Like Our Running Backs, Only Faster

Submitted by Seth on August 23rd, 2011 at 2:17 AM


Photo from Media Day 2010 by Melanie Maxwell |
LtoR: Phil Monolo, Stephen Hopkins, Michael Shaw, Fred Jackson, Fitgerald Toussaint, John McColgan, Vincent Smith. Not pictured: Cox.


Scheduling note: I'm gonna start separating the Dear Diary and rambling musings/studies/logorrhea stuff into two separate weekly posts. DD is moving to Friday to service your weekend reading demands, with the other stuff (name suggestions?) on Tuesdays. Also I'm going to try to make these ramblings less wordy, starting…uh, next time.


By now you know the meme: Fred Jackson likes to hyperbolize his running backs. This being the most active position battle, I figured a review of Jackson's current stud stable of studly running studs, half-studs and tail-studs might be in order.

Close your eyes, think of your favorite Michigan back of all time, and then imagine he's FASTER:

Mike Hart/Jamie Morris, Except Faster and More Agile!
Alias: #2 Vincent Smith (Jr/Jr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:

This is not the greatest song in the world; this is just a tribute.



Omameh and Molk do the hard stuff but watch Smith do a Hart-y shoulder thing then almost get caught by a Hoosier DB.

Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: Pahokeean scat-back who can catch. Vincent is small, like Hart, and plays with ♥, like Hart, but when Smith tries to burrow the pile forward like Hart he looks like a 6-year-old trying with all his might to batter 10-year-olds, ie he ends up earning more respect than yards. And there's this:

As junior:

Name Ht Wt.
Vincent Smith 5'6 172
Jamie Morris 5'7 179
Michael Hart 5'9* 196

* Yeah right.

Darren Sproles would be more accurate. I just can't think of another jackrabbit, and honestly I think he's more Hart than Jamie, except Hart is more like Jamie than Smith. Before his injury Smith was a vintage spread scatty RB who could also be a devastating receiver in the flat. He can jump out of a run into a big lateral juke and accelerate faster than any other back from a dead stop.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's 3rd and 8, and that nickel back needs some strong incentive to keep him from blitzing or dropping back to help cover the slant.

Is he THE ONE? Smith's nominally the returning starter and also the leader in rushes, career yards, and receptions/rec yards among the RBs. But probably not, since he's leeeetle, and physics. If the Spring Game is any evidence I-form man-ball means sending the RB into the 2nd level with Force, which is acceleration times something Smith lacks. Jackson says he's chosen a 3rd down back and inference leads to obviously Smith, therefore Smith's not the every-down back.


Mike Hart, Except Faster, and Bigger, and like Chris Perry…
Or Lawrence Ricks. Except Faster.
Alias: #28 Fitzgerald Toussaint (So/Jr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:



Just a freshman…



Having trouble with time stamps. There's a good one of Ricks at 38 seconds, but the whole day's basically Ricks rushes broken up by great defense and AC highlights so deal.

FWIW that BG defensive back is actually pretty fast.

Fred Jackson:

"Michael Hart ability with speed. The kind of guy that can do Michael's cuts, he can sit down, sink his hips and explode by making steps. He's faster than Mike and a very, very tough guy, like Mike was. He's very similar to Mike. He's not the type of inside runner Mike was -- but he's going to get there."

Fred Jackson 2:

"He's got great feet, acceleration, strength, power," Jackson said. "I can compare him to somebody -- he's like a fast Chris Perry. He's going to be very good."

Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: I keep hearing people say Hart and I see it in that Fitz has those same thick, powerful legs that put his center of gravity lower than Pat Massey can bend. But Hart was sly with subtle plants that threw off tackle attempts. Fitz's highlight reel is full of knee-poppers and sideways slides he used to make lower-division Ohio high schoolers look like fools the way Barry Sanders made NFL players look like fools. Makes great moves and great cuts. Vision is unknown – he ran and reacted in high school. Then he goes to plaid.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The practice hype (it started swelling last year at this time as well) turns into Fitz Toussaint atop the roster.

Is he THE ONE? The shift to I-formations and man blocking seems to favor him over Brown or Smith, but he's still a guy made for picking through zone, not taking on linebackers with his face.


Carlos Brown, Except Faster
Alias: #20 Michael Shaw (Sr/Sr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:



Woop. Gone.



At 3:38. Warning: Pam Ward at her all excitement- and joy-devouring Pam Wardiest; mute advised. Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: Glider who runs upright and a little leaned back, waiting to unleash a ridiculous gashing move from which he accelerates like an overused metaphor at the Woodward Dream Cruise. The move can be used to clear traffic or cutback, but with Shaw, like Brown, you only get to press the juke button once, and then you're mashing speed boost. Track star speed plus that move make him murder on bad teams.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The playside hole is blocked perfectly and the backside DE for whatever reason (out of position, MACrificial) might not get there in time to fill before it's open green to the end zone.

Is he THE ONE? Probably not, but when you say "change of pace" back, Shaw is exactly what you're talking about. The kill-shot or bust nature of the slasher means they usually come paired with a softening agent: Carlos Brown & Brandon Minor, Tony Boles & Leroy Hoard (& Morris), Butch Woolfolk & Stan Edwards, Woody Allen & Bette Midler. Shaw will push a pile a bit and isn't as shoelace trippy as Brown was, but other guys can do much more with less. My sense is he's best deployed when the defense is way overmatched against Michigan's blocking, either because they're exhausted from chasing Smith/Toussaint and being battered by Hopkins, or because they aren't so good to begin with.


Jerome Bettis/Leroy Hoard, Except Faster
Alias: #33 Stephen Hopkins (So/So)

Video evidence of reincarnation:



FF to 1:28 for Hoard. Optional: stand out in the middle of U.S. 23.



Where's Keith Jackson with his rising"He's a HOSS!" when you need him?

Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: Hopkinstruck. The Bus also comes to mind.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when:


Also when the offensive line has done its job, but so has the defense, and that means there's a linebacker headed for the same, only hole the running back can go through, and physics takes over.

Is he THE ONE? Well he might not be available early, and in a crowd that could hurt. Hopkins earned more carries as his freshman season went on. The offense seems to 'liek mudkipz' (I have no idea if I got this reference right). Count me among those holding back on visions of Wheatley (who was a bona fide track star as well as bruiser) or A-Train, who ran high and fell forward for those extra yards. Hoard but faster could be accurate, and not at all a bad thing.


Tshimanga Biakabutuka & Chris Perry, Except Faster & Stronger 
Alias: #15 Michael Cox (Jr/Sr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:



You knew this was coming.



Just flip to a random spot, it's probably Perry running for 8 yards.



Somebody's been messing with the sliders on Junior Varsity mode.

Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: Like Shaw/Brown he waits for the opponent to make a mistake he can exploit before hitting the gas pedal (Perry would just go). But Cox is built much thicker than the pure speed guys, and while he can burn in his way, he can also use his thick build for power. His main asset is great balance, which makes him hard to take down without crazy moves, and that's where the Biakabutuka reference comes in. Plus I wanted to link that video of him tearing apart Ohio State again because I was 15 when that happened and not yet sure if it's okay to develop strong feelings for people who dismantle Ohio State. I am pretty sure it's not okay to do so for people who dismantle Delaware State.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: You're drafting your 3-on-3 basketball team.

Is he THE ONE? Practice word since freshman year is he's the most naturally gifted, but practice hype from teammates et al. is refuted by observer reports mentioning Cox running the wrong direction, and missing his lanes. Latest is he's learning the playbook and might challenge later on. OTOH the guy does have ridiculous balance, and has broken a long one in every game he's appeared. On the other-other hand, most of his career yards were gained with Cone in at QB making DO throws to LaTerryal Savoy and Anthony Reyes. Unless he makes his move this year, this former camp offer from nowhere likely ends up a running back Notorious C.O.N.E.


Mark Ingram, Except Faster
Alias: #38 Thomas Rawls (Fr/Fr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:



Look how slow highlight reels were before high school coaches learned about 1.2x playback.



Hurray for "Higlights!"

Recruiting Profile

Style: He's 5'10 and almost 230 lbs. as a freshman. That means lots of mass relatively low to the ground. He makes that lower, giving Rawls the same P.J. Hill-ishness that makes guys bounce off him.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: This guy was born to run between the tackles.

Is he THE ONE? Thickly built backs like him tend to be early-playable since their game is pretty straightforward. Watch Ingram's highlight reel – or Clarett's – as underclassmen. Such men are immune to arm tackling. To anyone not from Flint or with the last name Jackson, Rawls is almost certainly a lite version of those guys. How lite will determine how useful he is this year, and down the line.


Bobby 'Bomber' Nussbaumer, Except Faster
Alias: #5 Justice Hayes (Fr/Fr)

Evidence of reincarnation:

Actually in Nussbaumer's day bloggers got our video feeds from buying packs of chewing gum with cardboard prints of badly-colored newspaper clippings. Then we swished the cards around so it looked like their subjects were moving…

Reverse from 1948 card:


Halfback – Washington Redskins
Weight—170 lbs.                 Age—24
Height—5'11"       College—Michigan

…Set all-time Redskin pass-catching record, finishing 2nd in league play to Bud Keane of Bears with 47 passes good for 597 yards. Named All-Big Ten halfback in 1945 while starring for Michigan. Is all-around athlete. Plays baseball, basketball and participates in track.

Recruiting Profile

Style: Kind of like a less hyped McGuffie, no? And like McGuff, he hurdled some fool, and lost most of his senior year to injury.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's January 2014, Heisman-winning QB Devin Gardner takes the snap and suddenly Tennesse's defense is through the line and coming toward him – but WAIT, it's a screen to Michigan's playmaker Justice Mercury Willie Mays Hayes. He's loose in the open field with just one man – 7'2 safety JAWS – to beat…Hayes leaps OVER him. Touchdown Michigan! Michigan has put this game out of reach and barring a miracle Gardner and Hayes and the Wolverines are going to be your 2013 season National Champions! Hi dad!

Is he THE ONE? As in can he lead us to victory over the machines and free us from the Matrix? Yes. As in will he claim the job in 2011? No. But next year Shaw's gone and then Smith's gone, and Hayes should be a more filled out sophomore.

The smart money says all of these guys except Hayes will probably touch the ball this year. So if you really want to know what Michigan's backs will look like this year, put this on fast forward..

…or watch lots of games from 1980:

Name Att Net Yd Yd/Att TD Lng
Butch Woolfolk 196 1042 5.3 8 64
Stanley Edwards 192 901 4.7 8 42
Lawrence Ricks 167 850 5.1 6 29
Jerald Ingram 33 145 4.4 2 26
Rich Hewlett 21 73 3.5 0 17
Anthony Carter 10 68 6.8 0 21
Kerry Smith 8 46 5.8 0 16
Tom Hassel 6 17 2.8 0 9
Steve Smith 9 8 0.9 0 9
John Powers 0 7   0 7
John Wangler 32 -122 -3.8 0 6
Total 674 3035 4.5 24 64



August 23rd, 2011 at 8:37 AM ^

What no love for some fullbacks or our new H-back? Ok, thanks for the update. I think it will be Fitz as the main guy, with others doing some time on relief duty.


August 23rd, 2011 at 8:55 AM ^


Words of advise. Last year when you began writing your opinions about the previous day's game in your Sunday "Dear Diary" columns, you (probably inadvertently) were taking away some of the impact of Brian's game recap columns, since you guys write in a similar style.

That was part of my "problem" with your Sunday screeds. Keep that in mind when you're writing your Tuesday columns this year, since by that point most of your readers will be fully engorged by game opinion and will be waiting for the "facts" of that week's UFR to truly know what happened on the gridiron.


August 23rd, 2011 at 9:03 AM ^

Thanks! I kind of felt that way too. I took the Sunday slot last year simply because we weren't posting anything on Sunday, but I quickly realized that (1) I ended up having to do game recaps because that was the first content up after some disaster or other, and (2) all of the prediction diaries I was linking to were cold by then.

This oughtta let me use Tuesdays for less of the "here's how it felt, man" post-game screeds, and do the stuff I really like doing, which are these bigger picture things.

As to "write in a similar style," I thank you for the compliment.


August 23rd, 2011 at 9:03 AM ^

That BG defensive back is actually pretty fast FWIW.

That was amazing.  I had to watch that again and I couldn't believe had to turn around and still caught Fitz from behind. I thought he was running with him from the corner the first time I watched.  I had to look him up on BG's team page.  He will be wearing #23 this year and his name is Aaron Foster from Bloomfield, Michigan.  I couldn't believe he wasn't from SEC country either!


August 23rd, 2011 at 9:12 AM ^

I wish that guy could figure out the play book, becuase I think he has talent. 

I am wondering if he is that guy that doesn't practice well but shows up on game day. 

I Miss Bursley

August 23rd, 2011 at 9:49 AM ^

How did John Powers get 7 yards on no attempts in 1980? He was a left guard on that team...

Is there a guy that's like John Powers, only faster? I would love to consistently get to 1st and 3 without trying.

Number 7

August 23rd, 2011 at 9:53 AM ^

If there exists an MGoBlog Hall of Fame for blog posts, this one surely belongs on it.  Funny, informative, and with chills inducing video.  Anxieties about MGoBlog personnel changes (and/or Brian's haircut (comma lack thereof)), consider yourselves alleivated.

How, by the way, did John Powers get 7 yards on 0 carries back in 1980?  Fumble recovery downfield?  Math-defying typo?  And then did he deccide not to play after that in order to maintain his YPC of infinity?


August 23rd, 2011 at 10:06 AM ^

Too small, too slow . . . TOUCHDOWN!  My all time favorite, so if any of these players can fairly be compared to him based on what they produce on the field, we will be in great shape this year.


August 23rd, 2011 at 10:30 AM ^

As I watched the BTN show about Michigan last night they kept talking about the RBs and no one really standing out.  I 'm trying to recall each back and their "specialties" and trying to decipher who is who and what is what.  Then Misopogon does an epic piece and makes all things seinsible.

Well done sir. FTW.


August 23rd, 2011 at 10:36 AM ^

Unless Troy Woolfolk underwent a whitectomy and changed positions, it's somebody else not listed on the roster @ MGoBlue.

* just checked the photo caption, and he's listed as Phil Monolo. Sort of strange that an unlisted walk-on is included in that photo, but good for him.

Flying Dutchman

August 23rd, 2011 at 11:30 AM ^

When was that photo taken?  Where's Cox and the freshmen?  I guess the absence of the freshmen is easier to explain, but where the hell is Cox?   I suppose that those under 16 will want me to say "where the hell ARE the Cox?".


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:36 AM ^

Misopogon's Musings.  Keep it simple.  Though if I know you - and I don't -, the actual title will be over-wrought, obscure, unintelligible to anyone who hasn't had the time/ inclination/ circumstance to read Kafka's The Metamorphosis (Misopogon's Metamorphoses?), and very sincerely clever.  I'll likely refer to it as "whatchacallit".  And yeah, You betcha

Great post, looking forward to Tuesdays. 


August 23rd, 2011 at 1:47 PM ^

Hart was special.  A decisive runner who could find a hole and hit it hard (Yes, that's what she said).   Great field vision and patience to follow his blockers.  Never shied away from contact and almost always grinded out extra yardage after first hit.  Not a burner, but shifty enough to turn average plays into big gains.  You can tell his teammates highly respected him and arguably played better when he was on the field.  Mike, will be watching your career at EMU and counting down the days till your back home to coach in the Big House.

Other thoughts:  Hoping it's not a trap, but I'm starting to believe the latest Fitz hype.   However, ever since I first saw Rawls' film, I was hooked.  Hoping he has a very bright future here.

Nice work Misopogon.   Keep it up.


August 23rd, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

Thought you'd slip that in there and no one would notice?  Don't worry, no one is questioning your man card.  You threw a Jaws reference in later.

And I hope to live long enough to see a running back as good as Wheatley again in  Michigan uniform.