On the beat: The days of a 1,000-yard Michigan running back may be gone

Watching Fred Jackson celebrate Virginia Tech’s win Sunday night with his son, Josh, made me think of all the running backs Jackson coached from 1992 to 2014 at Michigan.

Tim Biakabutuka. Chris Perry. Tyrone Wheatley. Mike Hart … to name a few bell cow running backs.

Those were the days of Michigan football, right?

Those names forced another thought: Michigan hasn’t had a 1,000-yard running back since 2011, when Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for 1,041 yards on 187 carries.

Sure, quarterback Denard Robinson dominated Michigan’s offense for three years, leading Michigan in rushing yardage and becoming the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks (a record that was broken by Navy’s Keenan Reynolds in 2015).

But Ty Isaac’s 114 rushing yards on 11 carries Saturday in Michigan’s 33-17 win against Florida made some long for the days of the No. 1 running back.

Then again, so did Chris Evans’ performance in Michigan’s 2016 season opener; Evans ran for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 63-3 rout of Hawaii, and appeared to be in prime position to run for 1,000 yards. Instead, Michigan opted to maximize the strengths of all four of its running backs (Isaac, Evans, De’Veon Smith and Karan Higdon) in 2016, and had one of its most productive rushing seasons in the last five years.

Is the prototypical No. 1 Michigan running back going the way of the dinosaur? Was Isaac’s play against Florida simply a right-place, right-time byproduct? Or will we see another carousel in the backfield this season?

When asked Monday if Michigan would continue to rotate its running backs, much as it did last season, Isaac said that he believed that to be the case. First-year Michigan running backs coach Jay Harbaugh said he aims for his interchangeable running backs, because that way, it will be less predictable for defenses to prepare for whom they will face. That’s coaching. That’s planning.

If you’re looking for a 1,000-yard rusher at Michigan, you might just have to keep waiting.

The post On the beat: The days of a 1,000-yard Michigan running back may be gone appeared first on Land of 10.

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