The Michigan Wolverines entered last season expecting running back to be a position of strength. Fitzgerald Toussaint was coming off of a 1,000 yard, nine touchdown campaign and Vincent Smith averaged six yards per carry on his 50 touches in 2011. They didn’t live up to their billing as Toussaint struggled to find room behind a mediocre offensive line, managing to gain only 514 yards before going down to a gruesome leg injury in the Wolverines’ 11th game of the season.
Looking ahead to this season, Toussaint returns for his senior year, but he’ll see plenty of competition as he makes his way back from the injury. Junior Thomas Rawls showed glimpses of being a bowling ball type runner, and redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes provides versatility as a receiving threat out of the backfield. The name that most Michigan fans are exciting about is incoming freshman Derrick Green. Green was the number one ranked running back and top ten overall player by both Rivals and Scout and arrives in Ann Arbor with a lot of hype. With that hype comes great expectations and Green will have to prove he’s worthy of those rankings on the field. It shouldn’t take him long as he’ll receive his fair share of carries even with the stable of backs Michigan has returning. He is already built like an NFL player at 6’0 225 lbs., and he moves well laterally and has great speed even at that size.
With the departure of Denard Robinson, the running backs will be the focal point of the Wolverines running game. A revamped offensive line featuring veteran tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield and young but talented linemen along the interior should open up bigger holes than last year allowing Michigan to employ the power run philosophy Brady Hoke envisioned when he became head coach.