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Michigan Wolverines: Running on Empty

Matt Parker Profile PicThe Michigan running game under Al Borges had some success in the past, yes it’s true!  It’s also been presented its share of struggles as well; recently proven with some historically bad performances against MSU and Nebraska.

The offensive line has been shuffled during the process and the group is still labeled as under-performers. With Al Borges in charge of the offense, the idea was Michigan would finally return to the power run game fans have been longing to seeing in Ann Arbor. But those plans have not realized with consistency.

Things seemed okay in 2011 and really the ground game couldn’t have started off better. Michigan continued to run the inherited spread offense and for most of the season it worked well. Quarterback  Denard Robinson led the way with 221 carries and 1176 yards on the ground. He averaged 5.32 yards per carry and scored 16 touchdowns.

Fitzgerald Toussaint also had a great year. Toussaint rushed 187 times for 1041 yards. Toussaint ended up with 9 touchdowns that year. Even Vincent Smith had 298 yards on 50 carries.  The team totals for rushing attempts was a combined 560. The Wolverines finished with 2884 rushing yards.  The team also finished with 31 total touchdowns on the ground. Blue finished the season 13th best in the nation on the ground. It wasn’t the true power game, but it was effective.

In 2012, Michigan had another productive year yet not as good as the prior. It didn’t help Denard Robinson’s season ended figuratively in game 8 when he left the Nebraska game injured. Things were never the same with him the rest of the way.  Robinson ended up with 1266 yards on 177 carries. Fitzgerald Toussaint though couldn’t pick up the slack and he too suffered a season ending injury three games later against Iowa and finished his year with 514 yards on 130 carries. Thomas Rawls was third on the team with 242 yards on 57 attempts

The team finished with 2389 total rushing yards. As a result, the Wolverines dropped to 41st overall running the ball in 2012.

People wondered what the running game would look like once Denard left. In 2013 we got to see the answer to that question pretty quick. And recently, the results have been anything – I mean anything – from what fans were expecting when the season started. This no matter the competition Michigan played over the last two weeks.

There will be no thousand-yard rusher in the bunch. So far on 172  carries running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has 601 yards. Quarterback Devin Gardner is second on the team with 129 attempts and 442 yards. Five-star running back freshman – in a very limited role – Derrick Green has only 40 attempts with 116 yards total.

As a team, the Wolverines have produced 1218 total ground yards. That total would be higher if not for the -69 yards produced against MSU and Nebraska.

No, and I repeat NO, Michigan team should EVER have negative rushing yards…period! That’s unfathomable! Michigan is right now 97th best at running the ball in the nation and third best in the state behind, MSU and Eastern…six spots ahead of Central. Yikes!

Now I still believe in Brady Hoke and I know that he’ll do everything in his power to fix the running game going forward. Al Borges has three games left to prove he knows how to set up an offense that will not leave his team in poor positions on the field. Sure the offensive line gets credit for being bad, but I would imagine it’s hard to run when the opposing defense knows when and where the runs are going. With a bit more creativity, who knows what might happen.

Michigan has to be a better running team next year. This year teams are just beating our kids. Derrick Green will get his chance to prove what he has and may turn into the back Michigan needs as well. In addition I think Devon Smith will help provide the balance to turn Michigan into  a dominant run game again. It’s possible!

Until then we wait, hope and watch.

Like always…GO BLUE! Beat Northwestern!

Matt Parker

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  • Adam

    Fire HOKE! It’s Michigan dammit go and get the best coach on the market and give this whole “Michigan Man” thing a rest!!!! The man who coined the phrase wasn’t even a “Michigan Man” he was from OHIO! This University needs to step into the 21st century! - May the Hoke be with you! © January 11th, 2011
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