One of the players I’m most excited to see perform this season is running back Derrick Green. I think we can all agree his freshman season wasn’t anything spectacular — it was more disappointing than anything else — but with all the potential he possesses, as well as being equipped with a new offensive coordinator who’s going to look to give him the ball, I don’t think it would be unfair to step out on a limb and demand some hefty results from Green this season.
A factor that will surely have an impact on Green’s production this season will be the status of running back transfer Ty Isaac. Isaac could be granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA, but that doesn’t seem very likely. Not at this point anyway. If Isaac is in fact not immediately eligible, Green’s role in the backfield, as well as every other running back, increases dramatically.
If we were talking about a quarterback — Devin Gardner, for example — sharing playing time, I’d say his expectations drop because he isn’t necessarily the highlight of the offense and there is an easy out. In Green’s case, though, I don’t think Green’s production is going to be hindered by the other backs with whom he’ll be sharing carries.
Last season, the main talk surrounding Green and his potential in Ann Arbor was the chance of him becoming a feature back. Now, granted, a lot of that had to with former offensive coordinator Al Borges insisting on having that feature back, and Green seemed to fit the bill nicely, but when it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, I think we sort of jumped ship on Green. I’m not saying I don’t want Green to become a feature back in the Wolverines’ offense. Shoot, if he can do it, why not! But at full capacity, any other role he takes on will see him just as much success.
So with that out of the way, I don’t think Green will become Michigan‘s main back this season. I’m not sure anyone will gain that title in 2014, especially with all those questions up on the offensive line.
Last season, Green never got to 20 carries in a game — his highest was 19 against Northwestern. While I don’t think he becomes a guy who gets 20+ every game, I’m expecting that average to go up. In game in which he was used, Green averaged about 7.5 carries per game. The absolute max I would give to this season is 15, and I think that’s being incredibly generous. Realistically, I’m looking for Green to get 10 carries per game as a guy who will join the huddle in goal line and short yardage situations, not exclusively, but with frequency.
If he can become a back who generated 40 yards per game, he’ll have done his job well and, depending on when that boost arrives, will likely be seeing more action in the backfield.
Beyond the numbers, what I’m really wanting to see from Green this season is more physicality and aggression. I feel like he became too complacent at times last season and was too easy to bring down on first contact. That can’t happen to a guy who’s supposed to a human horse in the backfield. One he reaches that second level, his speed will surprise most. But he rarely got the opportunity to display that last season because of how often he was being taken down by the first defender met.
As an example of what I’m talking about, look at Carlos Hyde‘s game against Michigan last season. He was never taken down on first contact; he bulldozed his way everywhere he went. I understand Hyde was a very special talent for Ohio State, but why can’t we want the same thing from Green? Are we not allowed to demand that same style of play?
Overall, I don’t think we’re looking at a breakout season for Green, but I don’t think that’s what he needs to have a successful season. His numbers should naturally climb, and hopefully he’s given a few more carries. Outside of that, though, the biggest thing I’m looking for is a chance in his brand of play. It’s not difficult to imagine a guy of his stature bruising up defensive linemen and linebackers. Now let’s see it happen.