V. Smith Evaluations

Submitted by Ziff72 on April 13th, 2011 at 10:40 AM

This is going to be a P. Griffin grind my gears rant.

I'm  amazed at the criticism of V. Smith.  Just so everyone knows he was playing on a knee that had ACL surgery 8 months before the season started.   It would have been easy for him to say well my knee isn't quite right I'll take my redshirt and get back in shape, but no he fought like hell to get back on the field.    Who knows if he should have played or not last year, but the fact was that he earned PT over healthier options.   This should be applauded not torn apart.  His internet aproval rating would have been much better served by being lazy and not even trying to play last year.  How nuts is that?

The other criticism is that he's too small.  Of all schools we should be the last ones to question a rb's height.  Have we forgotten who we are?  M. Hart and J. Morris are not all over the record books of Michigan? 

I'm all for debate over who's the best rb, but you can't use last years performance from a guy playing at maybe 70-80% as your argument.  Go back to those spring videos his 1st year or his play against OSU before he blew out his knee.   That's a different guy than we saw last year.   I may be one of the few that have seen good things in a lot of our backs when they were healthy and think we will be pleasantly surprised this year whoever emerges from the competition. 

My money is on M. Shaw, I still think he has the best combo of burst and toughness, but I'm not basing that on V. Smith's performance last year.  The fucking kid was a warrior and we're dissing him because he had the toughness to play on 1 leg?






April 13th, 2011 at 10:45 AM ^

Agree, He has great heart.  I don't think anyone is ripping him on that.  He takes on blocks from guys that have at least 50 pounds on him.  I will never say anything bad about him after seeing him take on the Wisky DE late in the game.  Fought like a true warrior. 


April 13th, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

I believe you're talking about when Vinny tried to cut block JJ Watt and his helmet went right into Watt's knee as he was running.  I'm pretty sure he got knocked out from that because he staggered towards midfield before falling on the Block M.  It was scary.  I know we aren't supposed to use reactions to concussions as a measure of toughness anymore but wow.  He even played the next week I think.


April 13th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

The VSmith criticisms are only about his production last year.  And you can't discount his size and say "See, Mike Hart" as if that means it's a good thing to have undersized RBs since we had a couple that were really good.  I could also say "See, Anthony Thomas. Tim Biakabutuka, Tyrone Wheatley, Chris Perry, etc" to prove the other point.  And VSmith is about 2 inches and 20 pounds smaller than Mike Hart, that's not insignificant.

Trust me, I hope you're right.  I hope Vince bounces back strong from his injury, is much faster and smoother than every before, and even if he doesn't start, gives us another great option at tailback. 

People look to Vince's meager freshman numbers and chalk it up to him being a frosh, then they look to his unimpressive soph numbers and chalk it up to his knee.  These might both be legit excuses, but this year he needs to step it up since he's an upperclassman and presumably healthy, or all his detractors will be right.  We'll know a lot more in 5 months.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

Size doesn't matter if you are good you are good.

All I'm saying is evaluate him this year.   This would be like watching Stepen Strasburg playing catch and saying he lost his velocity he's done when he was 6 months removed from Tommy John surgery when it is a 12 month recovery period.   Everyone knows you can't get your speed back so fast.   I have no idea if V. Smith is a medicore or a good back.  I'm just saying that bagging on a guy that fought back early from his surgery is stupid.   If you want to blame someone it would be Rich and Fred for putting him out there.  Don't blame the kid for giving his all for the team when he was at less than 100%. 

We did the same to Tate 2 years ago.  The guy had a shoulder injury and people are syaing his accuarcy and velocity suffered at the end of the year.   Well no shit, but we shouldn't build that into his projection moving forward.   I don't think the pro scouts dinged C. Henne for throwing wounded ducks when he was playing with a seperated shoulder?


April 13th, 2011 at 12:28 PM ^

as a freshmen, i saw some flashes of brilliance from him, in limited duty.  he made some great moves in traffic at the line of scrimmage which gave me great optimism.  i predicted he would be the starter the next year.

then the knee injury.  he clearly didn't have the same burst.  i hope he gets it back, but it may never happen.  that said, i am not going to write-off a junior RB.

at worst, he provides some depth at RB, and with his surprisingly good blocking skills for his size, he can be a solid 3rd down RB at a minimum.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:54 AM ^

Compare game-by-game Smith to Shaw and you see nearly identical production when they both played.  Exceptions are Ohio State (because Shaw had 1 good carry and Smith has zero) and inconsequential games like UMass

I'm not saying Smith is a good or bad RB, I'm saying that if you're going to complain about his production you might as well complain about everyone elses as well.  ALL of the RBs weren't very productive in this offense, so I'm not sure why Smith seems to be the only one called out.



April 13th, 2011 at 10:55 AM ^

I won't question his heart but the jury is still out and we'll really find out this year what he's made of. But in my small observation I just see no juke moves or burst or speed which you would expect from a 5 foot something 160 rb from FLA so I will definitely be intrigued to see what rb emerges.


April 13th, 2011 at 10:55 AM ^

V Smith never has been a guy with eye-popping speed, but he is a guy who gets the job done on the field.  His stride is a lot like Warrick Dunn's: deceptively fast.  His moves are extremely subtle.  He won't 'fake a defender out of his shoes," but he is very good at making defenders just miss him or hit him at a bad angle.  Also, Smith has the "football IQ" of a QB.  He sees the field as well as any RB I've seen in awhile and is great at using his blockers.  He took over his HS championship game in the second half to win as a senior because of those attributes.  

Athletes "recover" from ACL surgery a lot faster now than they used to, but it still takes close to two years for them to get back the half-step they lose.  If V Smith stays healthy this year, I expect him to be a very servicable back.  When healthy, Smith is one of those guys who isn't flashy, but when you look at the stats at the end of the game, you realize he did a lot.

I hope someone plays well enough to beat him out, but I still think a healthy Smith is the best back on the team.  If someone does dislodge him from the starting spot, it will say a lot more about them than it does about Smith.  And that would be good for the team.  But I don't see anyone as complete as Smith right now.

Mitch Cumstein

April 13th, 2011 at 10:57 AM ^

I think hes a good player and I agree with everything you said.  The one thing I'll say about his size though is that some of the play calling last year was questionable.  Using Smith up the middle on short yardage downs.  That was frustrating, but I don't blame Smith.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:02 AM ^

All of the halfbacks are getting a chance to prove themselves, including VSmith.  I think it would be naive to say other backs on our roster don't fit our new scheme better than Vincent though.  Having said that, he is a player who will see the field next year, not only because of his game experience, but because he is a tough, physical player who is also a solid blocker, despite the fact that he is so undersized.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:03 AM ^

So, can anyone find any UM running backs that have a higher TD per touch rate than Vinny Smith. Or one that losses less yards on carries?

He has skills and plenty of value. He needs to keep getting his 10-12 touches a game. Having--and using--the other tailbacks on the roster will only help to open up his game

Also, Vincent had a much better year than most give him credit for. I think at least half this blog feels like he got trucked behind the LOS every other play, but a play by play breakdown of his season says otherwise......coming to an MGoDiary near you sometime during the loooooooong summer offseason


April 13th, 2011 at 11:38 AM ^

The other step in the evolution is a running back who can do the little things besides running that allow the coaches to trust him. That way he can do more than put up fun highlights against Bowling Green that have know-it-all bloggers clamoring for him.


April 13th, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

The players the coaches trusted earned us a 15-22 record.  I'm not laying all that blame at the feet of the players themselves, but my point (as I've said over and over again) is that the coaching the past few years was pretty damn bad.  No coach is above all criticism, but there's a fair amount of it to be leveled at Rodriguez and Co.


April 13th, 2011 at 12:02 PM ^

Actually, it is an important quality. You dont want tailbacks that constantly get trucked for losses. And, the fact is Vincent Smith kept Michigan 'on schedule' with his carries way more often than not. The statistical and play by play record shows this. But, I feel most of the fans on this site think he got TFLed or stopped for no gain at alarming rates and that's just not the truth. His first down carries, for example, alsmot always set MICH up in a second and 6 or better. That is indeed a good, valuable quality. Historically, not many other MIchigan runningbacks avoid for loss carries as well as he has.

Smith has 184 career carries at MIchigan. He's lost a total of 19 yards on those carries and something in the ball park of 80 percent of his carries have taken place against Big 10 teams, ND or UConn

To compare, Michael Cox has lost a total of 8 yards on 19 career carries, all against BGSU, Eastern or Delaware State.


April 13th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

You're right that he kept the team on schedule.  Again, I'm not saying Smith is the worst back ever.  He does have good qualities.  But sometimes the tradeoff for having a back who loses yards often (Barry Sanders, for example) is that it's also a guy who can break big runs with some regularity.

And even though Smith doesn't lose yards very often...

...he still put up some pretty meager numbers.

I will be looking forward to the play-by-play account of Smith's career.  I've taken a look but never broken it down.  I'm sure it will be a steady diet of carries that gain between 1 and 7 yards, with a few outliers of 11, 13, 19, and one 56-yarder.

Also, while this will surely come across as excuse-making (how much do I care?  not at all), Michael Cox was running behind 2nd- and 3rd-string offensive lines in each of those games.  That's not the case with Smith, who was almost always running with the #1 offense.


April 13th, 2011 at 1:34 PM ^

It's not so much that the running back gets trucked behind the line, as it is that they dance behind the line.  You can't always hold it against them if there is no where to go. 

I am really looking forward to reading all of your analysis, but is there a way of looking to see if a guy gets tackled for a loss because the line failed him vs. a guy who is indecisive behind the line who gets tackled for a loss?  I think that would tell a lot about how good they are at making the correct choices, which is very important when your running behind a zone scheme that requires a cut and go.  Looking at the small amount of ino you just gave that could be a glimpse into why Cox has not seen the field.  I know that would be a lot of work, but I think it would go even deeper into your analysis. 


April 13th, 2011 at 11:06 AM ^

Hopefully he can return to being the guy we saw against Wisco and OSU as a true freshman.

He was plenty dangerous then.

I'm not sold he's an everydown back, but if he can rehab back to THAT guy...he's definitely a piece in a good offense.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:38 AM ^

I actually remember him having 3 really good catch + runs in those two games, 2 for TD's, things that wouldn't appear on your selective quotation of stats.

But that gets to my point: I think he has a role as a 3rd down guy. When he was healthy, he looked like he could do things in space. He's a good blocker. I think that giving him 15 carries  from behind the line was a mis-use of his skills.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

You are also ignoring context. In RR's offense, running backs had to do some blocking for Denard (will probably again this year). That probably had a lot to do with Vinny Smits's abundance of playing time last year.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:44 AM ^

My criticism has always been about his misuse more than his play.  Part of the job of a coach is to put a player in a position to succeed.  You don't take a guy that size and run him up the middle on a 3rd and 1, IMO.  As a little 3rd down scatback catching balls out of the backfield or running outside or draws I have no problem with the kid.  Comparing him to Mike Hart is a joke, btw.  Smith has his positives and negatives, but other than both being describes as small, they have little in common.  Hart was a lot more powerful runner, but not as shifty and although "small," still outweighed Smith by 20 lbs.

STW P. Brabbs

April 13th, 2011 at 1:38 PM ^

Was just as shifty as Smith, if not more so.  He may have been a bit slower than Smith, but not by much.

And he was about 10x as likely to break a tackle or fall forward after contact than Smith has shown to be.  Smith's a better receiver out of the backfield, though.

To conclude: just because they're both short doesn't mean they have much else in common as tailbacks.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:58 AM ^

I agree that he has a role as a third down back.  But being a good runner should be the main concern when choosing a running back, which is my issue with his selection as the primary tailback.  If he plays on 3rd down, 2nd-and-long, stuff like that, I probably won't have an issue with it.


April 13th, 2011 at 12:03 PM ^

Nobody is, really.  It's kind of just a vicious cycle.  I've complained that he was our primary back, people accuse me of literally hating the kid, then I counter with "I don't hate him, I just want him touch the ball less", then people tell me that they agree he should have a lesser role.

Then the argument starts all over again a week later.

ND Sux

April 13th, 2011 at 12:15 PM ^

so we can discuss this again next Wednesday.  Maybe by then it will have changed. 

I like Smith a lot, and there are good arguments on both sides.  What I hope for most this year is a healthier group.  I trust the coaches to play the most effective ones in each situation. 


April 13th, 2011 at 12:15 PM ^

I may be mentally unstable but how is your reading comprehension?  

Where in my post is an argument he be an everydown back? 

I actually specifically state I like Mike Shaw best.   Maybe you should take some more reading classes Fidel.   Multiple languages can be tough to master.


April 13th, 2011 at 12:34 PM ^

Coming from you I'll take that as a complement.

I think we agree V. Smith looks like a pretty good 3rd down back if he gets his speed back as I hope he will.   The toughness he showed makes me root for him.  I don't think he should have played last year.  I never thought he was Barry Sanders, but he didn't look even close to the player he looked like in 09.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:44 AM ^

You're forgetting two receiving touchdowns.

Magnus - we get it, you would prefer someone other than Smith as the starting RB. At his 2010 level of production, I agree with you.

He's best as a 3rd down back, not a featured runner. We all agree with you.

We're arguing a useless level of nuance here. We're all forgetting so much about those two games, like how Michigan was steamrolled by Wiscy, how Tate threw 5 picks against OSU, how Vinny was the ONLY running back doing anything those weeks (Shaw was terrible, Brown and Minor were hurt I believe), and that Smith also had 2 receiving TDs.

We're also forgetting that Wiscy and Ohio State had two very tough defenses in 2009 (Ohio State gave up an average of 3.11 ypc, and Wisconsin 3.93 ypc), and that Smith was frankly lucky to get 3.8 ypc behind Michigan's offensive line.

So again, Smith is a fine change of pace back, but not a workhorse. Noone here is going to argue with you on that. Anything else and you're constructing a dead horse upon which to beat.


April 13th, 2011 at 1:10 PM ^

I don't claim to necessarily know as much about this as others, but why would we want our smallest running back on 3rd down? Wouldn't we want a powerful bruiser who can force the ball through?

I agree Smith should not be an every down back and that healthy he can be helpful in our offense, but I don't see him as a standard 3rd down back.


April 13th, 2011 at 1:17 PM ^

Typically, a third down back is a type of back who can a) block for the QB and b) catch passes out of the backfield.  "Third down backs" are generally used on long yardage.  If it were 3rd-and-1, then Smith probably wouldn't be your guy to bull his way for a yard.  But if it were 3rd-and-6, then he might be able to catch a swing pass, a screen, etc. and gain those necessary yards.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:16 AM ^

I think the criticism is coming from the fact that the last few seasons have been hard on every Michigan fan, and everyone is on edge.  I just want to see the best players on the field, and playing positions that they're comfortable with.  When I saw Roh line up at a DT position last year it was one of the biggest "what the fuck?" moments I've ever had.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:16 AM ^

The problem that I saw with Smith last year was that he was getting arm-tackled at the line even with a lead blocker. If he breaks through those tackles, this year, then I'm fine with him, but that is a necessity for anyone called a RB.


April 13th, 2011 at 11:34 AM ^

I like V Smith (love my #2 jersey), but it was how easy he went down sometimes that I was suprised about.  He has a low center of gravity, so I expected him to be able to keep his legs moving to avoid some arm and shoelace tackles that should have been broke and gone for more.  I might have been spoiled by Mike Hart in this instance where he had a knack for hitting the line and keeping his legs moving and bursting out for another 10-15 yards.

I think (unless a freshman comes in and is nasty) the best combo is Shaw and Hopkins.  I've liked Shaw since his first game as a freshman with his speed and toughness (needs to work on his vision). And Hopkins runs with a downhill fury that gives me some of the feelings of Minor (though I htink he is still a step down from Minor).