Friday, January 10, 2014

Poll results: Who will lead the team in carries in 2014?

According to readers, Derrick Green is the leading candidate for the starting running back job in 2014
I may present this poll again closer to the season, because a new offensive coordinator will mean a different philosophy and perhaps some different personnel. But in the meantime, before Al Borges was let go, I asked which running back would get the most carries in 2014. What you said:

Derrick Green (So.): 60%
Green had 83 carries for 270 yards (3.3 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns in 2013. Green showed pretty good speed and fell forward after contact, but he didn't break many tackles or show a lot of wiggle. Of course, nobody should have expected a 6'0", 230 lb. running back to show much wiggle. He did start off the year heavier than he should have been, which may have diminished his effectiveness. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and his fellow Alabama staff members recruited Green to Tuscaloosa, so it would make sense that Nussmeier has an eye toward Green being his horse.

De'Veon Smith (So.): 30%
Smith had 26 carries for 117 yards (4.5 yards/carry) as a freshman. After not playing much early in the year, something got sparked in him during the last few weeks of the regular season, when he totaled 15 carries for 98 yards (6.5 yards/carry) against Northwestern and Ohio State. Smith is a more violent runner than Green, but his speed leaves something to be desired.

Drake Johnson (RS So.): 3%
Johnson had 2 carries for 9 yards before tearing his ACL in the season opener against Central Michigan. Up until that point, he had been listed as Michigan's #2 tailback. An accomplished high school track athlete, Johnson's main claim for playing time was based on his speed. The fact that he tore the ACL in late August means he should be almost back to full speed by the time the 2014 season rolls around, but sometimes it takes a couple years for guys to totally recover.

Other: 2%
This could refer to junior Dennis Norfleet, who moved to slot receiver; or redshirt freshman tailback/fullback Wyatt Shallman, who looks like an H-back to me; a freshman like Jeff Jones or Vic Enwere, neither of whom have committed to Michigan; or perhaps quarterback Devin Gardner. If you gave me all of their carries combined, I would still bet on one of the other guys.

Justice Hayes (RS Jr.): 1%
Hayes had 2 carries for 6 yards on the season, but by golly, he was the starting running back against Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The best thing Hayes has going for him is some decent speed, but he doesn't have the greatest vision or tackle breaking ability. He was even reported to be moving to slot receiver before injuries and ineffectiveness forced him back to running back.

Thomas Rawls (Sr.): 0%
Rawls had 3 carries for 12 yards and 1 touchdown, all of which came against Central Michigan in the season opener. He played some special teams after that, but you wouldn't really have known he played at all unless you checked the participation reports after the games. There have been rumors that he will not return to the football team in 2014.


  1. I voted for Green as I think they are gonna go to work on making him hard this winter, but I would really like to see Houma get a chance to run out of a two point stance this spring just to see if he can find a seem. The kid has some burst, can change direction a little and looks like he hurts to hit. If he can see it, I think he has a chance to be a pretty nice back.

    1. I could see Houma as a short yardage back if the other guys can't get it done, but I'm not sure what he brings to the table that De'Veon Smith and/or Derrick Green wouldn't. I could see it more if the other options were Toussaint, Hayes, Vincent Smith, Drake Johnson, Carlos Brown, Sam McGuffie, etc. But Michigan's not really lacking in power backs. We'll see, though.

  2. My hope is that Nussmeier will truly utilize the RB's in all phases (passing game too) but unfortunately our OL was so bad that most the time they were used as an extra blocker.

    It always comes down to the big dudes in the trenches.

  3. In addition to the obvious Green-Smith duo, I am really curious about Drake Johnson. The dude's a total athlete, possessing both speed and agility. Hopely he can make Jake Ryan-like recovery and show us what he can do. Won't surprise me if he sees the field a lot in 2014.

    1. The thinking on Johnson, to my recollection, was that he's a "straight line" guy (a la Furman) rather than a 3D guy (who could make "in space" adjustments to elude defenders).

      Not everyone can run for 2700 yards (as a high school senior), but there's probably a reason his mailbox wasn't overflowing with D1 offers.

    2. Never been impressed with Johnson. Still think the scholarship would've been better used anywhere else, or banked. I know he ran for quite a few yards in high school. There was a receiver in high school who set the national record for receiving yards. He held no offers.

      High school success doesn't translate to college success. It may appear that Johnson has the requisite size and speed to be successful at this level, but I have not seen it. There is a reason Johnson's only other offer was from Eastern, and Michigan only offered late in the process.

      "But he didn't go to camps! Camps are how kids get offers these days!"

      Jabrill Peppers didn't spend time on the camp circuit. Didn't seem to affect him.

      I hope he recovers from his ACL injruy, and proves me wrong, but the most I'm expecting from him is clean-up duty and special teams play.

  4. Hey Thunder, what effect do you think Nussmeier is going to have on the OL situation, and how do you think he'll affect the offense overall?

    What we're dealing with:
    Strikes against Borges - he was trying to have 3 first year starters on the interior handle quite a load with a plethora of blocking schemes.
    Strikes against the roster - they couldn't get good push against teams like Akron and UConn.

    I've been looking at the effect Nussmeier has had at his previous stops, and I'm even more impressed than I was initially by this coaching hire. Quick ex: Keith Price at Washington had Nuss his sophomore year in 2011.
    Year - Yards - TD - Int - Rat - QBR - AdjQBR
    2011 - 3063 - 33 - 11 - 161.9 - 70.0 - 73.1
    2012 - 2728 - 19 - 13 - 122.4 - 40.9 - 48.3
    2013 - 2966 - 21 - 6 - 153.2 - 62.7 - 67.0

    2011 - 31.5 PPG
    2012 - 23.8 PPG


    In 2011, the line was a Senior LT, Junior, 2 Sophomores, and a Freshman.
    In 2012 they lost the LT, and ended up starting 3 Sophomores, a Junior and a Senior.

    So the regression from 2011 - 2012 doesn't seem like a line issue. They lost their star RB, Polk. He went undrafted, but he was very successful at the college level. To me, the regression seems like more of a lack of Nussmeier issue.


    1. Really looks like it. He seems to have had immediate and palpable success at every stop.

      I wouldn't be surprised to see him doing wonders with all of our young talent. More interesting question is what he will do with the RB and OL coaches. He said during the press conference that he's looking forward to working with the coaches, but it wouldn't surprise me to see the RB and OL coaches go and Nuss going out to bring in guys to his likings.

  5. When I watch film of Alabama's inside zone running play and watch the churning legs of Lacy and Yeldon, the Michigan back I think of is De'Veon Smith. I know Smith lacks their speed. But our back who best bounces off, breaks arm tackles, and keeps balance in his cuts is Smith. I would love for our new OC to turn Derrick Green into Eddie Lacy. But for now, I think he will like Smith best.