It’s been just a few short months since newly hired Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier was brought in by Head Coach Brady Hoke to run his offense, but it seems to be paying dividends already.
Now, the Michigan Wolverines seem to be adjusting to the power-running game just fine, and have even said that it is much simpler to learn. Nussmeier has made a living off of the stable of running backs he had while coaching at the University of Alabama, and looks to replicate that success with De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green. Two RBs that have a load of potential, who just a year ago would not see a steady workload until late in the year, look to build on the momentum they had at year’s end.
Green was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, and was, by many sites and scouts, dubbed the Nation’s number one running back recruit. He came into his Freshman season overweight, and looked like he was not in football shape. He had just 83 carries for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns in his Freshman campaign, but will now be the back that gets majority of the carries for the Wolverines. He has the physical build to withstand a grueling season, it will be up to him, and quite frankly the offensive line, to live up to the high expectations of Wolverine Nation.
Smith had far less attention during his recruitment, but has been a gem since he stepped on campus in Ann Arbor. He totaled 117 yards on just 26 carries in 2013, but he showed, in spurts, that he could be a nice addition to the offense. They may not be numbers that fly out of the statsheet, but the are encouraging, given the portion.
Michigan has been looking for a running back that they could lean on ever since Fitzgerald Toussaint last rushed for 1,011 yards in 2011. Toussaint was nearly a non-factor in the offense in 2013, but then again, so was Michigan’s offense as a whole. Toussaint is now an alumnus of the university, so it will be a “next man up” mentality for Green and company.
The focus has been shifted to the run game now, but let’s not forget that Michigan has weapons elsewhere, too. At Wide Receiver, they have Drake Harris, Freddy Canteen, Moe Ways, Amara Darboh, and potentially Devin Funchess. There are big-play potential players on that list, and should be able to make up for the numbers that Jeremy Gallon had last year in a breakout season.
At Quarterback, they still have Devin Gardner, which is great news regardless of how people felt about his 2013 season. Many people blamed Gardner for the failures on offense in 2013, but do not realize that he was just 40 yards shy of eclipsing 3,000 yards passing, and totaled 21 touchdowns through the air; He also totaled 483 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing. Those numbers did not happen by accident, and let us also remember that he did so while running for his life. Gardner is more than capable of handling the starting QB position, and he should be the starter, but that’s a conversation for another day.
It will be a run-first offense, but Nussmeier will know what he has by the time fall practices roll around. He is an intelligent coach, and has a good reputation around the country, and has groomed some big time talent, most notably AJ McCarron. There was a stretch in 2011-12 where McCarron threw 291 straight passes without an interception, so that should make Michigan fans extremely happen considering Gardner did have 11 interceptions last season. Limiting Gardner’s turnovers is key for this offense.
In 2014, the expectations will be higher than in 2013, so many are looking for this year to be the year Michigan represents the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, so the offense will need to click. It will not be easy to live up to those expectations, especially after finishing 7-6 last season, but as Hoke said when he was introduced, “This is Michigan,” so he will have to live up to his words, for God’s sake.