All-Time Leaders: Longest Runs

All-Time Leaders: Longest Runs


August 27, 2020
Butch Woolfolk (#24, image via Michigan Football History)

This is a fun one, because I think a lot of fans remember where they were when some of these big plays happened. I know I remember watching some of these on TV, being at Michigan Stadium for some of these, etc.

Enjoy the list and some memories!

  1. 92 yards – Butch Woolfolk (1979 vs. Wisconsin)
  2. 90 yards – Carlos Brown (2009 vs. Eastern Michigan)
  3. 89 yards – Butch Woolfolk (1981 vs. Wisconsin)
  4. 89 yards – Tony Boles (1989 vs. Indiana)
  5. 88 yards – Tyrone Wheatley (1992 vs. Washington)
  6. 87 yards – Denard Robinson (2010 vs. Notre Dame)
  7. 86 yards – Chris Howard (1996 vs. Minnesota)
  8. 85 yards – Russell Davis (1985 vs. Stanford)
  9. 85 yards – Carlos Brown (2007 vs. Minnesota)
  10. 82 yards – Tyrone Wheatley (1992 vs. Iowa)
  11. 81 yards – Tony Boles (1988 vs. Wisconsin)
  12. 81 yards – Shea Patterson (2018 vs. Wisconsin)
  13. 80 yards – Anthony Thomas (1998 vs. Hawaii)
  14. 79 yards – Denard Robinson (2012 vs. Air Force)
  15. 77 yards – Jim Smith (1975 vs. Indiana)
  16. 77 yards – Karan Higdon (2017 vs. Minnesota)
  17. 76 yards – Rob Lytle (1976 vs. Michigan State)
  18. 76 yards – Ty Isaac (2015 vs. UNLV)
  19. 75 yards – Steve Smith (1983 vs. Minnesota)
  20. 74 yards – B.J. Dickey (1977 vs. Wisconsin)
  21. 74 yards – Tyrone Wheatley (1991 vs. Northwestern)
  22. 73 yards – Tony Boles (1989 vs. Illinois)
  23. 72 yards – Scott Dreisbach (1996 vs. Illinois)
  24. 72 yards – Denard Robinson (2010 vs. Indiana)
  25. 71 yards – Chuck Heater (1973 vs. Indiana)
  26. 70 yards – Allen Jefferson (1987 vs. Washington State)

In case you’re wondering, the guy who makes the most appearances on this list is . . . actually three guys: Tony Boles, Denard Robinson, and Tyrone Wheatley.

Here’s a look at Butch Woolfolk’s program record 92-yard run:

And here’s the other 90+ yard run in Michigan history, Carlos Brown’s against Eastern Michigan:

56 comments

  1. Lanknows
    Comments: 6182
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 27, 2020 at 10:40 AM

    My favorite is Denard simply because it came against ND.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1vOD_NC0dU

    A little surprised A-train only made it once.

    Excitement aside, most of these runs are not great demonstrations of skill. Brown basically runs straight ahead. Denard has a nice little move to make the play, then a guy falls down and Denard quick cuts up field and that was that. Woolfolk at least sort of breaks a tackle and runs around some traffic, but the OL is doing the heavy lifting.

    The collective record of these opponents has to be way below 500. It’s not all cupcakes but there’s a lot of very bad teams in there

    You certainly need some speed to not get caught by a DB (something that Hart and D.Smith lacked) but there’s less RB skill here than you’ll see on many 7-10 yard runs, IMO.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3785
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 27, 2020 at 11:28 AM

      A-Train had a handful of 58- to 68-yard runs, but only the one 80-yarder.

      You’re right about the bad teams. It’s funny to think that Wisconsin was the victim of many of these runs when they’re now known for being such a swarming defense. They have improved significantly…but Shea Patterson still got loose for 81 yards.

      It might be important to note that for all the bad teams on this list, Tyrone Wheatley took it to the house against a good Washington team. Wheatley’s my favorite all-time running back at Michigan (even though he didn’t qualify for my RB list since he was pre-Carr).

      I somewhat agree about the skill, though I think most long runs usually get vertical pretty quickly. You can dance and break tackles, which shows talent, but the bottom line is that every time you’re juking or breaking a tackle, you’ve got 10 guys creeping closer to you and cutting down angles.

      To some extent, this list reinforces the fact that speed kills. For all the talent and toughness of Mike Hart – and the high number of opportunities – you can’t broken-tackle your way to 80-yard runs. Tyrone Wheatley could bounce off a couple guys and earn some tough yards, but Hart could never house it from 80 yards. (Off the top of my head, I think Hart’s longest run was somewhere around 60 yards.)

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6182
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 27, 2020 at 2:10 PM

        One of the nice things about getting older is you get a better sense of history and how much things can change.

        It’s hard to remember now but Wisconsin STUNK until Barry Alvarez arrived. They were like Rutgers back in the 70s and 80s.

        It plays into my appreciation for Harbaugh and also Carr. Many Michigan fans think it’s a foregone conclusion that Michigan will win at least 8 or 9 games a year no matter what because of “resources”. Even after Rodriguez and Hoke flopped so badly. We’ve seen plenty of powerhouses rise and fall. Michigan can fall too. It took a lot of good coaching to keep the train rolling with Carr and even more (IMO) to get it back on the rails with Harbaugh.

        There’s a politics-related analogy to empires falling but I’ll stay off that.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6182
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 27, 2020 at 2:22 PM

        This shows speed kills? I would say the opposite.

        Speed helps get long runs, which are fun, but those mostly happen against bad teams you are going to beat anyway. 2 of the 26 came against rivals (ND and MSU) and none against OSU.

        And uh, well, Patterson and Driesbach made the list here, as did a bunch of other unexceptional RBs, so it’s probably a lot of right-place-right-time.

        Mike Hart was a really good RB at Michigan and I would submit that not making this list is not even relevant to the conversation about who the best RBs are. Anyone who watched him knew he was doing work, even if he didn’t have a YPC inflated by long runs to back it up.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3785
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 27, 2020 at 3:26 PM

          Your assumption is that long runs aren’t also happening against good teams. Just because you don’t break off an 80-yarder against Ohio State doesn’t mean you’re being unsuccessful against Ohio State. Maybe an 80-yarder against a bad team is a 50-yarder against a good team, because they’re faster, better coached, etc.

          Patterson and Dreisbach were both pretty good overall athletes. Not Denard Robinson, but not John Navarre, either. Patterson ran something like a 4.7 forty.

          Mike Hart was also 0-4 against Ohio State. I’m not placing all the blame on him, but there are multiple ways to beat teams. Big plays help, and gaining yards in chunks helps. If you don’t have speed, you only have one way to beat a team offensively: gaining yards in chunks. It’s probably not a total coincidence that virtually every player on this list played on a winning team. The only exception I know of off the top of my head was Carlos Brown, and Michigan was 5-7 that year. So 24/25 (again, I didn’t check every season’s record) of these guys played for winning teams, and the vast majority of them came during 8-, 9-, 10-win seasons, not just 7-5 or 6-5.

          Not only does the speed help the running game, but if safeties and linebackers are trying to stop your speedy back from gashing you in the run game, that opens things up on the back end to use your passing/play action game.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6182
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Aug 27, 2020 at 4:26 PM

            No offense but that’s a terrible argument. Michigan’s had 3 losing seasons in our lifetimes. You could bring up the shortest punts list and they’d mostly be in winning seasons too. That doesn’t mean short punts kill.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3785
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Aug 27, 2020 at 4:58 PM

              There are a lot of Michigan fans who got very frustrated with Lloyd Carr starting in the early 2000s. Michigan’s running backs for the first seven years of the 2000s were guys like B.J. Askew (not on the list), Chris Perry (not on the list), and Mike Hart (not on the list). Who’s the fastest guy of that bunch?

              Chris Perry. Is it a coincidence that Perry’s senior year was the last year Carr beat Ohio State? Maybe.

              When else has Michigan beaten OSU since then? In 2011, when Denard Robinson was on the team.

              Anthony Thomas is on this list. Michigan was 2-0 against Ohio State when he was the primary ball carrier.

              Having a fast runner doesn’t guarantee you a winning season or a win against OSU, but it opens up things that aren’t available otherwise.

              Who are the slowest (starting) Michigan running backs in the past 20 years? Probably B.J. Askew, Mike Hart, and De’Veon Smith. Michigan was 0-8 when those guys were the primary ball carriers (2001, 2004-2007, 2014-2016). The fastest starting running backs were probably Chris Perry, Karan Higdon, and Fitzgerald Toussaint/Denard Robinson, and Michigan got their only two wins (2003 with Perry, 2011 with Toussaint/Robinson).

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 6182
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Aug 28, 2020 at 10:05 AM

                I don’t even know what to say to this. I am just amazed at the leaps and bounds.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 6182
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Aug 28, 2020 at 10:12 AM

                  OK I have one thing to say.

                  The best Michigan teams of the last 15+ years were 2006 and 2016.

                  The top RBs on those teams were Hart and Smith.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3785
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 31, 2020 at 11:23 AM

                  There are multiple reasons for this, but think about all the Ohio State running backs breaking big runs against Ohio State over the past twenty years or so: Beanie Wells, JK Dobbins, Ezekiel Elliott, etc.

                  Higdon’s longest run vs. OSU: 24 yards
                  Smith’s longest run vs. OSU: 16 yards
                  Hart’s longest run vs. OSU: 33 yards
                  Toussaint’s longest run vs. OSU: 46 yards
                  Minor’s longest run vs. OSU: 32 yards

                  JK Dobbins himself had 35- and 41-yard runs vs. Michigan, and he wasn’t even a 1st rounder like Wells, Elliott, etc.

                  Big picture: It’s not exactly controversial to say that running back has been a weak point at Michigan. Michigan hasn’t produced a 1st rounder since 2004 (Perry), and everyone has gone undrafted since then except Hart (Minor, Toussaint, Higdon, Smith, etc.). Speed is valued by almost everyone (coaches, GMs, evaluators, etc.), and without it, these Michigan products are struggling to get to the next level and struggling to beat the best teams on Michigan’s schedule.

                  I’m not saying speed is everything. Emmitt Smith won Super Bowls and wasn’t fast. So did Jerome Bettis. And Chris Johnson never won anything in the NFL. But the lack of big plays (a.k.a. speed) is an issue.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 6182
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 10:03 AM

                  I would say that in terms of a tangible weakness at Michigan, RB might be one of the last positions I would list. OT and DT issues have brought down entire seasons. Slow LBs and secondaries have pretty directly been exploited in OSU losses. Is there anything remotely close to starting Russell Bellomy at the RB position? For all the hand-wringing about RB last year – walk-ons, true freshman, and position-switchers managed to fill out the depth chart just fine on a top 30 offense.

                  At WR we’ve had Grant Perry play a prominent role and his immediate insertion into the lineup arguably cost Michigan the Utah game. I’d call that a weakness.

                  At DT last year we were playing a converted fullback and a walk-on. I’d call that a weakness.

                  We can go down the line position by position but RBs never been a problem.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3785
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 11:22 AM

                  DT was a weakness last year. But it has also been a strength at times (Ryan Glasgow, Maurice Hurst, Willie Henry, Mike Martin, Terrance Taylor, etc.), and not just in a one- or two-year blip.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 6182
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 10:15 AM

                  As for Uninspiring? Well maybe. YMMV.

                  I’ve found the play of V.Smith and D.Smith inspiring sometimes, though not in a way that translates to Thunder. Evans and Peppers have been pretty tantalizing with the ball at times too.

                  I wouldn’t argue strongly against uninspiring but our primary RBs have been “pretty solid” going back through Toussaint to Smith to Higdon, plus complementary guys like Smith and Evans.

                  Michigan has always had an NFL-caliber back on the depth chart.

                  The 2012 team had 3 guys who played NFL RB leading the team in carries.

                  Depending on what happens with Chris Evans, 2014 may be the only year they didn’t have multiple future NFL backs on the depth chart.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 6182
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Aug 31, 2020 at 1:01 PM

                I don’t agree that RB has been a weak point.

                There is not usually more than 1 or 2 RBs taken in the first round of the NFL draft so even if Michigan lands the faster RB recruit in the country every year its probably not going to result in a lot more first round picks.

                Michigan hasn’t had a first round pick at most positions. That doesn’t mean that they are a weakness.

                Michigan’s RBs have been fine. That is not why they are losing to OSU.

                You can do this same exercise at LGs or CBs or QBs or Safeties – OSU is doing better across the board.

                Michigan has had fast backs. They just haven’t been as good as the not-that-fast backs.

                Michigan’s RBs have never done much in the NFL. There’s just not many RBs who are difference makers at that level.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3785
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 31, 2020 at 1:07 PM

                  There have been 253 running backs drafted since Mike Hart was taken in the 6th round of the 2008 NFL Draft. That’s almost two for every FBS school – even Old Dominion and Troy and Rice and UMass – but not one for Michigan in that time.

                  That’s a weakness.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 6182
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Aug 31, 2020 at 2:58 PM

                  Not really. How many football programs are there? What are the comparable track records at other positions?

                  How does it compare to the past? How many NFL RBs came through Michigan from 2009-2018? How many came though the decade before that? Off the top of my head it seems like it’s about the same in both.

                  ’99-08 Carr Era:
                  Thomas
                  Perry
                  Hart
                  Fargas
                  Askew

                  ’09-18 Post-Carr Era:
                  Toussaint
                  D. Smith
                  Higdon
                  Robinson
                  Cox
                  Rawls

                  Assuming I missed somebody who played in the NFL for Carr, I think it’s 6 NFL RBs in each decade.

                  Give or take whatever errors I made, the running talent has been here. It hasn’t changed. Michigan continues to recruit players who end up NFL RBs. They still aren’t doing much at that level, so that part hasn’t changed.

                  What has? Compared to decades past there are more transfers in college. Michigan has struggled to have a consistent offense and run game through all the coaching transitions since Carr. That contributes to lack of success and further encourages transfers. Furthermore, RBs are increasingly viewed as replaceable cogs in rotations at the NFL level, so there are fewer selected high in the draft and they are paid less as younger guys on rookie scale salaries are rotated in more readily.

                  It’s very hard to find difference-makers at RB at the college level. You can count them on one hand in the Big Ten over the last decade, despite OSU’s ascendance to national powerhouse under Meyer and Wisconsin turning into the preeminent power running team in the country.

                  Not getting those guys does not mean the position is a weakness. This is like saying Tony Gwynn is a weak hitter because check the home runs.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3785
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 31, 2020 at 4:17 PM

                  Yes, really. There are 130 FBS football teams. No offense to the FCS, D2, and D3 schools, but Michigan should be getting guys drafted ahead of those schools.

                  Honestly, the fact that you’re trying to equate those two groups is kind of ridiculous.

                  One group has a 1st round pick, a 2nd round pick, a 3rd round pick, a 3rd round pick who transferred, and a 6th round pick.

                  The other group has a 5th round pick who didn’t play RB except in a couple games, a 7th round pick who transferred, undrafted, undrafted, undrafted, and undrafted.

                  Well, Tony Gwynn never won a World Series, so maybe he should have hit more home runs…

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 6182
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Aug 31, 2020 at 11:26 PM

                  The draft doesn’t represent production at the college level nor production at the pro level.

                  Tony Gwynn is a hall of famer because he’s one of the greatest hitters ever.

                  If your arguments run counter to the statements above that’s all that needs to be said.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3785
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 10:57 AM

                  I don’t disagree that Gwynn was a great hitter, but if we’re talking about winning big games/championships…he’s probably not a great example.

                • Avatar
                  Comments: 77
                  Joined: 10/3/2015
                  UM2013
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 8:50 AM

                  I’m surprised you’re arguing this one, Lank. If you just run down the list of CFB programs that have experienced success over the last 10-15 years and compare the RB talent to that at Michigan, I’d be surprised if you were able to find more than a couple of programs with inferior talent. Even MSU arguably has seen superior talent. Penn State with Barkley, Georgia has had a few guys, Alabama, OSU, LSU all speak for themselves. Peppers is really the only guy who I think could have been an impact guy at the position, and to some extent Toussaint. Otherwise it’s been extremely uninspiring.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 6182
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 9:57 AM

                  Uninspiring is not a weakness. The 2010 secondary was a weakness. The 2014 OL was a weakness. The 2017 QBs were a weakness.

                  Michigan has recruited multiple 5-star RBs and produced multiple NFL RBs. None of them are Saquan Barkley – sure. Michigan also hasn’t had that kind of generational talent at any other positions save safety (Peppers) and linebacker (Bush). And they’ve NEVER had those guys in my lifetime at RB. Even Morris, Wheatley, Biakabatuka and Thomas didn’t do much in the NFL. It was the OLs paving the way for them – those were where the All-Pros and HOFers show up.

                  Nobody is walking around talking about RB being a weakness in the 80s or 90s. And in the last decade Michigan brings in the same kind of talent and spits out the same kind of NFL production. Maybe some step back, but we didn’t go from strength to weakness in that time.

                  Even DL and CB, which have been consistently excellent for a almost a decade haven’t produced players like Barkley. That’s not relevant to the conversation.

                  Very few RBs significantly effect outcomes like Barkley did. You can go a to other really really good NFL backs (Lynch, Peterson, McCoy, Sproles) and they made their college teams better, clearly, but you’re still talking about the cream of the crop, i.e., rare outliers. Most backs, even all conference performers or future NFL guys go down and are easily replaced by backups. They graduate and the next guy steps in.

                  I think we fans would do well to stop ascribing team fantasies to the RB position. The RB get’s the stats for the team’s work – but his success is a function of the offense, not the other way around.

                  Fitz Toussaint went form 10.9 to 5.6 to 4.0 to 3.5 ypc in his college career. It wasn’t because the future NFL back was getting worse.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3785
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 11:19 AM

                  You keep on saying “multiple NFL running backs.” You’re talking about guys who basically made practice squads.

                  You’re also dismissing entire OLs for being bad, but those bad OLs have produced “multiple NFL offensive linemen”: Magnuson, Kalis, Braden, Cole, Bushell-Beatty, Glasgow, etc.

                  So if you’re giving credit to mediocre running backs for making NFL practice squads while simultaneously criticizing linemen for, well, actually being BETTER in the NFL, well…yeah, that’s inconsistent. Kalis, Cole, Magnuson, etc. have all started games in the NFL. Cole started for an entire season. Michigan’s most productive NFL back in that stretch has been Toussaint, with 52 total touches (44 rushes, 8 catches).

                  You keep talking about the RB position in such senseless terms. We all can (or should be able to) agree that some people are better at things than other people. Some people are better accountants than other people. Some people are better ditch diggers than other people. That happens in every profession/job/hobby. You, as an individual, favor some running backs over others.

                  So naturally, some RBs are better than others. The NFL has determined that over the past dozen years, 253 running backs have been better at playing running back than Michigan’s running backs.

                • Avatar
                  Comments: 77
                  Joined: 10/3/2015
                  UM2013
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 11:11 AM

                  I suppose the word “weakness” is ultimately relative. Michigan’s RBs have been fine if we’re looking at all power 5 teams, but if we compare against the typical top 25 program, I think you’d be hard pressed to find too many programs who have had less production from the position. When you factor in that Michigan is never going to be a top passing offense, it becomes even more disappointing. I’m not going to argue that the RB position is overly crucial to team success relative to QB, OT, CB, DE either, but if I look at that 2016 team, for example, I think RB is a position that could have clearly used an upgrade. Replace Deveon Smith with Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Barkley, Nick Chubb, Royce Freeman and I think we’re looking at a 12-0 regular season.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3785
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 11:29 AM

                  I don’t have time to do this research myself, but I would guess that most Power 5 teams have had a running back drafted in the past twelve years. At least in the Big Ten, I’m almost sure of it. Even bottom-feeders have pulled off that feat (Jordan Howard from IU, Justin Jackson from Northwestern, Jawan Jamison from Rutgers, etc.), and of course we know it’s true for OSU, Wisconsin, PSU, etc. I can’t think of any Purdue RBs to have been drafted recently, but still, the vast majority of teams are covered.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6182
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Aug 27, 2020 at 4:30 PM

            Agree about run threats opening up the offense, but that was more true for Mike Hart than Carlos Brown or Teric Jones. Maybe you didn’t have to worry about Hart going for 80 yards but you sure had to worry about 30 or 40.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 6182
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Aug 27, 2020 at 4:19 PM

          No. My assumption is that this list is not relevant to season outcomes. I’m sure there’s an exception or two on the list somewhere but they are few.

          Getting yards in chunks play but you can’t make 90 yard run form the 40 yard line.

          If we wanted to talk about chunk plays we’d tally up the frequency of them, not just the outliers. Which players had the most chunk runs (say over 20 yards)? There will be some overlap (Denard, Wheatley, Woolfolk) but most of these names drop off and you’ll see a more recognizable list of top offensive guys.

          Big plays matter and speed is a big factor – but this list doesn’t make a good case for that.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1332
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Aug 27, 2020 at 11:08 AM

    I was there in 79 for Woolfolk’s 92 yard run and that was real big fun.

    But the run in 1981 for 89 yards is probably my all time favorite because Johnny Wangler, being the good Wolverine that he was, completed his fake pass at just about the exact instant Woolfolk crossed the line of scrimmage. If you watch the run, exactly nobody is even remotely fooled. Every Wisconsin defensive lineman has his back turned to Wangler and is in pursuit of Woolfolk as Wangler completes the fake, and Woolfolk has 9, maybe 10 Wisconsin guys in the frame with him. Makes me laugh every time I watch it.

    Both of these runs were really well blocked, which was our thing on offense in those days.

    I was also at Camp Randall to see Tony Bolls score three touchdowns including the 81 yard run listed above. He went for 60 and 6 on the opening play from scrimmage in that game. On his three touchdown runs, I don’t think he was touched beyond a maybe slap on a thigh pad. The blocking was incredible.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3785
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 27, 2020 at 11:32 AM

      I was at the Illinois game in 1996 when Dreisbach went 72 yards. I remember thinking the whole time “Wait…isn’t that the quarterback? Why isn’t someone catching him? He’s not supposed to run that far. This must be a mistake. Was there a flag?” I just wasn’t used to quarterbacks – especially Michigan quarterbacks – doing much more than scrambling for a few yards.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1332
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Roanman
        Aug 27, 2020 at 11:49 AM

        Driesbach broke tackles on that run. Pretty funny.

        I pick on Ricky Leach about his arm, but he was about as decisive an option QB as there ever was. I don’t think he had many big yardage runs, but that was a function of the offense. His runs were mostly all pulls and then cut it up inside. He did that with a lot of resolve.

    • GKblue
      Comments: 357
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      GKblue
      Aug 27, 2020 at 12:34 PM

      I was there in 79 also, seats very close to the line of scrimmage. Just prior to the play I asked my buddy “Wouldn’t it be nice to see him break one?”

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 6182
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 01, 2020 at 10:26 AM

    There have certainly been some hiccups on offense at Michigan over the last decade but RB is literally the least relevant position in telling that story.

    QB – Directly led to the debacle of 2017. Transfers have plugged holes with mixed success. Denard under center. Brutally bad INTs against OSU, Utah, PSU have cost games.

    FB/TE – Scheme changes to add/remove these positions from the offense have resulted in roster turnover and wasted scholarships. More a symptom than a cause but part of the story of program turmoil and disorder.

    OL – Poor damn Devin Gardner. The number of starts by true freshman and lack of 5th year production tells a story at a position group where experience and development are at a premium. All those sacks till Harbaugh finally got things stabilized and then dialed in with Warriner’s help.

    WR – Grant Perry was a fixture and arguably cost Michigan the Utah game in 2015. Hoke’s recruiting was a mess. Harbaugh focused on TEs until Hamilton got here. DPJ underperformed.

    RB – No superstars so…

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3785
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 01, 2020 at 10:56 AM

      LOL. I think it’s funny that you get down into the nitty gritty of every position, but then gloss over RB in three words.

      If we’re talking about costing games, how about Karan Higdon fumbling inside the 5-yard line against South Carolina in a 7-point loss? I see you ignored that one, but held Perry accountable…

      You say Hoke’s WR recruiting was a mess, but you insisted recently that Amara Darboh and Devin Funchess were both really good. So was I right that they’re not that good, or was I wrong like you said last week?

      Yes, OL has been a weakness AT TIMES, but not virtually every year. I’ll give you 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, but it has been a strength at times and produced numerous high-level players (Lewan, Molk, Schofield, Omameh, Ruiz, Bredeson, etc.).

      Etc.

      You’re not applying the same level of scrutiny to RB as you are the other positions.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6182
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 01, 2020 at 11:43 AM

        Higdon vs Perry. One of these guys is an NFL player and one is very decidedly not. One of these guys had hundreds of touches and on did not. Perry led to two INTs in a game where Michigan outgained Utah and had 1 turnover not involving him. Higdon had a fumble in a game where Michigan got outgained and turned it over 4 other times. Yeah, I’m going to “ignore” that (i.e., not mention it) because it’s nearly as outstanding of a mistake, in a less meaningful context, by a far better football player.

        Darboh and Chesson were both very good. But they weren’t enough to prevent needing to put Perry out there and hit the WR postion hard in recruiting thereafter. I would also not call them inspiring in the sense used above. We both agree that neither was in the Edwards, Terrell, or even Gallon-level.

        Funchess was recruited as a TE and played TE for most of his M career, but if you want to credit Hoke for recruiting a future NFL WR I think that’s reasonable.

        I agree that OL has been a weakness AT TIMES. RB never has been. That’s the difference. Michigan has always had an NFL caliber option at RB. Lack of greatness isn’t a weakness.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3785
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Sep 01, 2020 at 11:57 AM

          LOL @ your Higdon vs. Perry thing. Perry was Michigan’s 6th leading receiver in 2015.

          De’Veon Smith was Michigan’s leading rusher for three years, the #1 guy. Higdon was Michigan’s leading rusher for two years, the #1 guy. We’re talking about multi-year starters, guys heavily depended on, and your rebuttal goes back to Perry’s first game as a true freshman in 2015.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6182
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 01, 2020 at 12:50 PM

            Yes – because we’re talking about positional weakness.

            Grant Perry was getting the ball with the game on the line at WR. The other receiving options on that team were AJ Williams, Mo Ways, Drake Harris, DaMario Jones, and Brian Cole. Perry – who would not even sniff the NFL was the best option available to put on the field in crunch time.

            That’s what you call a WEAKNESS. Which one is a bigger problem? A true freshman with limited talent on the field or having to choose which 5-star recruit or future Pro to put in the game at RB?

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3785
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Sep 01, 2020 at 1:14 PM

              Again, you’re too closely fixating on one guy in one game. I can’t disagree that throwing to Grant Perry in Jim Harbaugh’s first game at Michigan in Perry’s first game of college with Jake Rudock playing his first game at Michigan is not ideal.

              Saying “Michigan’s #3 wide receiver is not an NFL-caliber player” is not a huge indictment. Lots of teams don’t have NFL-caliber WR3s.

              It has been a systemic issue at Michigan. Every RB at Michigan has gone undrafted since Mike Hart: McGuffie, Minor, Brown, Toussaint, Higdon, D. Smith, Hayes, V. Smith, etc. I know I’ve mentioned this in the past, but the only guy to play RB at Michigan to get drafted is the guy I was mocked for liking (Michael Cox), and Michigan never played him, so he transferred.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 6182
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              Lanknows
              Sep 01, 2020 at 1:32 PM

              Have you considered that if the criteria you are using says Michael Cox is the best RB to come through Michigan that the criteria isn’t very good?

              • Thunder
                Comments: 3785
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Sep 01, 2020 at 2:03 PM

                …and your criteria is that the best RB in that span finished #12, #12, and #19 in the Big Ten conference in yards per carry for qualifying players? You have no criteria. You’re going based on just an amorphous argument with nothing to back it up except how the world is seen through the eyes of Lanknows.

                I don’t think Cox is the best RB to come through Michigan. When you get to the 6th/7th round, you’re taking flyers on guys with athletic potential. But that’s kind of the point. Michigan running backs aren’t even getting a sniff based on athletic potential. Production, skill, speed, toughness, etc., NOTHING is getting them to be considered worthy of a draft pick at the next level.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 6182
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Sep 01, 2020 at 2:09 PM

                And yet there they are playing in the NFL. That’s the criteria I’m using.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 6182
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 2:11 PM

                  You always want to talk YPC but you never want to mention Cox’s after he left Michigan.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3785
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Sep 01, 2020 at 4:32 PM

                  I don’t think I’ve mentioned YPC for any individual player in this whole conversation. That’s what you’re not getting. It’s not about one individual player in one given year. I’m talking about the position group as a whole over a number of years.

                  Cox did not have a good YPC at UMass. I forget what it was (3.6 YPC, maybe?), but this discussion is vast enough that bringing in UMass’s YPC and RB situation is…tooooooo much.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 6182
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    Lanknows
    Sep 01, 2020 at 12:41 PM

    @UM2013
    Yes, I agree that putting Barkley or Cook on the 2016 team would have changed things, those are great players and IMO – the best RBs to come through college football in a decade and true difference-makers.

    I guess my question is – doesn’t that logic go at most every other position group?

    If I’m putting an NFL All Pro to replace somebody I’d go to QB first. And Speight wasn’t even a bad player, but he made crucial errors in those last few games after he got hurt. I think Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes would have been more impactful.

    If I can’t pick QB then I’d go to TE and grab George Kittle from Iowa. Not because Jake Butt was bad, but he was gone by FSU and could have played beside each other in the frequent 2TE sets. Both are elite receiving threats.

    Then I’m going to WR if I don’t get my TE – because while Chesson and Darboh were good you need more than 2 WRs to win big games. Grant Perry played a prominent role that year. The guys rotating in behind the starters include Moe Ways. Name any number of excellent college receivers, they don’t even have to be great in the NFL and Michigan’s offense is far more potent.

    I could go through the other positions but you get the point.

    There are some spots that don’t need to be touched (DL and FB come to mind) but many many places I’d go before RB, where we had the option to rotate between 2 or 3 NFL players in the Evans/Higdon/Smith backfield and. Plus Ty Isaac who, well, some people liked.

    When I look back on 2016-what-could-have-beens, I think of so many other things. The loss of Peppers and Butt against FSU was huge. The limitations of Perry and McCray were huge. Getting Speight hurt against Iowa was huge. Having only good but not great RBs doesn’t touch that stuff IMO.

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 6182
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 01, 2020 at 1:30 PM

    @Thunder

    When I say “NFL RBs” I mean guys who made active rosters and played in games like Deveon Smith, Thomas Rawls, and Fitz Toussaint. I am including Higdon also, though he has not played, it seems he is on the cusp of it given his preseason workload as a rookie last year and contract status. I am not including other pro players like Ty Isaac who NFL coaches continue to badly misuse.

    OL is 5 positions. It needs to have 5 times as many guys as RB. How many times has Michigan started OL that have been weak spots who have not sniffed the NFL (e.g., Kugler) in the last decade? How many times has it started RBs that have not sniffed the NFL? (e.g., Vincent Smith). I would guess it is dozens at OL and a small handful at RB. That said, Ty Isaac would bump the number higher.

    Kalis and Magnuson are success stories, not weaknesses. Just like Stribling and D.Smith. You’re looking at the wrong places if you see fringe NFL guys who earn all conference honors in college as weaknesses ignore the guys who were far bigger liabilities, like Bellomy, Kugler, Perry, etc.

    You can keep talking about the NFL draft all you want – it’s not making your point. Lack of greatness isn’t the same thing as a weakness. And again the draft isn’t a measure of production.

    You’re just saying the same thing over and over again – Michigan hasn’t had a great RB in 12 years. I’m saying that true a bunch of other places and it was true in the past as well. Why stop at 12? Make it 50 years if you want to go back to Ron Johnson – the last Michigan back who did something of note in the NFL.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3785
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 01, 2020 at 1:50 PM

      Your OL argument isn’t helping you. All I need is one guy at each of those positions. LT Runyan, LG Bredeson, C Ruiz, RG Onwenu, RT Schofield. Boom. Done. And there are a bunch more (Lewan, Cole, Glasgow, etc.).

      “The OL is a weakness because Kugler.” Okay, but there was also Cesar Ruiz and David Molk, one who was a 1st round pick and the other who was voted as literally the best center in the country.

      If you don’t have a strength at Michigan, you have a weakness. Michigan isn’t competing to be 10th in the conference. Michigan is competing to be 1st. And I’m not even in the “Everything sucks because Michigan didn’t win a natty this year” camp. But saying “Oh, running back is fine” when dudes at other positions are winning awards, getting drafted, etc. is odd.

      You say QB is a weakness, but at least Jake Rudock was drafted. Heck, Michigan has even had a punter (Zoltan Mesko) drafted in the meantime.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6182
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 01, 2020 at 2:14 PM

        You’re arguing about strengths in a conversation about weaknesses.

        OL is 5 guys.

        Who is the RB equivalent of Kugler – who spent a whole season starting? Or Jack Miller.

        Who is the RB equivalent of starting Russell Bellomy? Maybe Ty Isaac is kind of like John O’Korn but Bellomy?

  6. Lanknows
    Comments: 6182
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    Lanknows
    Sep 01, 2020 at 2:07 PM

    If we are talking about which positions have had quality play at them I would stack up number of all-conference honors at each position. That’s going to tell you a lot more than draft position because I’m here to tell you that Jeremy Gallon was an excellent college player and Michael Cox was not.

    If we are looking for weaknesses I would look for number of starters who were not even invited to the NFL combine.

    In either measure I would bet RB looks pretty favorable compared to OL/5, WR/2, QB, TE. RB at Michigan is always stacked with high caliber recruits and top notch college athletes.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 6182
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      Lanknows
      Sep 01, 2020 at 2:49 PM

      Consider 2007, Carr’s last year. Jake Long got drafted first overall. The skill position guys were Henne, Hart, Manningham, Arrington. Guys like Mallet, Minor, Hemingway, and Carlos “Speed Kills” Brown were backups. Pretty good talent!

      And yet – this was not a top 20 offense. The RBs averaged less than 5 ypc. and the team went 9-4. They scored 3 points against OSU and 7 against Oregon.

      Why with all that talent was that offense ‘mediocre’ by Michigan standards? Because they had weakness along the OL. They were shuffling personnel all year including true freshman and career backups. Alex Mitchell and company.

      That’s a weakness. Even with Jake Long at LT, the other positions can be weak.

      If you want to talk about strengths – that team had the top draft pick in Michigan History. But it wasn’t a great offense. Within 2 years Michigan RBs almost all averaged over 5 ypc including Brown and Minor. Within 3 years Michigan had a better offense without any high draft picks at skill positions, because they had an OL that didn’t have any obvious weaknesses like they had in 2007. It had multiple future NFL starters on the OL.

      • Thunder
        Comments: 3785
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Sep 01, 2020 at 4:29 PM

        You’re trying too hard to drill down to individual seasons, and you’re missing the point. In any given season, there are a variety of weaknesses. Maybe the placekicker, maybe the right guard, maybe the quarterback, maybe wide receiver, maybe defensive tackle, etc. We can go season by season and say, “Well, the combo of Steve Threet/Nick Sheridan was bad in 2008. The offensive line was bad in 2013. Etc.”

        What you can’t do is point to any other position (except maybe safety?) and say, “That position has been bleh for over a decade now.”

        And FTR, even at safety there are examples like Delano Hill (3rd round pick) and Jarrod Wilson (starter for the Jaguars last year).

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6182
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 02, 2020 at 5:03 PM

        It can’t be a weakness for a decade if it isn’t even true for a single season.

        RB has had NFL-caliber starters EVERY SEASON. I don’t know that any other offensive position can say that. Not QB, Not RT, Not any of the WR positions.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3785
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Sep 02, 2020 at 7:54 PM

          …but it has been true for multiple seasons. You just won’t admit it.

          Let’s just take the 2016 season, your favorite guy’s (De’Veon Smith) best season when he was Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. And you haven’t done the research, but you said you’re trusting all-conference honors, so fine…

          Smith was Honorable Mention while SEVEN guys were 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team all-conference. That means, at best, Smith was viewed as the 8th best running back in his own conference. He was #12 in rushing yards. He was #23 in rushing average. This is a league with 14 teams. How is it that your best guy was #8 to #23 in the conference in various key categories, but that’s not a weakness? And by your own chosen measure, he was #8 (or lower) out of 14 but that’s not a weakness? That’s the bottom half of the conference (at best!) when you’re a team trying to compete to beat Ohio State and play on an even bigger stage.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 6182
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 02, 2020 at 9:07 PM

          So you’re saying a guy who played in the NFL and earned all conference honors is a weakness?

          Just getting this straight. The best Michigan team of the last decade, the number 22 offense in the country that year, and the guy who led that team in both yards and touchdowns – he was the weak spot?

          The guy who carried the entire offense on his back to beat Indiana – one of the best individual offensive performances since Denard left. When the starting QB went down, the coaches didn’t give the ball to Peppers, Chesson, Butt, Darboh, Higdon, Isaac, or Evans twenty times – they went with the guy who could make yards all by himself. Deveon MFing Smith.

          I think you should consider, objectively, how nuts your take is here. I get that you don’t like Smith but this is off the rails.

          • Thunder
            Comments: 3785
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Sep 03, 2020 at 7:59 AM

            Wait…above, when I asked for your criteria, you said that all-conference honors matter.

            Now I used them.

            And you’re still arguing, because all-conference honors don’t work out in Smith’s favor. In 2015, voters thought the usual suspects (Elliott, Barkley, etc.) were better, but they also voted in Josh Ferguson of Illinois and Jordan Canzeri of Iowa. In 2014, when there were just 2 all-conference teams, it was Tevin Coleman, Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah, and David Cobb.

            It’s not just teams like Ohio State and PSU and Wisconsin. It’s teams like Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa who have backs that were deemed better than Smith. This isn’t coming from me. I don’t have a vote. This is an OBJECTIVE resource, just like the NFL draft. It’s not me using silly stats like “yards” and “yards per carry” to show my point.

            And you still won’t accept it.

            But I’m the one whose take is “nuts.”

            (P.S. Yes, Smith had a great game against Indiana. He was the starter for three years. If anyone starts for three years, he should have a signature game.)

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3785
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 01, 2020 at 4:38 PM

      I will let you do the research on all-conference honors at each position.

      I agree that Jeremy Gallon was an excellent college player, and Michael Cox was not. I never said Cox was, or that Gallon wasn’t. Comparatively, what I always said was that Cox should have been playing MORE than he was.

      The irony is that Michigan rid themselves (in various ways) of the guys who would make the most impact in the NFL, such as Rawls, Cox, A.J. Dillon, etc.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6182
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        Lanknows
        Sep 02, 2020 at 4:57 PM

        Those guys played in the NFL but I would not say Cox or Rawls made an impact in the NFL.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6182
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 02, 2020 at 9:31 PM

        You were wrong about Cox. He spent 4 years getting beaten out at Michigan and he was not a productive or impressive back afterwards.

        You were wrong about Isaac. He was beaten out at Michigan every season, the NFL has zero interest, and he wasn’t given playing time in his short-lived minor league career either.

        You were wrong about Shaw – who you argued should play over Vincent Smith yet two very different coaching staffs elected to do otherwise.

        It’s OK – predictions are hard, but to continue to insist after the fact that you are right when the evidence is abundantly clear that you are not is delusional. To continue to hate on the guys like V.Smith and D.Smith because they beat out your personal faves, it’s just tasteless.

        Watch this: Wilton Speight wasn’t a very good quarterback and I was wrong to insist that he was clearly on the NFL track. Jeremy Gallon is not going to have an excellent NFL career. Don Brown can be beaten on the ground. Freddie Canteen did in fact not win 4 heismans. Tim Duncan is not too robotic he is in fact great, much better than Tyus Edny. See – it’s not hard to admit you are wrong. You don’t have to hold on to your bad predictions forever. Let those go or you risk clouding your ability to reason.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6182
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 02, 2020 at 9:46 PM

        I don’t know if Smith is the best back to play at Michigan in the last 20 years — but he might be.

        Most, including me, lean to Hart but Hart had so much more talent around him – and he did nothing in the NFL also. It’s a sentimental pick for his likability. Smith meanwhile played behind some of the worst OLs in Michigan history and still produced. Others might say Toussaint – but Fitz went as the offense went. I tracked his downward YPC trajectory above. He never had a great performance like Smith or Biakabatuka did where the team rode him to victory. And the one year Fitz and Smith overlapped, Smith had a higher YPC. Both of them beat out Thomas Rawls. Smith also beat out Higdon among others.

        Bottomline is that none of the backs were special in the way that Denard, Peppers, Howard, Woodson, Bush, Long were special, but all of these guys were pretty good college players. You can try to parse out who is better than the other but the argument is easy to counter.

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