Weight: 228 lbs.
High school: Warren (OH) Howland
Position: Running back
Jersey number: #4
Last year: I ranked Smith #21 and said he would be the starting running back with 150 carries, 700 yards, and 8 touchdowns. He made two starts with 108 carries for 519 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Last season was another fairly disappointing year for Michigan's running game. Sprinkled throughout the year were some good games intermingled with some bad ones. Furthermore, no running back was consistently the best. If you ask three different people who the best running back was in 2014, you'll get three different answers. Smith earned his first career start against Michigan State after Derrick Green broke his collarbone and finished with 11 carries, 39 yards, and 1 touchdown. Statistically, his best two games were the opener against Appalachian State (8 carries, 115 yards, 2 touchdowns) and against Northwestern (18 carries, 121 yards, 1 touchdown). He also had some real stinkers, including six games in which he averaged 3.1 yards/carry or fewer. Toward the end of the year, Drake Johnson took over the starting gig and looked superior to Smith.
The battle rages on to be the starting running back at Michigan. Justice Hayes was a third down back, but he opted to spend his fifth year at Southern Miss. Drake Johnson looked solid at the end of the year, but he tore his ACL in the season finale against Ohio State. Green was the leading rusher for most of last season, but he had that broken collarbone and isn't the most instinctive runner. Ty Isaac sat out last year after transferring from USC, and lineman Kyle Kalis recently said that the line couldn't wait to get Isaac on the field after watching him bruise people up in practices last year. Karan Higdon is an unknown quantity as an incoming freshman.
I'm on the record as saying Isaac is the most talented back on the roster, but I think Smith has the mentality that these coaches like the most. He's a tough runner who will break some tackles and drive his legs. He won't outrun anyone, and his vision isn't great, but he can set the tone for the team to be a smash-mouth unit. I don't think he will get a stranglehold on the position because there are other guys who are more versatile and better athletes, but I think Smith will get a long look to try to be The Man. Normally, I would expect to put a starting running back higher than #21 on this list, but nobody has emerged from the pack at any point during their college careers. In fact, I'll go ahead and replicate what I predicted for him last year:
Prediction: Starting running back to begin the year; 150 carries, 700 yards, 8 touchdowns