240-pound running backs are bound to turn heads. Derrick Green, the nation’s top-rated freshman running back coming into this season, is a big back with even bigger potential.
What we’ve seen so far
While Green hasn’t made a huge splash in the 2013 campaign, the expectations remain high.
A preseason injury sidelined Green for a couple weeks, slowing him down a little bit, but still played in the season opener against Central Michigan. The Wolverines dominated in the contest and were able to get a lot of guys looks in the first game of the year. Green was one of them, as he was the team’s leading rusher with 57 yards on 11 carries. So far, the Central game has been Green’s most productive game as he ran for an average of 5.3 yards per carry and added a touchdown.
In the games since Central, Green has been less productive. Senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has received the bulk of the carries this season, leaving Green with a few here and there. In the limited carries Green has had, the yards just haven’t been there. This could be attributed to the struggling Michigan offensive line as well. Neither Toussaint or Green has gained consistent yardage from week to week.
Against Notre Dame and Akron, Green had just one carry in each game and didn’t touch the ball once against UCONN. He got 10 carries against Minnesota, averaged just 2.3 yards per carry, but did score a touchdown. In the Penn State game, he gained just 1 yard on 3 carries. In last week’s shootout victory over Indiana, Green carried the ball a little better, gaining 21 yards on 6 carries.
It is clear Michigan is content with Toussaint as its primary running back, most likely leaving Green for primarily short yardage duty. That’s not to say Green won’t see more playing time in the future as the Wolverines head into their toughest stretch in the Big Ten schedule. With the way Michigan has run the ball so far this year, it may look to the freshman running back for a different look against some of the conference’s best defenses.
The Michigan State game will be arguably Michigan’s toughest test so far this season, as they will be on the road against one of the country’s top defensive units. Green could be the big body in the running game to propel the Wolverines past the Spartans.
Through Michigan’s first seven games, it has run the ball far more effectively out of the shotgun. While offensive coordinator Al Borges has tried to run the stretch play time and time again, for little or no gain, the offense seems to run better from the gun up to this point. Unless the offensive line improves, I don’t see that changing any time soon, which would in turn cut into the carries Green would see.
Green is a big back, built for the traditional Michigan offense that runs it right down defenses’ throats. But they just aren’t that team yet. After this year, Toussaint will graduate, opening the door for Green to be Michigan’s primary running back. We could see Green breakout this year, but I think next year will be his time to shine.
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