When Michigan Wolverines Head Coach Brady Hoke was able to reel in running back Derrick Green in the 2013 recruiting class, the bells of victory began ringing in Ann Arbor and across the Midwest, signaling what many considered to be Hoke’s signature recruiting snag at the time. But when the 2013 season kicked off, those shouts turned into nervous whispers as Green couldn’t seem to play his way into any game and ended up with only 60 yards through the team’s four-game non-conference slate.
That continued to be a downfall for the Michigan offense the rest of the season. The Wolverines couldn’t seem to get any positive, consistent production from its running backs. Compounding that problem were six losses in Michigan’s final eight games of the season, including a 31-14 thrashing delivered by Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Michigan was very fortunate to receive USC running back transfer Ty Isaac in early June, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be granted immediate eligibility for the 2014 season, meaning Green has to become a more useful member of the Wolverines’ backfield. Without him, most of the duties will rest on the shoulders of fellow sophomore running back De’Veon Smith, who saw very limited action last season. I’m all for Green and Smith splitting the reps this season — do whatever needs to be done — but this offense desperately needs Green to become a tool.
What might Michigan’s offense look like if Green can get his wheels going in the backfield? Well, for starters, Devin Gardner could spend some much needed time standing upright this season, as opposed to be flattened like he was in 2013. And beyond that, we’re talking about the very obvious, but very important: Play-action pass opens up safeties occasionally get sucked in, more one-on-one opportunities are created for receivers, etc. The list of benefits is expansive.
Last season, Green rushed for 170 yards on 83 attempts. Only twice was he able to break 50 yards in a single game (against Central Michigan and Northwestern) and he never received more than 20 carries. Maybe he wasn’t in the best shape, or maybe he felt entitled because of the noise surrounding him. Whatever the diagnosis, 2014 needs to be a wake-up call of a season for Green, and he needs to become a prominent weapon for this Michigan offense.