always over-anxious to find the next stud.

    If memory serves, there was a sweep play in the UMass game where it took Rawls an eternity to get around a well-blocked edge. He ran like an overweight FB who gets 2 carries/season on trick plays. That was all I needed to see to confirm he is not what I consider a UM-level talent.

    Now that Hoke is gaining traction with legit RB recruits again, players at the level of Rawls, Hayes, and Johnson should not be in the conversation going forward.

    1. Hayes was a 4-star recruit with an offer from ND, very very different from Rawls and Johnson.

      Bottomline here is that Hoke's staff has yet to prove it is capable of finding talent at the offensive skill positions. Denard, Toussaint, Hemingway, Gallon have led the offense and this year it will probably be Gardner. Funchess and Norfleet have shown some flashes, but not much else. It's only the 3rd year, but soon Borges and company will have to put up results.

    2. @Lanknows
      It seems like you're ignoring the fact that all the guys that "have led the offense" are upperclassmen. Of course RR's remaining recruits are leading at their positions, they're all guys who have been on the team for a few years. Even Gardner is a RR guy, if you're talking about "finding talent."

      There are a few younger guys in the pipe that I'm excited for, but obviously Hoke's staff "has yet to prove" it can/has recruited talent when those recruits are still underclassmen.

    3. You can call Hayes a 4-star, but ND dropped him (basically convinced him to de-commit) and he was never a front-burner recruit for UM, even in a year in which they were struggling to connect with RB's. The guy does not have a clear position at the college level and he is not dynamic.

      But I digress.... my point was that not one out of that group (Rawls, Johnson, Hayes) is offered a spot in the '13 or '14 recruiting classes. And UM's continued involvement with legit RB recruits is darn-near assured as the OL develops.

    4. @GBNYC

      Somewhat true and sure, you'd expect Rodriguez's guy to lead for a year or two but year 3 is coming up and it's still probably going to be Rodriguez's guys leading the way. There were obvious holes at RB, WR, and TE last year that two recruiting cycles should have been able to address in some part.

      I don't think we have a verdict on Hoke's offensive recruiting yet - but there haven't been too many signs toward optimism yet outside of recruiting rankings, which only go so far.


      You're arguing he's Hayes is not an elite recruit - fine - but Hayes also had offers from Tennessee and most of the Big 10. I don't know if what you say about ND is true, but regardless he was much more highly pursued than either Rawls or Johnson, who are local fliers who, at best, are a system-fit.

      I don't know what you mean about 13/14 recruiting. In case you haven't noticed, Michigan is still taking generic 3 star kids who don't have nearly the offer sheet or ranking that Hayes had. The 'sleeper' recruit is not dead.

      That's not necessarily a problem if those guys step up and produce (e.g., MSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, etc.) but Michigan hasn't shown that yet. The offensive recruits haven't produced and, other than Green and Harris, the skill position recruits have not been blue-chippers.

      Will this all work out in the end - maybe. But proclaiming victory based on 'involvement' with recruits and the projection of OL dominance is a shaky argument.

    5. Well, Rodriguez's guys are seniors. Gallon is a senior. Gardner is a fourth year guy. Toussaint is a senior. Someone like Chesson or Darboh is likely to step up as the #2 wideout, both of whom were recruited by Hoke. Funchess was pretty darn good for a true freshman.

      Even if the standouts this year are Gardner, Gallon, and Toussaint, I don't think that means a ton for Hoke's recruiting abilities. His first full class was 2012, meaning that those guys are sophomores or redshirt freshmen.

    6. We've argued about this before, but Hoke gets some of the blame/credit for 2011. At least on the guys Rodriguez didn't recruit (Clark, Taylor, Poole, Wile, Bellomy, Carter, Barnett, Rawls, Heitzman).

      Meager results there offensively, but you're right that it's too soon to judge the 2012 class who were freshman last year. Funchess and Norfleet do both look very promising.

      So yeah - your seniors SHOULD lead. Unless they don't fit the system you're trying to run, in which case you start using your guys, even if they're younger. Rodriguez did - by his second year, Roundtree, Smith, Forcier, Odoms were all serious contributors. Compare Devin Gardner ('10 recruit) to Russel Bellomy ('11 recruit) and it's world's apart. Maybe that's more about the cupboard and transition handling, but no matter how you slice it -- things could look a lot better through 2 recruiting classes. I guess I just expect to have seen more by now from the RBs (especially Rawls) and WRs (Darboh and Chesson didn't contribute despite the need)

    7. That's not much of a sample size with offensive skill positions. You're talking about Bellomy, Barnett, and Rawls. I will give him blame for recruiting Barnett, because the kid obviously has had issues and didn't help a lick. But if you have just three weeks to recruit kids, I can't really blame Hoke much for finding mediocre talent in Bellomy and Rawls. The reality is that you're probably not going to find superstars three weeks before National Signing Day when the old coach got fired for a crappy record and you're not a big name, which Hoke wasn't when he came from SDSU.

    8. Don't disagree with that. Tough to find superstars, but useful players? It's not like Hoke and staff were fishing prior to being hired at Michigan. Mattison, OK, he was in the NFL, but the other guys should have been aware of some under-the-radar 3-star caliber kids who'd jump at the chance to go to Michigan.

      Barnett was a worthwhile gamble and I was a fan of Bellomy, but the overall production from the offensive recruits has been less than stellar.

  2. I agree with your 2nd paragraph 100%.

  3. Rawls just takes forever to get to the hole or around the end. He has no burst even if his top speed is technically adequate.

  4. In Thomas Rawl's 2011 track season, the most recent time I can find online is a 11.94 100m dash. That is way too slow for a college running back.

    Same website, Sione Houma ran a 11.66 in 2012. He's a fullback.

    I know not everyone is going to have 10.4 Denard type speed, but college running backs should be sub 11.

    Never been a fan of Rawls, and I hope he never needs to see the field. If Fitz, Green, and Smith (I'm much higher on Smith than you are) can't get it done then we're in some trouble.


  5. Not saying Smith won't be better than Rawls, I think he will be, probably by a lot, but I'd be shocked if Smith could break 11 in the 100 and wouldn't be surprised if he was 11.5+. Rawls' long speed definitely hurts him but its his lack of short burst and as Magnus says, his failure to break tackles the way he should for a guy his size, that are even more harmful.

    1. Agreed on Smith. I don't think his speed is much different than Rawls'. However, Smith is a more violent, tougher runner, in my opinion.

    2. Sounds like Smith might be the real version of what Rawls was hyped to be. Which would be nice to finally see on the field. As opposed to the "power back" getting stone walled by DBs.

    3. I can darn-near guarantee that Smith will be a better college player. His HS highlights demonstrate vision and power in traffic, over and over. Rawls' HS highlights consisted of him pretty much running through huge holes past slow HS defenders. Neither played in power HS conferences, but Smith's competition was better and he put up big numbers.

    4. Watching Smith's highlights I'm most impressed by his balance. He can stumble, take a lick, but still churn his legs for a few more, or recover and keep running. I think he and Green will be a nice one-two punch.

  6. I think some UMich fans got chubbies for Rawls because he *looks* like an old-style run-the-ball-down-the-other-team's-throat kind of guy. Not what they associated with Rodriguez ...

  7. Ha. Nice post. Rawls is simply not good. Never was and never will be. At best, he could be a useful depth player, or as you imply, move to a fullback role.

    A few lesson here:
    a)What the coaches say should be taken with a grain of salt. It's not just Fred Jackson even if he is the most egregious culprit. Context matters.
    b)The coaches feed info to insiders who have a vested interest in 'spinning' things into good news because of the fanbases' appetite for it. Their customers want good news, so they provide it.
    c)Don't read too much into garbage-time production. It is necessary but not sufficient to indicate future success. I was on the Illinois sideline for last year's game -- trust me when I say they completely gave up by halftime. Results in that setting are not meaningful.
    d)When people talk about a 3-star they are usually full of wishful thinking and BS. Think about if the argument makes any sense objectively.

    The most common arguments made for Rawls as a recruit were that he was a)from an under-the-radar area and b)under-rated and under-offered for academic reasons. In hindsight these looks ridiculous, but it wasn't hard to call BS at the time either.

    1. Hoke and Mattison are also capable of over-exaggerating players' talent, but I'm to the point now where I don't trust anything that comes out of Fred Jackson's mouth. I think he's a good coach and he gets pretty good production from his guys - with a couple exceptions - but what he tells the media is usually hogwash.

    2. Ha. He's earned his reputation.

      The one thing he does really well is get his kids blocking. By senior year, every Michigan RB has been excellent at blitz pickup.