After we discovered that Michigan Wolverines running back Derrick Green was purposely left off the depth chart for this week’s game against Penn State, Brady Hoke announced at him Monday press conference that Green is out for the rest of the season with a broken clavicle. In wake of this injury to Michigan’s statistical leader in the backfield—82 carries, 471 yards—it’s now time for Justice Hayes to step up, alongside De’Veon Smith, and become a bigger part of this offense.
Hayes has been mostly used in third-down situations this season, but as I pointed out before this injury, Michigan needs to be getting him involved more and more out of the backfield; his speed and agility can’t be wasted on the sideline. Thus far, Hayes ranks fourth in rushing for the Wolverines with 101 yards on only 19 attempts. He also has five receptions for 47 yards.
Green and Smith seemingly took turns stepping up for the Wolverines’ offense this season, and that leads me to believe Smith isn’t going to be able to step in and became a feature back, which is OK. Michigan doesn’t need a single running back to absorb all the pops right now. Production is needed more than anything, and however it comes will be accepted with open arms.
Hayes will be receiving more opportunities to make plays and establish himself as a more versatile running back. I also expect Drake Johnson to get in the mix, but it won’t be nearly as often.
We’ve seen what Hayes can do when the ball is in his hands—he averages 7.4 yards every time he gets a touch. Now he will be called upon more often, and what a huge factor he could be in Michigan’s offense if he can continue to bring that explosiveness and production while getting more carries.