Michigan Football: Can Al Borges Make Wolverines' Backfield into Auburn 2.0?
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Those Auburn Tigers sure had it made when running backs Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown were on the prowl.
Both first-round picks of the 2005 NFL Draft, Williams and Brown electrified SEC competition by way of a potent, 1-2 punch that put linebackers on their heels and threw cornerbacks and safeties out of their comfort zone.
Tackling speedsters like Williams and tanks like Brown was no easy task for sub-6'0," 200-pound defensive backs.
Who was behind the magic for the Tigers?
Can Al Borges restore Michigan's ground game by mimicking what he did at Auburn?
It was none other than Al Borges, who engineered a spectacular Auburn backfield in 2004 before taking on offensive coordinator duties at Michigan in 2011.
Now that Borges has a few SEC-like backs of his own to manipulate, the Wolverines' stable of rushing talent could be similar to what the Tigers had just a handful of years ago. Borges could have an Auburn 2.0 on his hands with incoming freshmen Derrick Green and Deveon Smith, along with soon-to-be junior Thomas Rawls.
Comparing Brown and Cadillac to What Michigan Has Today
Williams, the fifth pick of the 2005 draft, rushed for 1,165 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior year at Auburn. He was already a 1,000-yard rusher prior to Al Borges' arrival, but it took the emergence of Ronnie Brown in 2004 to really complete the puzzle.
Brown, the second pick of the 2005 draft, rushed for 913 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior year, running side-by-side with Cadillac as the larger bulldozer.
In college, both were about 6'0" and 220 pounds, very similar in size to what Al Borges has at Michigan with Thomas Rawls (5'10", 218 pounds), Derrick Green (6'0", 230 pounds) and Deveon Smith (5'11", 220).
Who would you like to see as UM's leading tandem?
Like Auburn and other SEC programs today, Michigan was once revered for hard-nosed running backs that carried out a physical running style. With persistence, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke will revive that tradition by creating an SEC-like program (or an old-school Michigan program) one class at a time.
Rawls has been compared to Mark Ingram, another Flint native with a solid frame. As a sophomore, Rawls showed the Maize and Blue faithful that he could run over—literally run over—just about any linebacker in the Big Ten.
When the Wolverines were forced to face the music on third down, Rawls came through more times than not, rushing for 89 yards on 11 carries, including a 63-yard touchdown.
Expectations are high for Rawls entering this fall.
Green committed to Michigan a week ago as the nation's No. 1 running back, according to Rivals.com. Other recruiting sites have him listed from No. 1 to No. 3 or 4. Either way, the Hermitage High (Va.) 5-star standout has the aptitude and ability to deliver the goods.
Smith could be the complementing addition to either a Rawls or Green-led Wolverines ground force. Either that, or he could don the red shirt, sit back, learn and be primed for action in 2014.
Comparing Borges' current package of ball-carriers to Brown and Williams isn't a stretch. However, keep in mind that the pair formed one of the most dynamic 1-2 combinations in SEC history. Expecting that much from Rawls, Green (and possibly Smith) may seem like wishful thinking.
But it's not impossible, given the development of Michigan's offensive line and incoming recruits that are sure to dominate the trenches in the next couple of years.
Replicating the same type of wondrous pair will be a task for Borges, but he has the necessary tools at his disposal to, at the very least, piece together something like he had at Auburn during his glory years as an offensive guru.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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