Michigan Wolverines: Anthony Thomas

Region Series Quick Hits: Southeast 

June, 13, 2013
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Quick Hits is a look at the must-know facts for each region in regards to Michigan and its football recruiting efforts. It will give you an idea of the Wolverines’ history in that region, as well as what one can expect from that region over the next few seasons.

SOUTHEAST

Fresh ideas: Running backs 

May, 31, 2013
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Can a true freshman really contribute at the college level? Is it easier to do so at one position than another? Over the next two months WolverineNation will be breaking down the probabilities of playing time and projections of the Wolverines’ freshmen, position-by-position. Today, we continue with running backs.

What it takes for a true freshman running back to play:


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Derrick Green is in the spot Anthony Thomas once inhabited, the role Michael Hart once played and one that has been played by many other running backs down the line.

They came to Michigan as freshmen and starred right away. The next guy potentially in line to do that is Green, the No. 5 running back in his class and the Wolverines’ highest-rated recruit this past recruiting cycle.

He has one other advantage as well -- he’s the guy chasing everyone else, from incumbent starter Fitzgerald Toussaint, who is coming off injury, to a gaggle of other running backs searching for time this fall.

[+] EnlargeMike Hart
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesEven Mike Hart, who ran for nearly 1,500 yards as a freshman in 2004, had to wait a couple of games before becoming Michigan's go-to back.
“It’s always better to be the young guy,” Thomas said. “You don’t want to be the guy with the young guy behind you, always on your heels. You want to be the person who is pushing the other guy.”

So how can Green -- or fellow freshmen Deveon Smith or Wyatt Shallman -- push enough to where he wins the job? There are a few ways. It doesn’t hurt that, of all the positions on the offense, the Wolverines have the longest history of playing freshman running backs.

And it’s not like stepping in as a quarterback or a lineman.

“Running back is the easiest position to transition to in college, playing as a freshman,” said Hart, who ran for 1,455 yards his first year. “I say that because if you’re a good running back, you just run the ball. You break tackles.

“You don’t teach kids how to break tackles. Transitioning, as far as just running the ball, is not hard. But the mental aspect is what slows guys down. If they can’t come in and learn the offense, they are not going to be able to play. But from an athletic standpoint, it is the easiest position to transition to.”

Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has a strategy to deflect any mental issues which might arise. Instead of having his young backs handle everything early, he takes a similar approach to what one might take with a quarterback.

Everything in sections. Nothing too overwhelming too fast. If anything, Borges becomes more cautious with how much he drops on his freshmen because he’d rather have them wanting more than attempting to know too much.

“Teach him the run game and then teach him the pass game in pieces so you can then be functional as you go,” Borges said. “You can play a freshman running back as long as you don’t inundate him with so much information that it becomes disinformation, you know.

“But I’ve had a bunch of tailbacks come in and play as freshmen and didn’t give them too much. But by the fifth, sixth game of the season, they could handle all of it. Very few could handle it in game one.”

One could argue that was the case even with Hart, the sole Michigan freshman to rush for more than 1,000 yards. Hart received three carries late in his debut against Miami (Ohio) in 2004. The next week, he had five carries against Notre Dame.

It wasn’t until his third game where he received 25 carries against San Diego State where he really took hold of the position. He would carry the ball less than 20 times in a game only one more time that season -- against Ohio State.

In some ways, the same thing happened to Thomas. He had only nine carries in his first game against Colorado in 1997. The next week was his breakout performance, with 122 yards on 21 carries against Baylor.

So it takes some time to adjust.

“You have to have several things,” Thomas said. “You have to have the wits to know you’re going in steady as possible. You have to be able to retain information, be strong enough and be durable.

“You have to be able to do more than one thing at this level. You have to be able to run the ball as a running back but you have to be able to block and catch the ball out of the backfield.”

And the sooner a back handles that, the sooner he will have a true shot at being a featured running back.

Denard Robinson Record Watch 

October, 30, 2012
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Denard Robinson watched from the sidelines Saturday as Michigan lost to Nebraska, 23-9, and there was little he could do about it, being knocked from the game in the first half.

Consequently, Robinson's chase of some records also has taken a major hit -- to the point of eliminating Michigan's career rushing yardage and the Big Ten total yardage marks from this week's watch. In records Robinson could still attain, here is where he stands.

FBS CAREER QUARTERBACK RUSHING YARDS:

1. Pat White, West Virginia (2005-08): 4,480 yards.

  • Total yards Robinson needs to pass White: 306.
  • Average over four regular season games to pass White: 76.5.

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Denard Robinson Record Watch 

October, 23, 2012
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As Denard Robinson continues through his final season at Michigan, the senior quarterback continues to climb among the career leaders at his school, in his conference as well as all of FBS.

Last week, Robinson passed former Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick for third place in career quarterback rushing yards and former Iowa quarterback Chuck Long for seventh place in Big Ten history in career all-purpose yards.

Below is where Robinson stands with records he has a chance -- even if it is remote in some cases -- of setting with anywhere between five and seven games left in his career.

FBS CAREER QUARTERBACK RUSHING YARDS:

1. Pat White, West Virginia (2005-08): 4,480 yards.

  • Total yards Robinson needs to pass White: 352.

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Denard Robinson Record Watch 

October, 16, 2012
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Michigan HuddleSandra Dukes/US PresswireDenard Robinson has four 100-yard rushing games this season, two in which he surpassed 200.
As Denard Robinson continues through his final season at Michigan, the senior quarterback continues to climb among the career leaders at his school, in his conference as well as all of FBS .

Below is where Robinson stands with records he has a chance -- even if it is remote in some cases -- of setting with anywhere between six and eight games left in his career.

FBS CAREER QUARTERBACK RUSHING YARDS:

1. Pat White, West Virginia (2005-08): 4,480 yards.

  • Total yards Robinson needs to pass White: 448.

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Denard Robinson Record Watch 

October, 11, 2012
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Denard RobinsonRick Osentoski/US PresswireWith the all-time QB rushing mark in sight, can Denard Robinson catch Mike Hart atop U-M's rushing list?
As Denard Robinson continues through his final season at Michigan, the senior quarterback continues to climb among the career leaders at his school, in his conference as well as all of FBS .

Robinson is not going to set many, if any, of Michigan’s career passing records, although he could finish third or fourth in most categories. He also could end up among the Big Ten’s top 10 career rushers (Michigan State’s Javon Ringer is 10th with 4,398 yards) and career rushing touchdowns in the Big Ten (Wisconsin’s Billy Marek and Ohio State’s Eddie George are tied for ninth with 44).

Below is where Robinson stands with records he has a chance -- even if it is remote in some cases -- of setting with anywhere between seven and nine games left in his career.

FBS CAREER QUARTERBACK RUSHING YARDS:

1. Pat White, West Virginia (2005-08): 4,480 yards.

  • Total yards Robinson needs to pass White: 576.

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Robinson and the Big Ten record book 

November, 30, 2011
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Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson will likely be at or near the top of the Michigan record book by the time his career is over. He may even snare an NCAA career record.

But what about in the Big Ten? It is possible he'll be in the top 10 in a multitude of categories in the league as well.

Here we break down where he currently stands, who is next on the list what he'd need to average through 14 games to set the record (giving Michigan the benefit of the doubt of reaching a bowl next season but not necessarily the Big Ten championship game), his likeliness to set or tie the record and a guess where he'll eventually end up. This will be career marks only.

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