Friday, October 19, 2012

Hot Topics: Who Should Be The Starting Running Back

On a regular basis, our writers will break down a "Hot Topic" among the Michigan fans and express their personal opinions regarding the issue. Topics cover everything from major athletic department decisions to team apparel. Writers have their own opinions and readers and their views may not necessarily represent Hoke's Mad Magicians as an entity.  Readers are welcome to comment below or contact our writers via Twitter with their own thoughts.

Tyler Fenwick - Thomas Rawls Should Be The Starting Running Back
1) Okay, let's cut to the chase. Fitzgerald Toussaint has done next to nothing so far this season to help the Wolverines. The whole purpose of a Michigan running back at this phase in the program is to act as a cushion for Denard Robinson. The job isn't even to be something spectacular. Toussaint has done neither.

Through the first half of this season, Toussaint has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, as opposed to last season when he averaged 5.6. The lack of production has even made a huge difference in one game, Notre Dame. I'm not blaming the devastating loss on one single player, but if Fitz does what he has shown he is capable of, that game is quite possibly a win for the Wolverines.

In the beginning of the season, I was one of those people saying Toussaint just needed time to catch stride. But, even if there was nobody behind him working his way up the ladder, I believe the lack of production and inability to protect Denard Robinson is enough in itself to call for change.

2) Thomas Rawls is making a lot of noise for hismelf here lately, and it's hard to deny that he is looking better than any other Michigan back at this point. For me, it started a couple weeks ago against Purdue. It wasn't his first time seeing action on the field because, if you recall, Rawls had a lot of hype surrounding him at the beginning of the season when he stepped in for the suspended Fitz Toussaint against Alabama. But in that game against the Boilermakers, he stepped in late and sort of made Al Borges look foolish for not playing him the entire game.

Rawls was a machine on the field, running through and around the defense. Then he backed up that performance last week against Illinois with 90 yards on only 9 attempts. And here is an interesting little fact: Thomas Rawls has improved his average on the ground each time he steps on the field. And speaking as a fan and analyst, that kid gets stronger every time he steps on the field, too.  

Thomas Beindit - Fitz Toussaint Should Be The Starting Running Back

1)  Rawls and Fitz are both talented running backs and have the ability to start on most college teams.  However, only one of these two running backs is proven and that's Fitz.  Yes, Rawls brings a different energy to the field, but I don't think this team is ready for the power run yet, especially with Denard under center.  Rawls has had bright moments, but we need to remember that he has never really performed in the tight situations with the game on the line.  The only real game that Rawls has contributed in was the Alabama game and we all know how that went.  Fitz has done well against many teams including top level Big Ten competition.  He has done a lot and fans should be hesitant to just throw that out the window.

2) When broken down, who is the better runner?  I do agree with some of Tyler's points and I think that Rawls could turn into the better running back in the long-term, but Hoke has a responsibility to put the best player on the field right now, not for the future.  Rawls is a physical runner, but I think Fitz is better at breaking tackles and to be honest, he's lucky he got as many yards as he has this season given the way the defense has been attacking him.  Fitz may not have the raw stats, but he has made some great reads during his tenure at Michigan and some that have been so good that Rawls may never be able to recreate them.  Even if Rawls is a bit more consistent, I think you can make a stronger case that Fitz is much more explosive and has a much higher chance for a game-changing play.


Final Points

Tyler - I obviously can't argue against the fact that Fitz Toussaint is the more proven back. But here's my problem: when was he the proven back? Last season. And you know what, without Fitz doing his thing in 2011, Michigan does not win a BCS Bowl (or get a shot at it for that matter). So while you can make the case that Hoke needs to play the "now" players, not the future, I will counter with Hoke needs to play the "now" players, not the past. The only thing I strongly disagree with is saying Fitz breaks more tackles than Rawls. Thomas Rawls is the most physical back at Michigan, and the perfect example was against Purdue. He made that look easy -- running through and around Boilermakers. At the end of the day, the back who gives Michigan the best chance to win is Thomas Rawls.

Thomas - I agree that Rawls is a good and physical running back.  The only problem I do have is the way you are looking at the performance of him this season.  His numbers, given sample size, are probably better than Fitz, but we need to remember that he was primarily playing in garbage time against some pretty weak teams.  He still has not shown us that he can do it against good teams and defenses in tight game scenarios.  If he could move the ball on a team like MSU, I would probably think Rawls should be the choice, but the problem is that he hasn't shown us that he can yet.  Maybe he will in the coming weeks, but for now, I think Fitz has to be the starting guy.  Maybe give Rawls a few more real snaps, but when the offense goes out on Saturday, Fitz needs to be the running back.


All writers are entitled to their own opinion and those may or may not represent the held beliefs of Hoke's Mad Magicians as an entity. Readers are welcome to comment below or contact the writers via Twitter with   their thoughts

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