Hello: Thomas Rawls

Submitted by Tim on February 1st, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Over the course of the recruiting process, MI RB Thomas Rawls has made it no secret that he'd commit to Michigan if he had the chance. Michigan has offered, and according to the Detroit News, Rawls will be a Wolverine. Apparently his coach was unable to contain the excitement until Thomas's press conference, at which Rivals confirmed he committed to Michigan.

Thomas Rawls


Scout Rivals ESPN
3*, #77 RB, #15 Instate 3*, 5.6, #20 Instate 3*, 76, #81 RB

The sites are in agreement: Thomas Rawls stands 5-10, and about 215 pounds. Their rankings of him aren't very high, but there are some reasons for that. Scout openly downgrades players for being academic risks (which is stupid, because it's easy for the layman to tell whether or not he ultimately enrolls at school - rankings should be about skill, not some abstract "value" parameter), and ESPN says that he deserves to see his stock higher than it is, apparently not realizing that they're the ones ranking these kids. More from ESPN:

He is a physically imposing back with good downhill attributes. Hits the hole with authority and flashes good downhill burst and momentum. Quick to see and hit the cutback. A decisive and aggressive runner who is constantly heading North with square shoulder pads and good lean. Displays good explosive out of his cuts and can change speeds to elude.

So far, so good. Weaknesses?

Breaks consistent first contact but did not see the pile pushing power we were expecting. Competition at times appears inferior.

So, uh "AWESOME, except he plays against crappy competition" means he's the 81st-best RB in the country? Color me skeptical on their methodology (more on it in the next section). They also say he has the speed to break big runs against high schoolers, but may not be able to continue at the next level - a more reasonable criticism.

If that's the extent of their criticisms, sign me up for a guy with the upside that a bowling ball-type guy with all the positive attributes listed in the top section.

Scout asks Rawls to talk about his own game:

“I’m a power back and a speed back. I’m also pretty elusive. I can break tackles and always find a crease.”

The elusiveness might be overstated, as that's one of ESPN's criticisms of Thomas, but the combo of speed and power seems to be right in line with scouting reports. 

A lack of offers may have kept his overall rankings low, but somewhere in the 3-star range - just a bit higher in the pecking order - seems to be legit to me.

[Ed.: Touch The Banner may provide some insight into the rankings that ESPN's boosterism does not: "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."

OTOH, LeVeon Bell.]


Central Michigan was Rawls's only offer almost through the entire recruiting process. Though Michigan didn't offer until close to the end, they were always right there for him.

Why so few offers? His grades have been a question mark, and that scared away a lot of schools. He insists he'll qualify to play as a freshman, so hopefully it won't be an issue. The lack of offers is part of what kept his rankings low, so look at it with a critical eye.


Sophomore and junior stats from Scout:

Thoimas Rawls made All-State Honorable Mention, All-Conference and All-City for his sophomore and junior seasons. As a junior, he rushed for 1,056 yards and 16 TD's on 138 carries and recorded 101 tackles. He says he can bench 285-pounds, squats 405 and has a 34-inch vertical jump.

And as a senior:

1,585 yards rushing on 450 carries; 21 touchdowns

He broke the single-game rushing record that a guy named Mark Ingram held for the Flint area, running for 343 yards and 5 TDs.


4.5, per the premium sites. That's pretty darn good for a running back with Rawls's size. Of course, his reputation is as a guy who's pretty fast for his size, so I guess it makes sense. Three FAKEs out of five.


Youtube highlights:


Michigan is in need of a power back, especially with the move to a pro-style offense. Michael Cox has shown flashes, but those have only been against the worst competition on the schedule. The previous coaching staff didn't trust his blocking or hands enough to play him on any regular basis.

However, Stephen Hopkins may have a lock on the starting (power back) position, and as an academic risk, it's probably for the best that Rawls takes a redshirt year to focus on academics and adjust to college life. That will also give him the chance to undergo a year of college weight training, and get acclimated with the playbook before he's ever expected to do anything on the field.


Michigan really needs a defensive tackle and a tight end, but everything else going forward is pretty much gravy. There are five prospects - Fisher, Clark, Willingham, Barnett, and Cooper - still out there (that we know of), and the Wolverines should have room in the class to take them all, should they be so lucky.



February 1st, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

I figured the reason for no big time offers was because everyone knew he was blue all the way, with fred jackson jr and sr  on guard..... and being a qualifying risk from the get go, too.

03 Blue 07

February 1st, 2011 at 3:40 PM ^

I'm in Chicago (it's hitting us before heading to Michigan) and in the last hour, all the sudden, it started blowing crazy winds- the trees are shaking outside like they do in a thunderstorm- and the snow has started coming down at a decent clip, making it swirl and stuff and cutting visibility. . . probably by 75%...and the "real" stuff isn't supposed to start for another 5 hours or so here, so, shit, it's probably going to be pretty bad. Supposedly the wind will cause 25 foot waves on Lake Michigan coming ashore, which is really rare.


February 1st, 2011 at 1:49 PM ^

I agree that academics shouldn't be part of a football players star rankings.  What evidence is there that it is included?

It seems like many highly rated prospects are academic questionmarks (e.g. Demar Dorsey was a 5-star).  I don't get the sense that academics are factored in at all.


February 1st, 2011 at 1:57 PM ^

I found a quote from Trieu to your point:

""We rate guys conservatively who have not fully qualified yet," said Trieu. "So he's about ranked 13th in the state and a three-star. I think he could be higher, but our national rule across the board is we wait until they've qualified. Purely on the merits of his talent and what he's done throughout his career though, I think he's a top-10 player in the state and borderline four-star-type kid. He's had a fantastic senior season."

Robble Robble

February 1st, 2011 at 2:20 PM ^

Just read that story--great link. I hadn't gotten the recruiting bug until coaching change, but this kid sounds like he has the work ethic to hack it in AA (going from lower grades to better ones once he saw the importance), even if he isn't a natural student.

If he worked that hard on grades, imagine what the kid's gonna do in the weight room and on the practice field, where he actually enjoys being.

Can't wait to see Rawls on the field, whenever it is.


Welcome to Michigan


February 1st, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

Fred Jackson was seen saying he's like Mike Hart, but faster, with Tyrone Wheatley's breakaway speed, Chris Perry's toughness, and Denard's shiftiness, with Chad Henne's arm, Braylon's hands.....  and Lloyd Carr's halftime interview skills


February 1st, 2011 at 1:50 PM ^

Hope he works hard on his academics, as well.


Welcome, and good luck Thomas.  

Can we get a Lou Rawls songs playing in the background???


February 1st, 2011 at 1:51 PM ^

Welcome Thomas Rawls!

Can someone confirm the "1,585 yards rushing on 450 carries; 21 touchdowns."

450 carries seems awfully high when you see how many big runs he had.  That would mean he was stopped for no gain or losses on a high percentage of his carries.

Huntington Wolverine

February 1st, 2011 at 2:55 PM ^

Magnus calls it at 150 carries:

"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."


Personally I'm more impressed that he did that in only 7 games.  Cupcake competition or not, he devoured the cupcakes like you expect a stud to do.  Excited to see what he can do at the next level.


February 1st, 2011 at 1:56 PM ^

Scout may have said that. But plenty of players with borderline academics seem to get high grades. Certainly many schools will recruit such players. Half the players in the SEC write with crayons. 


February 1st, 2011 at 1:59 PM ^

excellent start to the NSD week!  M has had some great backs over the past 40 years (my time frame).  We'll have to wait and see if Mr. Rawls will be one of them.  Always like to get a kid who is burning to be BLUE!

SC Wolverine

February 1st, 2011 at 2:01 PM ^

When I read that Thomas broke down in tears when he got his offer, I immediately loved the guy.  With him being coached by Fred Jr., he seems like a son of the program.  And unless the opposition in his video is terrible, this guy is a horse who will be ideal for Hoke's UM.  Welcome, Thomas!


February 1st, 2011 at 2:22 PM ^

This is a kid that wanted nothing more than to play for Michigan.  He could have let his academic troubles stop him, but he did not, and for this, he is my favorite recruit in this class.

I also think that this kid has the ability to be a monster back.  

One note on the whole love of Michigan thing - that seems to be a real theme of this offseason.  Hoke openly said that this was his dream job and accepted without asking about pay.  Mattison called Michigan a special place and said that he wouldn't have left the NFL for anywhere else.  Rawls broke down crying when he got his offer because he wanted so badly to play for Michigan.

This is good stuff.  Go Blue!


February 1st, 2011 at 2:04 PM ^

I think Rawls will want to prove the teams that didn't want him wrong and make the team that has given him a chance proud. It's very cool how he worked hard on his grades to attend his dream school. I'll be rooting for him.


February 1st, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

I've actually been thinking for a while Rawls reminds me a lot of Kevin Grady.  Similar running style, similar build, probably similar speed although Grady was likely a bit faster.

But I don't say this as a bad thing.  Sure, Grady didn't turn out to be the monster we expected, but if M could have another Grady, minus the fumbling, injury and DUI problems, we'd have a helluva running back.  Many of the runs Grady had where he wasn't hurt or fumbling were pretty solid, especially before his big injury.  If that's what we get out of Rawls, then it's well worth the offer and he'll exceed his rankings.

He also reminds me of a few of the 2010 Iowa running backs, minus the crazy injuries or weed problems.  Could be a lot like Marcus Coker, just a little shorter.


February 1st, 2011 at 2:26 PM ^

I remember being so psyched when we got Grady.  He was going to be the "big back" that would dominate.  

I attribute some of his problems to injuries and fumbling tendencies, but more to his lack of attention to S&C and practice.  I can't find a source, but if I recall, some of the old coaches (Lloyd era) were pissed at Grady because they felt that he didn't put in maximum effort.  While he was a big kid, his body never really developed beyond what he came in at.  

To me, Rawls has the same potential that Grady had.  Let's hope that he makes more of it.


February 1st, 2011 at 2:16 PM ^

but the fact that Michigan was his dream school and he worked so hard to make it happen- that is awesome, it's exactly what you want to see in our new players.  I'll be rooting extra hard for this guy.

It's also similar to the way Coach Hoke felt about this place.. it was his dream job, number one choice.  The good vibes coming from AA are giving me goosebumps.


February 1st, 2011 at 2:20 PM ^

I wasn't blown away by Rawls's highlight reel, but then I was convinced by McGuffie's mixtape that he'd be a Heisman candidate by the time he was a junior, so I don't really put a huge amount of stock in them these days. I'm really glad he's a Wolverine. If all he does is stay healthy, that will give him a leg up on most of the incumbent RBs on the team.