U-M OC Borges goes to the two-back approach
This story originally published on GoBlueWolverine.com
Fitzgerald Toussaint
Posted Nov 8, 2012

The Michigan offense used a two-back approach in their win at Minnesota 35-13 last Saturday. Wolverine offensive coordinator Al Borges talked about the two back system, as the Maize & Blue offense tried to sustain the loss of star quarterback Denard Robinson rushing production.

Michigan Offensive Coordinator Al Borges has always stated that he would like base the Wolverine offense around a “feature” back.

Last Saturday that wasn’t the case, as Michigan featured a running back by committee approach, as junior Fitzgerald Toussaint and sophomore Thomas Rawls split the carries in Michigan’s 35-13 romp over Minnesota. The two backs combined for 29 carries for a 113 yards and two touchdowns.

The new offensive philosophy was largely due to the Wolverine offense not having star quarterback Denard Robinson, who was injured with an nerve injury in his throwing arm sustained at Nebraska the week prior. Robinson had led the Michigan rushing attack with 946 yards through the first eight games, good for a 118.2 avg.

So Borges implemented a two-back system to replace Robinson’s rushing production. And it was a mild success, as the Michigan offense rushed for 155 yards on 41 carries with three rushing scores at Minnesota. Toussaint would finish with 13 carries for 70 yards and touchdown and Rawls had 16 carries for 40 yards and a score.

Overall, the Wolverines have rushed for a 200.9 avg. through nine games, good for fourth in the Big Ten.

While the running game wasn’t at its peak against the Gophers, Borges said the two back approach will continue into the future.

“We want to give these two kids a chance to continue to do what we are doing for the most part,” Borges said. “And see which guy is running hot. But give them enough carries to find out. You know what I mean. That was a good thing about this last game. We didn’t get a ton of yards, although we weren’t terrible. We rushed respectfully I’ll say—not great. But the tailbacks got the ball. They got a chance to carry the ball some . And you know for obvious reasons—our quarterback situation with the health situation quarterback—the tailbacks have to carry more of the load in that situation.”

Toussaint had been the Wolverines lead back for the past two seasons, and rushed for 1,041 yards in 2011. This season has been a different situation for Toussaint, as he’s struggled with just 391 yards rushing in eight games. He said he knew about the two back offense going into Minnesota and says it has benefited him by staying more fresh during games.

“We already knew what we were going to do, we were going to split the carries,” Toussaint said on the running situation. “We were going to run the ball a little more. I kind of think that helps me a little more.

“I say it has to do something with being a little more fresh. Plus those guys going out there and seeing me do it out there, it makes them a better football player too. It actually makes me a better football player, watching and seeing what they get.”

Coach Brady Hoke says he like the attitude the two runners have displayed thus far.

“I think they both have done a pretty good job when they've gotten in there,” Hoke explained. “I think they both have -- when there's been times where there's been enough space, you know, they both have run hard and run downhill. We may have missed two or three cuts last week, but I like how their attitude is, running the football."

Moving forward, Toussaint says he will embrace splitting carries with Rawls. He says he can only focus on himself and keep improving.

“I feel like there is always room to get better. I mean, I ran pretty decent, but I am still not satisfied. You still got to keep getting hungry every week.”

We will find out how things to this week when Michigan (6-3, 4-1 Big Ten) plays host to Northwestern (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) Saturday at noon.

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