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Examining Central Michigan's Running Back Situation

Saylor Lavallii came into his own last year when Zurlon Tipton went down. Who will be Lavallii's supporting cast this year?

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The BBC recently announced that it was coming to Bay City, Michigan to do a report on Question Mark and the Mysterians and their Number 1 hit "96 Tears." Perhaps the BBC ought to make a short trip down M-20 westward to Mt. Pleasant to investigate who will be playing a supporting role for Saylor Lavallii in the Chippewa backfield this year.

Lavallii was terrific last year when he was pressed into the starting role as CMU's lead running back. Even James Bond has his limitations. Lavallii, despite his imposing physical presence, is a dog that likes to hunt on the perimeter. He cut his teeth as a punt returner. His primary instinct is to get to the outside and go in a flash. So, does CMU have a dog that can hunt in thickets and be a compliment to Lavallii as a between-the-tackles back?

Thomas Rawls is not well known by CMU fans. A graduate transfer from the University of Michigan, Rawls recently joined the program and is only eligible this fall. He showed some early promise at Michigan before fading away as an upperclassman. In 2012, Rawls rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns on 57 carries.

Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore has showed early signs of brilliance, too. There is no one on the CMU roster who has more of an upside than this sophomore. Shoemaker-Gilmore has that rare gift of being able to run at full speed and appear to be gliding effortlessly. His 38-yard scoring run against North Carolina State last year was a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, MSG was also fumble prone, and at times looked completely out of sync with the rest of the CMU offense. A backup who has a tendency to cough up the ball and is mistake prone is a liability, rather than an asset regardless of his potential.

Martez Walker would be an interesting complement to Lavallii. The sophomore was given some playing time early last year. However, a poor outing against New Hampshire resulted in the end of Walker's playing time. Walker has redeemed himself with the CMU coaching staff by improving during spring practice. He was given a prominent role in CMU's spring game.

Ideally, senior Anthony Garland would be the perfect choice to compliment Lavallii. Garland saw his playing time cut in 2013 possibly due to finding his way into head coach Dan Enos' doghouse. Garland has the potential to be a dynamic running back. He pushed star Zurlon Tipton for playing time in 2011 and 2012 and had 100 yard rushing games in each year. Garland's 230 pounds would make him a sensible alternative to Lavallii.

If you are a fan of the underdog, freshman Derrick Nash is your player. Nash is already a man among men. Despite battling cancer and receiving chemotherapy, Nash participated in CMU's spring game and made an impact. Head coach Enos indicated that Nash has since put on some needed weight. Sadly, Enos also said that some of Nash's recent blood tests indicate that he may be having some small setbacks. Nash may arguably be Enos' biggest get as a recruiter. Nash led the state of Michigan as a high school senior at Carrollton High School in 2012 with 1,967 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns.

Who is going to do the blocking? At one point this summer, CMU had only junior Christian Conley listed on its roster as a fullback. Conley has an excellent pedigree coming from perennial football powerhouse, Troy Athens. Conley fills out at a healthy 249 pounds and saw some action in CMU's game against UMass. Sophomore Joe Bacci is now listed as a fullback on CMU's roster. Bacci is a converted Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year.

Lavallii has earned his spot as the top dog in CMU's kennel of running backs. In order for Lavallii and CMU to be successful this year, one of the other dogs mentioned in this post is going to have to show that he can hunt as well.


NOTE: We incorrectly listed Matt Zakrzewski as a contender for the fullback position. He is no longer on CMU's roster. The article has been updated to remove that error.