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March 19, 2013

By the numbers: Michigan true freshman backs have not produced

Over the past five years, Rivals.com's 21 five-star running backs have averaged 528.9 yards per season as true freshmen, however, Michigan's four five-star ball carriers (since 1997) have averaged only 327.3 yards per player.

  • Over the past 16 years, since the "star" system was first introduced, Michigan has signed 36 tailbacks that enrolled and survived at least one year at U-M. Only four - Anthony Thomas in 1996, Justin Fargas in 1998, Kelly Baraka in 2001 and Kevin Grady in 2005 - were five-star talents, while the Wolverines have signed 16 four-stars and 16 three-stars during that time.

  • Among the four five-stars, three played as true freshmen (Baraka was suspended), and those three averaged 436.3 yards per rookie campaign, however, including Baraka, the average dips to 327.3.

  • Four of Michigan's 16 four-star running backs redshirted and the 12 that saw action as rookies averaged 169.7 yards per man for the season. Among all 16, the average dips to 127.3 yards per player.

  • Finally, finishing up with the three-stars, 11 would redshirt in their first year, and the five that played - thanks in large part to Mike Hart's 1,455-yard freshman campaign - averaged 406.2 yards per man. With all 16 in the fold, that average falls to 126.9.

  • The 36 running backs overall have averaged just 149.3 yards per man per freshman season, though that figure rises to 336.0 among the 16 that played as rookies.

  • Derrick Green's situation is not entirely unlike the majority of the 36 backs of the last 16 years. Of those 36, 26 arrived with an experienced runner of at least 1,000 career rushing yards, as fifth-year senior Fitz Toussaint will boast in 2013 (1,642). Those 26 would average just 105.8 yards per player as rookies, 211.5 yards for the 13 that saw the field.

    Thus, 10 players walked into situations where there was not a 1,000-yard (career) ball carrier on the roster, and in those situations, the first-year running backs averaged 262.6 yards or 375.1 among the seven that played as true freshmen.

  • What does this all mean? Maybe nothing for Green and De'Veon Smith as trends are always changing in college football. However, if Toussaint is healthy enough to play early in the season, it is unlikely that either Green or Smith will emerge option No. 1 in the ground attack, and more likely they will not put up big numbers.

    Running Back
    Year
    Star
    Yards
    Returning Leading Rusher (Career)
    Patrick McCall
    1997
    Four
    41
    Clarence Williams (1,064)
    Anthony Thomas

    Five
    549

    Walter Cross
    1998
    Four
    145
    Clarence Williams (1,340)
    Julius Curry

    Three
    RS

    Justin Fargas

    Five
    277

    B.J. Askew
    1999
    Three
    70
    Anthony Thomas (1,442)
    Ryan Beard

    Three
    RS

    Brent Cummings

    Four
    RS

    Charles Drake

    Four
    13

    Jon Shaw

    Three
    RS

    Tim Bracken
    2000
    Three*
    RS
    Anthony Thomas (2,244)
    Chris Perry

    Four
    417

    Kelly Baraka
    2001
    Five
    RS
    Chris Perry (417)
    David Underwood

    Four
    108

    Darnell Hood
    2002
    Four
    RS
    B.J. Askew (1,012)
    Pierre Rembert

    Three
    RS

    Anton Campbell
    2003
    Three
    RS
    Chris Perry (2,022)
    Jerome Jackson

    Four
    187

    Michael Hart
    2004
    Three
    1,455
    David Underwood (483)
    Max Martin

    Four
    132

    Kevin Grady
    2005
    Five
    483
    Michael Hart (1,455)
    Mister Simpson

    Three
    RS

    Carlos Brown
    2006
    Four
    41
    Michael Hart (2,117)
    Brandon Minor

    Four
    238

    Avery Horn
    2007
    Three
    RS
    Michael Hart (3,679)
    Michael Cox
    2008
    Three
    RS
    Brandon Minor (623)
    Sam McGuffie

    Four
    486

    Michael Shaw

    Four
    215

    Teric Jones
    2009
    Three
    RS
    Brandon Minor (1,156)
    Vincent Smith

    Three
    276

    Fitz Toussaint

    Four
    RS

    Stephen Hopkins
    2010
    Three
    151
    Michael Shaw (400)
    Justice Hayes
    2011
    Four
    RS
    Vincent Smith (877)
    Thomas Rawls

    Three
    79

    Drake Johnson
    2012
    Three
    RS
    Fitz Toussaint (1,128)
    Dennis Norfleet

    Four
    13

    *Bracken was listed as a one-star but has been reclassified as a three-star.



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