Michael Shaw has emerged to become Michigan’s starting tailback this season.
It’s a big deal. New head coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges have said all along that in order for Michigan to return to its glory days a dominant back is needed. After three years of running back by committee in a spread offense under previous head coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines are returning to power football and a strong tailback is needed to key the offense.
On Tuesday after practice, Hoke told the media, “if the season were to start today Michael Shaw is the starter.”
Perhaps it wasn’t the most ringing endorsement, but it’s important. All through spring and fall practice Hoke has said the position was “wide open” and said there was real competition going on but no real leader. Now it appears Shaw is the man.
He’s familiar to Michigan fans. Shaw is a 6-1, 195-pound senior from Trotwood, Ohio and went to the same high school as teammate Roy Roundtree. He was third on the Wolverines in rushing last year with 402 yards and nine touchdowns . He had a career-game with 128 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Massachusetts.
Injuries haven’t helped him and has never been able to grasp the starting role, despite starting 10 games in his three-year Michigan career. He has rushed for 802 yard for the Wolverines.
Last year, of course, Denard Robinson was the Big Ten offensive player of the year and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting as a run-first quarterback. This year Robinson is expected to pass more and leave Shaw to do much of the running.
We’ll see. Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo says the Wolverines may scrap that plan and let Robionson continue to run wild this season. But Michigan desperately wants a running back other than Robinson to emerge and right now all eyes fall on Shaw.
He’s a upright, strong running back and Hoke mentioned he has improved on his pass blocking and has gained 10 pounds in offseason workouts.
Many thought Fitzgerald Toussaint would grab the role and others in consideration included Stephen Hopkins, Vincent Smith, Mike Cox and incoming freshmen Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes.
They should all play a role this year but right now the spotlight is on Shaw. How he plays could well determine Michigan’s fate this year, along with questions about the Wolverines defense.
Michigan’s season begins on Sept. 3 against Western Michigan at the Big House. The 3:30 p.m. game will be telecast regionally on ABC/ESPN.
For more info: mgoblue, annarbor.com, Detroit Free Press