Tuesday, August 13, 2013

2013 Season Countdown: #16 Derrick Green

Derrick Green (image via The Wolverine)
Name: Derrick Green
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 240 lbs.
High school: Richmond (VA) Hermitage
Position: Running back
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #27
Last year: Green was a senior in high school. He had 1,350 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.

The battle for Derrick Green came down to Auburn, Tennessee, and Michigan after also strongly considering Ohio State, Oregon, and Virginia Tech, among others. He made his final decision late in the process, and there was much rejoicing! In January I did a study of Rivals' top-ranked tailbacks since the inception of the site in 2002, and the results were generally pleasing. The average top-rated back gets 429 carries, gains 2,442 yards, and scores 22 touchdowns. Green arrived on campus this summer and was immediately listed at 240 lbs., and there was much hand wringing! He was listed at 220 lbs. as a high schooler, but that was probably a lowball figure. He's barrel chested with some bulk in his lower body, so my guess is he was probably 230-235 lbs. as a senior and when he played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Redshirt senior Fitzgerald Toussaint is the favorite to win the starting job, which is expected since he has two years of starting under his belt. The battle for the backup job is the interesting one, because no returning player has established himself as a potential feature back. Junior Thomas Rawls has received the bulk of the backup carries, so it comes down to Rawls, Green, and possibly true freshman De'Veon Smith. My pick for the top backup is Green, and I think he'll be the heir apparent. Most backups wouldn't be ranked this high in the countdown, but Toussaint has been injured every year except his breakout 2011 season and was suspended for game one of 2012. Odds are that Green - or whoever is the #2 guy - gets at least a start or two. He also should get some looks in short yardage and on the goal line due to his size.

Prediction: Backup tailback; 100 carries, 500 yards, 6 touchdowns


  1. Forget Green's weight issues. Look at LTT in the background of that picture. He's built like Grimace.

  2. I think you've argued in the past that RBs are overrated. I tend to agree. We saw with Toussaint that the RB's production is closely linked with the OL performance. I suspect that with a power runner especially, he's only as good as the holes the OL creates for him.

    Green has more talent than any other options for backup, but I doubt Michigan would be that much worse off with the next best out of Smith/Rawls/Shallman/Johnson/Hayes/etc getting those 100 carries. Perhaps more importantly, I doubt Green will be a better option for pass-blocking (which will be critical for preserving Gardner's health.) That may limit his role, as pass-blocking usually correlates with experience. Then again, most of his competition is still pretty young too. Plus, with a young guy you never know about ball security - that'll be a big deal for the coaches too. [Vincent Smith woooooo!]

    Your previous analysis indicates we may have a superstar, but there's not tons of examples for 240 lb guys like him other than Beenie Wells, who had very similar numbers to what you predicted for Green in his freshman year (2006): 104 carries, 576 yards, 7 TDs. That said, the 2006 OSU offense was probably a lot better than the 2013 Michigan offense is going to be.

    Unless he gets a lot of garbage time carries against weaker teams, it's going to be hard for guy whose role includes short-yardage to average 5 ypc, especially with an all-new interior OL. I expect a lower ypc, but I think that if he wins the backup job he'll get close to the 500 yards you predict, and maybe even more touchdowns.

    I think this ranking is a little high for Green, even if he had already won the backup job (which it seems like he hasn't yet, even though everyone thinks he leads.) Regardless, I'm very excited to see him play. Having a potential superstar at the RB position again is tantalizing.

    1. Although blocking is important, an underestimated way to protect Gardner is to har a successful running game. That way Gardner can hand the ball off and not be involved in the play. We've already seen Rawls' capability and, while we haven't seen much out of johnson or Hayes, greens recruiting hype tends to indicate that he is more likely to have success than them. Additionally, as noted quite frequently on MGoBlog recently, te coaches will want to replace Denards runs in the offense with someone other than Gardner-to prevent injury-so the backup RB will probably be featured quite frequently this year. I think Magnus is dead on with his prediction here.

    2. Vincent Smith was a fumbler. I don't know what you're talking about. His fumbles-to-touches ratio was noticeably high before his senior year.

      I would argue the exact opposite...power runners can create their own holes where they might not fully exist and can grind out yards consistently, while dancers in the same situation will get tackled for no gain or loss unless your name is Barry Sanders.

    3. @Anon

      I would agree that the ability to run is the most important trait for a RB, and I also agree that RBs will get more carries this year, but Michigan has emphasized blocking for a long long time. That's why you saw Vincent Smith get as much playing time as any other RB over his 4 years at Michigan. To call him a mediocre runner is being generous, but he played.


      I don't agree at all about big backs creating their own holes. Big backs play mostly because they can fall in the right direction with momentum, getting an extra yard or two, which is especially vital in short yardage situations. They also have the potential to physically wear down a defense, which is great for a grinding game-manager type strategist like Hoke wants to be.

      There's a reason most RBs are fast rather than big - you need a dominant OL a la Wisconsin and Michigan (in years past).

      Smith didn't fumble much, and Barry Sanders was infamous for frequently getting no gain or negative yardage (he just made up for it with long gainers frequently).

    4. Are you joking? I'm having a hell of a time finding stats that involve fumbles, but there was a point where Smith was fumbling every other game and not getting a ton of touches. Magnus also wrote about this; you were wrong then and you're wrong now.

      Yes, I know that about Barry Sanders, but I figured you'd pull him out as a shining example of "herp derp, I'm right for no reason."

      Running backs need adequate speed. Of course you can't be a plodder and be an effective back, but you don't need to be LaMichael James, either. There are plenty of sprinters who fall over from strong winds and never get consistent yards because of it.

    5. "I'm right for no reason" pretty much summarizes your whole post. Except for Barry Sanders, (who you admittedly depicted inaccurately) and LaMichael James, who is an excellent counter-argument against your point about size vs speed.

      No one is arguing that RBs should to be soft and wee. Yet the fact is there's a lot more NFL RBs in the Denard/speed mold (Bush, Spiller, Charles) than the Green/power mold (Eddie Lacy, LenDale White, Ron Dayne). The average NFL back is 215 lb and there will be many more players weighing under 200 lb than over 230 lb. Check the NFL combine numbers, draft results, stats, etc. The Jarrod Bunch and Christian Okoye's of the world are increasingly rare.

      What Michigan is trying to do on offense is unique in some respects. That's probably a good thing, but it merits discussion. Not many teams out there are trying to win with big, tall, and heavy skill position players (almost exclusively). Not many teams put size and strength well before speed. In my opinion, it's worth acknowledging that the strategy and philosophy of this team is unconventional, rather than dismissing it as the obvious path to success.

  3. No mention of Redshirt Freshman Drake Johnson, Or Redshirt Sophomore Justice Hayes?? Do you think they are just going to give up and run away now that Derrick and DeVeon are on campus. Those guys know the offense, blocking schemes, pass pro, playbook, etc MUCH better than the freshmen coming in. And it is not likely that at least one of the incoming freshmen running backs wont be redshirted this year. Everyone is crowning Derrick Green as the backup or starter, but I think Rawls, Johnson and Hayes will have a LOT to say about that, or may well earn significant carries before Green or Smith this year. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out, and if its NOT Green, but someone else that steps up big time, if everyone who picked Green owns up to the missed call.

    1. Rawls and Hayes have already made their statements. It's not a matter of will - they are just not that good. It does not take long to figure out if a RB has the goods.

    2. Smith is the popular hipster pick for breakout offensive player for whatever reason, but this comment is just borderline stupid. As if you'll ever admit to being crazily wrong if none of those guys get carries outside of garbage time. But you're anonymous, so you conveniently don't have to.

    3. As noted, Rawls and Hayes have had plenty of opportunity to show what they can do, and it's not much more than spot duty. If a RB is going to be any good, you pretty much know by the end of their second year in the program, and if they redshirt for reasons other than injury, it's not a good sign (re: Johnson). Go back the last 20 years, and you'll have a hard time finding a running back of ours who didn't see the field as a true freshman and ended up doing anything significant.

    4. In defense of Anon 4:14 - he right to point out that Green hasn't won the job just yet. Here's the thing about our returning RBs -- NONE of them were good last year (unless you count Denard). Is that on them or is that the OL and playcalling? Fitz can run, we know that, but he barely got to 4 ypc. If you put Derrick Green on last years team, he would have struggled to find daylight too, just as all our backs did against good teams.

      Don't get me wrong - I think Green will be the guy because talent matters - but it's not a lock. Chris Perry is an example of a guy who got SIGNIFICANTLY better by his senior year and saw his role enlarge from bit player into a feature back as his overall game developed (i.e., blocking and pass catching). It could happen for Rawls, Johnson, or Hayes too...but probably won't.

      Anon's main point - that the overall ability at the position matters, not just running ability - is one I agree with, even if we have different conclusions.

      Green may have a lot of work to do to see the field - we don't know yet, since practice just started.

    5. I would argue that the coaches know whether a RB has it or not within his first couple months on campus. It takes fans longer to figure that out, but you can make assumptions based on how the coaches use a guy. As mentioned, Perry improved more over time than most RB's, but he looked good as a freshman backing up Thomas and never road the pine. He was a good back who had a soph slump, not unlike Fitz last year. Perry was also a highly-recruited RB (OSU/UM battle) who demonstrated a nice size/quickness combination from the start. The OL was bad last year, but forget the stats. Just watch Rawls try to run a sweep or Hayes hit the hole tentatively and you can see they don't have it. If one of the current RB's was going to turn into a Leveon Bell surprise story, we would have seen evidence of it by now. Green and Smith are just on a different talent level than the upperclassmen save Fitz. If those guys wind up buried behind non-Fitz upperclassmen, that will not be a good sign.

    6. Perry most certainly had talent, but the point was that he played a marginal or secondary role until he figured out some of the stuff BESIDES running the ball. The same could apply for Green - maybe.

      I'm no fan of Rawls, and generally I agree that RBs typically show they can play right away, but there are exceptions. Fitz is one - he red-shirted to start and then played a marginal role until his 3rd year (granted, injuries played a part in that, but that's just another example of an unknown about an incoming recruit.)

  4. Interesting comments. I really feel like we've seen or would have heard if the rest of the backs had something to give. The truth is Fred Jackson isn't shy when it comes to heaping praise, and he isn't talking about Drake, Hayes or Rawls anymore. In addition when we recruited all three of those players our caliber of recruit was down. If a HB doesn't have "it" as a freshman it rarely shows up later. That said I like DeVeon also and think he will push Green, so I'm not disagreeing that Green is going to have to work to be the #2, and being a half step slow or slightly overweight won't get him the gig.

  5. Green looks a little pudgy. Better get homie on a diet or the only thing he'll be running is trips to McDonalds