|Stephen Hopkins tries to break a tackle against Bowling Green State|
Recently I asked the question: Who will be Michigan’s starting running back in 2011?
29% – Stephen Hopkins
28% – Michael Cox
18% – Michael Shaw
10% – Thomas Rawls
6% – Fitzgerald Toussaint
4% – Justice Hayes
2% – Vincent Smith
Some of this voting seems a bit dubious. First of all, if you’re a frequent reader, you know that I’m a fan of Michael Cox’s running ability. You’ve heard reasons why he didn’t play much the past couple seasons (couldn’t learn the plays, fumbled in practice, etc.). But you’ve also seen me make a case for why his in-game production (8.9 yards a carry, frequent big plays) warrants a longer look. Cox supposedly had a class conflict with some afternoon practices this spring, which caused him to miss some practice time. That has reportedly hurt him in the eyes of the coaches, which doesn’t make any damn sense at all. I guess student-athletes who get punished for missing classes (they have to push a 45-pound weight plate up and down the field 15 times) ought to . . . miss classes and become athlete-students if they want to get on the field.
I can see why Hopkins would be the leading vote-getter because, after all, he was able to attend every single one of the spring practices, and that made the coaches happy. Yet he averaged 4.1 yards a carry in 2010 (the lowest average on the team) and I didn’t see a single impressive run in spring practices or in the spring game. Of course, all the Youtube clips and highlights don’t encapsulate everything a kid accomplishes over 15 practices, but one would think that a starting running back would have at least a couple highlight-worthy runs.
Shaw is another guy who seems to have been knocked down a peg or two because he had a broken hand and wore a cast for most of the spring. He’s perpetually injured but when he plays, he looks good.
The other vote-getter I take issue with is Justice Hayes. With all the options available, 4% of voters chose Hayes. I don’t see how a 182 lb. incoming freshman is going to unseat a bunch of bigger, faster, and (in my opinion) better backs. But especially when one considers that he received double the amount of votes as last year’s starter Vincent Smith, something’s wrong here. I guess a bunch of Justice’s family members must have been visiting this website over the past week.
Overall, I don’t see how one can justify playing Hopkins over two guys who put up good numbers last year (Cox averaged 9.3 yards a pop; Shaw averaged 5.4 and had 9 touchdowns), but it’s a new coaching staff, a new offensive system, and I guess anything can happen.
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