Review of 2009 Recruiting: Running Back

Tag: Vincent Smith

12May 2021
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Review of 2009 Recruiting: Running Back

Fitzgerald Toussaint (image via Toledo Blade)

The 2009 recruiting class was Rich Rodriguez’s first full recruiting class in Ann Arbor, and he brought in some diminutive running backs whose quickness and speed he thought could be successful in the Big Ten. The three backs he landed were all between 5’7″ and 5’10” (some measurements even had Vincent Smith at 5’6″), and he targeted some tiny slot/running back combo guys, too.


  • Kevin Grady (RS Sr.)
  • Carlos Brown (Sr.)
  • Brandon Minor (Sr.)
  • Michael Shaw (So.)
  • Michael Cox (RS Fr.)


Teric Jones
Ratings: 3-star, #46 RB, #469 overall
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: N/A
Scoop: Jones committed to Michigan after a weekend visit on which he was offered. It was his first and only offer of the recruiting process. Known as a speedster, he never really showed it off at Michigan. Playing special teams and some defensive back, he made 9 tackles as a freshman in 2009. Then in 2010 at running back, he notched 3 carries for 7 yards. He quit football after that but remained at Michigan as a student.

Vincent Smith
Ratings: 3-star, #49 RB, #508 overall
High school: Pahokee (FL) Pahokee
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: Tennessee, Wisconsin
Scoop: Smith was listed at 5’7″ and 159 lbs. during the recruiting cycle, but that didn’t stop some big programs from offering him. He ran for over 2,000 yards and scored 29 touchdowns as a high school senior. He was the #3 option as a freshman, but jumped to #1 at running back in 2010 when quarterback Denard Robinson was the primary running option. Smith was a willing blocker despite a lack of size. Overall, he ran 272 times for 1,269 yards (4.7 yards/carry) and 10 touchdowns, caught 46 passes for 435 yards and 7 touchdowns, and even threw a touchdown pass. He went undrafted in 2013 and did not play in the NFL.

Fitzgerald Toussaint
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #8 all-purpose back, #239 overall
High school: Youngstown (OH) Liberty
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: Illinois, Pitt, West Virginia
Scoop: Until the recent drafting of Chris Evans, Toussaint was Michigan’s best pro prospect since Mike Hart graduated following the 2007 season. After redshirting in 2009 due to an injury, he was once again limited in 2010, running just 6 times for 87 yards and 1 touchdown. He became a great 1-2 running punch with Denard Robinson in 2011, when Toussaint had a career-best 1,056 rushing yards on 5.6 yards/carry with 9 touchdowns. For his college career, he ran 510 times for 2,290 yards (4.5 yards/carry) and 28 touchdowns, adding 31 catches for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was not drafted in 2014, but he signed with the Ravens and then the Steelers as an undrafted free agent. His NFL career lasted four seasons and saw him run 44 times for 137 yards, adding 8 catches for 69 yards.

Hit the jump for a look at the rest of Michigan’s quarterback recruiting efforts in 2009.

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17Aug 2020
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Ranking Michigan’s Running Backs

Tim Biakabutuka

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I went through the process of ranking Michigan’s quarterbacks (LINK), which created a lot of debate. This has been in the works for a long time, but here’s a look at my ranking of running backs, going back to the beginning of the Lloyd Carr era.

To be considered for this list, a running back must have started at least ten games in a Michigan uniform*, which roughly equals one full season’s worth of starts with some wiggle room for being banged up a little bit.

*There are two exceptions to this for different reasons, which you’ll see in the post.

Hit the jump.

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8Jan 2013
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Vincent Smith, #2

Vincent Smith (#2) had his best career game as a true freshman against Delaware State

Smith went to Pahokee (FL) Pahokee, a football talent factory that has also sent Richard Ash and Brandin Hawthorne to Michigan.  Smith committed to Michigan on August 29, 2008, over offers from Minnesota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, among others.  He was a 3-star to both major sites, the #36 RB to Rivals, and the #102 RB to Scout.  For his high school career, he ran for 4,677 yards and 58 touchdowns, including 2,000+ yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior.

Smith enrolled early in January 2009, along with several other freshmen.  He started earning some buzz in spring practices as a potential contributor.  As a true freshman, Smith had 48 carries for 276 yards and 1 touchdown, along with 10 receptions for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns; 166 of those rushing yards came in the dismantling of Delaware State, which would be his best statistical performance throughout his career.  He became a starter in his 2010 sophomore campaign, when he rushed 136 times for 601 yards and 5 touchdowns; he also caught 15 passes for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Smith tore his ACL against Ohio State at the end of the season, but he recovered in time for the following season and avoided a medical redshirt year.  Displaced as a junior by Fitzgerald Toussaint, Smith became a third-down back.  He ran 50 times for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns, also catching 11 passes for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns.  As a senior in 2012, Smith continued his role as a backup; he rushed 32 times for 88 yards and 2 touchdowns and caught 9 passes for 65 yards and 1 touchdown.

266 carries, 1263 yards, 4.7 yards/carry, 10 touchdowns; 45 receptions, 426 yards, 9.5 yards/catch, 7 touchdowns; 8 kickoff returns, 141 yards, 17.6 yards/return; 1/3 passing, 17 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception; 7 tackles


Smith was a four-year contributor at Michigan, who had an impact in many ways.  Perhaps the best part of his game was his pass protection from the running back position, despite being just 5’6″ and around 175 lbs.  He stoned many defenders, perhaps all of whom were bigger than him, and was a key reason that quarterback Denard Robinson put up such jaw-dropping statistics as a runner.  There was a short time in 2009 where I thought Smith might develop into Rich Rodriguez’s next impact running back, but that didn’t last long.  He never developed the ability to break tackles, and his vision and elusiveness were just okay.  He was quick enough to make people miss in one-on-one situations, but struggled when asked to run inside.

. . . his 21-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass against Notre Dame in 2011, which helped Michigan come back for a 35-31 victory.

Many people have compared Smith to Darren Sproles throughout his career, but Sproles was faster, stronger, and more elusive.  Due to a lack of production and a lack of size, I do not expect Smith to get drafted or latch on with an NFL team beyond perhaps a training camp invitation.

25Dec 2012
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Running Backs Preview: Michigan vs. South Carolina

Denard Robinson should start at tailback for Michigan

Starter: Redshirt junior Fitzgerald Toussaint, a two-year starter, broke his leg against Iowa and will miss the bowl game.  The person who should start at the running back is senior Denard Robinson (6’0″, 197 lbs.), even if he is able to throw the ball a little.  Robinson has run the ball 154 times for 1,166 yards this season (7.6 yards/carry) and scored 7 touchdowns.  In the two games since returning from his elbow injury, he has played a good deal of running back and totaled 220 yards on 23 carries (9.6 yards/carry) and 1 touchdown.  Redshirt freshman Joe Kerridge (6’0″, 244 lbs.) starts at fullback but rarely touches the ball, notching just 1 reception for 12 yards on the season.
Backups: Sophomore Thomas Rawls (5’10”, 218 lbs.) has been the main backup to Toussaint throughout the year.  He carried the ball 57 times for 242 yards (4.2 yards/carry) and 4 touchdowns.  He lacks some speed and vision, and he doesn’t run as physically as one would expect from a back with his heft.  Senior Vincent Smith (5’6″, 175 lbs.) has been forced into action in situations that don’t fit his skills; he has carried the ball 32 times for 88 yards (2.8 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns.  His biggest strength is as a receiver out of the backfield, where he has caught 9 passes for 65 yards and 1 touchdown.  Little used redshirt freshman Justice Hayes (5’10”, 183 lbs.) amassed 83 yards on 16 carries (5.2 yards/carry) and 1 touchdown in blowout wins over Illinois and UMass.

Starter: Much like Michigan, South Carolina will be missing its starting tailback (junior Marcus Lattimore, who has decided to leave early for the NFL Draft) due to a leg injury.  I have always thought Lattimore was overrated as a college running back, but he was the best the Gamecocks had.  His absence leaves the job to fifth year senior Kenny Miles (5’9″, 193 lbs.), who ran the ball 99 times for 358 yards (3.6 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns.  He also has 16 receptions for 168 yards (10.5 yards/reception), so he’s a threat out of the backfield, too.
Backups: Freshman Mike Davis (5’9″, 216 lbs.) has been very effective for a third-stringer with 52 carries for 275 yards (5.3 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns.  No other player has notched more than 5 carries this season.

The true running backs on these two teams are not very impressive.  Nobody on Michigan’s team seems to have much of a chance to turn into a star, and the best prospect on either squad appears to be Gamecocks freshman Davis.  However, the most dynamic player is converted quarterback Robinson, who has the ability to break a big run at any given time.
Advantage: Michigan

27Nov 2012
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Michigan vs. Ohio State Awards

Denard Robinson broke these tackles in his way to a 67-yard touchdown

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Denard Robinson.  Robinson carried the ball just 4 times in the second half.  If the coaches aren’t going to trust him to throw the ball at all, then he needs to run it.  Michigan has no runners who are capable of being dynamic except Robinson.  I would like to see Robinson make a full-time switch to running back for the bowl game, because Fitzgerald Toussaint has a broken leg and the other guys just can’t do the job.  Robinson won’t play quarterback in the NFL, so it’s not like he needs the stage of the bowl game to show off his skills.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Vincent Smith.  This goes hand in hand with the usage of Robinson, but Smith can’t be an every-down back.  The Michigan coaches should have learned that by now.  Al Borges tried to slam him up the middle with a weak interior line, and Smith went nowhere.  Throw him some screens and run the inverted veer with him, but don’t line him up in the “I” and expect to gain yards on the ground.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Frank Clark.  Clark was in the doghouse during the offseason, and he’s not the most disciplined player on the field.  But Clark is superior to Brennen Beyer in almost every other way.  The kid bats down passes, puts pressure on the quarterback, and makes plays.  Unless the coaches are still working out the issues of Clark’s off-season troubles, Clark needs to be the starting weakside end.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Joe Bolden.  I’ve said it before, but Bolden’s just not ready for these big-time games.  He took a couple bad angles on Saturday and missed some tackles.  I do believe that he’ll be a solid player in the future, but the game’s just moving too fast for him right now.  He’s a perfect example of why freshman linebackers should redshirt.

Play of the game . . . Denard Robinson’s 67-yard touchdown run.  While the Wolverines trotted out Robinson at quarterback with a minute and some change left, it seemed as though Michigan was going to be happy with the status quo going into halftime.  He couldn’t beat Ohio State with his arm and everyone knew it.  He took the snap, went left, and gained a chunk of yards.  On the next play, he took the snap, faked a handoff, and then gave three blockers time to get out in front of him to the right.  He burst past his blockers, withstood two Buckeye tacklers who tried to crunch him between themselves, stumbled, and then outran everyone for a 67-yard touchdown that put Michigan up by 7 points.  Of course, Ohio State drove down and kicked a field goal before the half, but that was still a four-point swing in the right direction for Michigan.

MVP of the game . . . Jake Ryan.  Ryan didn’t score any touchdowns, but he filled up the stat sheet on the defensive side of the ball and did a good job of mostly hemming in OSU quarterback Braxton Miller.  Ryan finished the day with 9 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles.  Michigan still had a chance to win the game because the defense kept them in it, and Ryan was the best defensive player on the field.