Name: Thomas Rawls Height: 5’10” Weight: 210 lbs. High school: Northern High School in Flint, MI Position: Running back Class: Freshman Jersey number: #38 Last year: Rawls was a high school senior (commitment post here)
TTB Rating: 68
I’m probably going to take some flak for putting Rawls down here at #56, but that’s okay. There are plenty of people who think Rawls could come in and be the starter, and I have few doubts that he will compete for playing time. For one thing, I think the other running back in the 2011 class, Justice Hayes, is almost a lock to redshirt, and there’s not much chance that two running backs in one class will redshirt at the same time. Rawls’ body is more developed than Hayes’, and without much talent at the fullback position (let’s face it – John McColgan is just a guy), it’s possible that the coaches might want to have a jumbo backfield with sophomore Stephen Hopkins (227 lbs.) and Rawls for short yardage situations.
I also have difficulty seeing Rawls beat out a few upperclassmen, namely Michael Shaw and Michael Cox. Shaw gets injured regularly, and there’s obviously that looming possibility, but he has performed pretty well when able. And my affinity for Cox (pun intended) has been well documented. Aside from those two, the Wolverines have a third down back in junior Vincent Smith and another big back in Hopkins. Other than the aforementioned short yardage situations (which Cox could handle just as easily, in my opinion), I just don’t see a need for Rawls to see the field much this year.
A poster over at Rivals posted the following jersey numbers for the incoming freshmen. I’m not sure how accurate they are, but here’s what he gave:
3 Russell Bellomy
5 Justice Hayes
18 Blake Countess
20 Tamani Carter
21 Raymon Taylor
24 Delonte Holowell
35 Greg Brown
38 Thomas Rawls
40 Antonio Poole
44 Desmond Morgan
45 Matt Wile
52 Kellen Jones
57 Frank Clark
58 Chris Bryant
79 Tony Posada
82 Chris Barnett
92 Keith Heitzman
95 Chris Rock
97 Brennen Beyer
Sorry, I did not get Russell Bellomy (EDIT: Bellomy is #3. Thanks, readers!) or Jack Miller.
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.
Thomas Rawls (with ball) joins the Battles of the Stiff-Arm
Thomas Rawls, a 5’10”, 210 lb. running back from Northern High School in Flint, MI, has committed to Michigan. Rawls played high school ball for the son of running backs coach Fred Jackson. He had long been a Michigan fan and it was well known that he would choose the Wolverines if given an offer. Unfortunately, that took awhile, because his academic success left things a little bit murky. Rawls needed a qualifying score on a recent standardized test to firm up the offer. Once that happened Brady Hoke quickly sent him an official offer.
Rawls is a 3-star recruit to all three major recruiting services. Scout.com ranks him as the #77 running back in the country. He had other offers from Central Michigan, Cincinnati (where he was recruited by former Michigan defensive line coach Steve Stripling), and Toledo. If Rawls hadn’t received the offer from the Wolverines, he most likely would have become a Chippewa.
As a junior Rawls had 138 carries for 1,056 yards and 16 touchdowns. Due to a senior year injury, he only played seven games; however, he still rushed the ball 150 times for 1,582 yards and 18 touchdowns. That’s 10.55 yards per carry and 226 yards per game. He also caught 4 passes for 85 yards and 1 touchdown. As a linebacker, he had 101 tackles as a junior and 37 as a senior.
Rawls definitely has some good qualities. He’s a big kid with thick legs, built powerfully and low to the ground. He has patience and allows blocks to develop in front of him, which also shows good vision to see cutbacks and running lanes. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him as a high school runner is the way he keeps his shoulders facing north and south when he makes his cuts; this allows him to break some tackles that other running backs wouldn’t.
However, as mentioned above, Rawls is only a 3-star prospect to all three services. For some odd reason, Michigan fans think his low star rating is due to his academic difficulties. On the heels of the Demar Dorsey fiasco, I’m not sure how Michigan fans could get that confused about star ratings. Scout, Rivals, and ESPN don’t care about players’ ACT scores. If a kid is a 5-star talent on the field, he could be dumber than a fencepost and still garner a 5-star rating. There are plenty of highly rated kids who go to prep school, junior college, etc. I don’t understand why the scouting services would suddenly be holding an academic grudge against a random kid from Flint.
Many fans want to compare Rawls to Mark Ingram, the Flint product who won the Heisman for Alabama in 2009. Admittedly, Rawls and Ingram have some physical similarities. Both are approximately the same height and even have similar gaits. But Ingram (who was a 4-star recruit) is and was quicker than Rawls. Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady. Grady broke state records for rushing, but he ended his four-year Michigan career in 2009 with 200 career carries for 783 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He simply didn’t have the speed or elusiveness to succeed in the Big Ten; luckily for him, his power got him on the field as a senior . . . at fullback.
Perhaps Rawls can contribute at fullback or in goal line situations at Michigan, but I’m not expecting Rawls to be a star for the Wolverines. I would be glad to be wrong, because he worked hard to get qualified. But he deserves his 3-star rating, and I think he’s more of a role player than a feature back.
Rawls gives Michigan 18 commitments and a second running back (Justice Hayes is the other) in the 2011 class. There are approximately five other players who might announce for Michigan in the coming days – Chris Barnett, Frank Clark, Darian Cooper, Jake Fisher, and Leilon Willingham. According to some insiders, Michigan would take all five if every one of them wanted to commit.