I’ve spent a lot of time this offseason trying to assess Michigan‘s need for a productive running back in 2014. We’ve heard since day one of the Brady Hoke era that pounding the football on the ground is going to be the first priority, but it really hasn’t ever been successful. Sure, there have been a few games that make us think the offensive line and running backs have turned the corner, but the lack of consistency has been a major problem for the Wolverines.
Derrick Green is a guy who has to step up this season and show just what he can do as a running back. We know he struggled with weight last season, and we know a very bad offensive line can take a good amount blame for the lack of production, but the bottom line here is Green needs to become a reliable weapon for Michigan’s offense.
Green’s sophomore season probably won’t even meet the expectations we set for him his freshman season. I don’t think it’s very realistic right now to put the superstar sticker on his helmet, especially when it’s very likely he’ll be splitting carries with fellow sophomore running back De’Veon Smith this season, or at least until one of them breaks away from the other.
To say Green is going to bounce into this season and be a 1,000-yard rusher is to say virtually every question on Michigan’s offense is going to be answered. I’m not saying you can only run the ball successfully when everything else is clicking — it often needs to be the exact opposite — but with an offensive line that’s going to do God-knows-what up front, we can’t logically make these great assumptions.
It would be really nice to see Green work through contact this season. He’ll likely need to be doing a lot of that anyway. We heard all this talk about how Green is a horse coming out of the backfield and could really be Michigan’s feature running back, but when I saw him being taken down on first contact like he did, I was quick to move away from the hype and just hope for a positive play.
If nothing else, that could be Green’s greatest step forward this season. He could show he really is capable of pounding it up the middle with a vengeance — that’s what Michigan needs! The yards, scores, touches, etc. will all take care of themselves if Green just shows he can run through the contact and pick up the extra yards.
At season’s end, I expect Green to be getting anywhere from 10-12 carries a game, which would be considerably higher than his 6.4 carries per game last season. Like I said, Smith will be taking on some work too; it’s just a matter of who can perhaps separate himself from the pack.
At 10-12 carries per game, if Green doesn’t also meet his 2013 average of 3.3 yards per pop, I won’t be impressed. Ideally you would like to see him up at four or even five yards per touch, but again, we have to be realistic given the circumstances.
I’m not incredibly interested in yards per game for Green because his opportunities may not match those of the other running backs and therefor may not accurately represent his impact on the game. I will say this, though: The closest Green came to a 100-yard day was 79 yards against Northwestern. It would be nice to see him puncture triple digits at least once this season, but the opportunities have to be there first.
If you’re going to be overly analytic with Green this season, I am sad to say I think you’ll be disappointed. But if you take the time to appreciate progress and impact, this could be a big step in the right direction for Green at Michigan.