Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Review of 2009 Recruiting: Running Back


Fitzgerald Toussaint (image via Toledo Blade)

The 2009 recruiting class was Rich Rodriguez's first full recruiting class in Ann Arbor, and he brought in some diminutive running backs whose quickness and speed he thought could be successful in the Big Ten. The three backs he landed were all between 5'7" and 5'10" (some measurements even had Vincent Smith at 5'6"), and he targeted some tiny slot/running back combo guys, too.


  • Kevin Grady (RS Sr.)
  • Carlos Brown (Sr.)
  • Brandon Minor (Sr.)
  • Michael Shaw (So.)
  • Michael Cox (RS Fr.)


Teric Jones
Ratings: 3-star, #46 RB, #469 overall
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: N/A
Scoop: Jones committed to Michigan after a weekend visit on which he was offered. It was his first and only offer of the recruiting process. Known as a speedster, he never really showed it off at Michigan. Playing special teams and some defensive back, he made 9 tackles as a freshman in 2009. Then in 2010 at running back, he notched 3 carries for 7 yards. He quit football after that but remained at Michigan as a student.

Vincent Smith
Ratings: 3-star, #49 RB, #508 overall
High school: Pahokee (FL) Pahokee
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: Tennessee, Wisconsin
Scoop: Smith was listed at 5'7" and 159 lbs. during the recruiting cycle, but that didn't stop some big programs from offering him. He ran for over 2,000 yards and scored 29 touchdowns as a high school senior. He was the #3 option as a freshman, but jumped to #1 at running back in 2010 when quarterback Denard Robinson was the primary running option. Smith was a willing blocker despite a lack of size. Overall, he ran 272 times for 1,269 yards (4.7 yards/carry) and 10 touchdowns, caught 46 passes for 435 yards and 7 touchdowns, and even threw a touchdown pass. He went undrafted in 2013 and did not play in the NFL.

Fitzgerald Toussaint
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #8 all-purpose back, #239 overall
High school: Youngstown (OH) Liberty
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: Illinois, Pitt, West Virginia
Scoop: Until the recent drafting of Chris Evans, Toussaint was Michigan's best pro prospect since Mike Hart graduated following the 2007 season. After redshirting in 2009 due to an injury, he was once again limited in 2010, running just 6 times for 87 yards and 1 touchdown. He became a great 1-2 running punch with Denard Robinson in 2011, when Toussaint had a career-best 1,056 rushing yards on 5.6 yards/carry with 9 touchdowns. For his college career, he ran 510 times for 2,290 yards (4.5 yards/carry) and 28 touchdowns, adding 31 catches for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was not drafted in 2014, but he signed with the Ravens and then the Steelers as an undrafted free agent. His NFL career lasted four seasons and saw him run 44 times for 137 yards, adding 8 catches for 69 yards.

Hit the jump for a look at the rest of Michigan's quarterback recruiting efforts in 2009.


Tavon Austin
Ratings: 4-star, #23 WR, #183 overall
High school: Baltimore (MD) Dunbar
College: West Virginia
Other notable offers: Maryland, North Carolina, Pitt
Scoop: It's crazy to think that one of the most electric players in college football was not heavily recruited out of high school, but Michigan was his biggest offer. I had him down as a diminutive running back for the 2009 class, but he would go on to a standout career at WVU playing mostly in the slot. Playing under head coach Bill Stewart, Austin's production increased every single year in catches (15, 58, 101, 114) and receiving yards (151, 787, 1186, 1289), while his rushing usage peaked as a senior (72 carries, 643 yards, 3 TD). Altogether, he had 398 offensive touches, 4447 yards, and 40 touchdowns, including 5 return touchdowns (4 punt, 1 kickoff). He was taken in the 1st round (#8 overall) by the Rams in 2013, but his NFL career has not been up to par. He has 220 catches for 2,206 yards and 15 touchdowns, 196 carries for 1,340 yards and 9 touchdowns, and an additional 4 return touchdowns so far for the Rams, Cowboys, and Packers.

Edwin Baker
Ratings: 4-star, #11 RB, #95 overall
High school: Oak Park (MI) Oak Park
College: Michigan State
Other notable offers: Florida, Georgia, Texas
Scoop: Baker spent a year as a backup before becoming the primary ball carrier in 2010 and pretty evenly splitting time with Le'Veon Bell in 2011. Overall, he ran 462 times for 2,293 yards and 15 touchdowns before leaving early for the NFL. He was selected in the 7th round (#250 overall) by the Chargers in 2012, but he had just 44 carries for 173 yards as a professional, bouncing from San Diego to the Broncos, Texans, Browns, and Saints. He was out of the NFL by 2016.

Jaamal Berry
Ratings: 4-star, #4 RB, #35 overall
High school: Miami (FL) Palmetto
College: Ohio State Murray State
Other notable offers: Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State
Scoop: Berry never really cracked the rotation at Ohio State. After redshirting as a freshman, he would garner just 37 touches for 287 yards and 1 touchdown over the next two seasons. After an off-the-field incident, he transferred to Murray State, where he totaled 1,343 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 58 receptions, and 434 receiving yards over the next two seasons. As far as I know, he did not play professionally after Murray State.

Rex Burkhead
Ratings: 3-star, #6 all-purpose back, #336 overall
High school: Plano (TX) Plano
College: Nebraska
Other notable offers: Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
Scoop: Burkhead ranks #6 all-time at Nebraska in career rushing yardage, which is no small feat, considering their history as a running school. His most productive year was his junior season (284 carries, 1357 yards, 15 TD) and he totaled 3329 rushing yards, 507 receiving yards, and 35 total touchdowns during his career - not counting his 3 passing touchdowns in 2010, when he was often used as a Wildcat QB. He was taken in the 6th round (#190 overall) by the Bengals in 2013, spending four years with Cincinnati and the last five with the Patriots. Altogether, he has 1,401 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, 130 catches, 1,144 receiving yards, and 8 receiving touchdowns during his pro career.

Larry Caper
Ratings: 4-star, #34 RB, #282 overall
High school: Battle Creek (MI) Central
College: Michigan State
Other notable offers: Iowa, Purdue, Stanford
Scoop: Caper played second a third fiddle to Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell throughout his career, but he had a nice little run with 206 carries for 836 yards (4.1 yards/carry) and 12 touchdowns (9 rushing, 3 receiving) over his four years.

Mike Gillislee
Ratings: 4-star, #16 RB, #144 overall
High school: Deland (FL) Deland
College: Florida
Other notable offers: Auburn, Clemson
Scoop: Gillislee was a backup for his first three seasons in Gainesville, and then as a senior in 2012, he basically doubled his career production up to that point. His 244 carries, 1152 yards, and 10 touchdowns were all career highs in 2012. Altogether, he totaled 389 carries, 2052 yards, 22 touchdowns (20 rushing, 2 receiving). He was picked in the 5th round (#164 overall) by the Dolphins in 2013 and played six seasons in the NFL with the Dolphins, Bills, Patriots, and Saints. He ran for 1,291 yards and scored 17 touchdowns during that stretch.

Jordan Hall
Ratings: 3-star, #38 RB, #346 overall
High school: Jeannette (PA) Jeannette
College: Ohio State
Other notable offers: Notre Dame, Penn State, Pitt
Scoop: To me it always seemed that Hall was a throw-in with high school teammate Terrelle Pryor, know...good for him. I would offer him if I had a chance to get Pryor, too. Hall was never "the man" at OSU, but he saw between 37 and 99 carries for each of his five years in Columbus. In total, he ran for 1,571 yards on 305 carries (5.2 yards/carry) and 19 total touchdowns (14 rushing, 4 receiving, 1 kickoff return). He signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2014, but he never played in the NFL.

Lindsey Lamar
Ratings: 3-star, #63 WR, #476 overall
High school: Tampa (FL) Hillsboro
College: South Florida
Other notable offers: North Carolina, South Carolina
Scoop: Lamar was used as a slot receiver/running back combo throughout his career; he was listed as a running back for his first two years and a receiver for his last two years. Incidentally, he had a career-high in receptions (25) when he was a running back, and a career-high in rushing attempts (66) when he was a receiver. Overall, he 135 rushing attempts for 836 yards (6.2 yards/carry) and 5 touchdowns, and he caught 58 passes for 510 yards and 6 touchdowns. He went undrafted in 2013 and played a little bit in the CFL. Since then he has been coaching college football, both at USF and at Howard.

David Sims
Ratings: 3-star, #18 ATH, #397 overall
High school: St. Matthews (SC) Westside
College: Georgia Tech
Other notable offers: Florida, Florida State, Oregon, Tennessee
Scoop: Sims was listed as a quarterback for his first three years on Georgia Tech's campus. This was when the Yellowjackets were a triple option team, and his running skills would have been useful. But he never attempted a pass in college. Instead, he played running back, where he ran for 2,252 yards and 23 touchdowns from 2010-2013. He did not play in the NFL and is now the running backs coach at Furman.

Jeremy Smith
Ratings: 4-star, #24 RB, #213 overall
High school: Tulsa (OK) Union
College: Oklahoma State
Other notable offers: Missouri, Texas A&M
Scoop: Smith enjoyed a solid career as a backup in Stillwater. He scored almost every 10 times he carried the football, with 34 touchdowns on 354 career rushing attempts. Altogether, he ran for 1,924 yards while averaging 5.4 yards per attempt, even though he was never slotted any higher than #2 on the depth chart. He signed with Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent but never played in the NFL.

David Wilson
 4-star, #9 RB, #90 overall
High school: Danville (VA) George Washington
College: Virginia Tech
Other notable offers: Auburn, Clemson, Maryland, South Carolina
Scoop: Wilson had a standout career for the Hokies, increasing his usage each year from 59 carries to 113 carries to 290 as a junior in 2011. That final season saw him rush for 1,709 yards and 9 touchdowns...and it ended with a face-off against Michigan in the Sugar Bowl (where he had 24 carries for 82 yards, his second-lowest output of the season). He was picked in the 1st round (#32 overall) by the Giants in 2012, but he spent just three years in the league before his career ended. He ran for just 504 yards and 5 touchdowns in the NFL before a diagnosis of spinal stenosis caused him to retire.


Biggest miss: Tavon Austin or David Wilson. Austin was a dynamic college player, and his career highlights are a lot of fun to watch if you like to watch fun things (LINK). If you don't count Austin because he was more of a receiver, then I would offer up Wilson, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry on those 290 attempts as a junior.

Biggest bust: Jaamal Berry. It seems like Ohio State's hit rate on elite recruits is significantly better than Michigan's, but they took a borderline 5-star in Berry (#35 overall) and only got 287 yards and 1 touchdown out of him before he spent two years playing in the FCS.

Best in class: Trent Richardson? Richardson was the #3 overall pick in 2012 out of Alabama after a stellar college career (3,130 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns). However, Richardson was a bust in the NFL. The best NFL back from the 2009 recruiting class turned out to be Lamar Miller, who had two 1,000-yard seasons in the pros for two different teams (the Dolphins and Texans) and had two career 97-yard touchdown runs.


  1. These guys don't matter.


    P.S. Richardson looked like a God in college and then poof. I think Najee Harris also looks like a God. I suspect he'll have success at the NFL level far beyond Richardson and may be one of those rare RBs that does indeed matter but wouldn't be surprised either way.

    I think most all of these guys could be successful at the college level if put in the position to succeed. The Alabama RBs have it easiest. I think the circumstances have more to do with being in the Heisman Trophy room or at Murray State than the player's ability.

    Except Teric Jones. That was a stretch boom/bust recruit even at the time. He didn't have it.

    1. Fitz Toussaint could have been in that Heisman room if he had gone to Alabama instead. Richardson could have rotated carries with Smith and others at Michigan. Burkhead could have ended up at Murray State if he had his head on sideways. Barry could have had a Mikey Weber level career if he has his on straight.

      These guys have some differences in skillsets (I'd feel better about Richardson getting 30 carries than I do Smith and I feel better about Smith playing WR than I do Richardson) but otherwise most guys are more or less interchangeable.