There are high hopes for a rebound in the backfield in Ann Arbor after the Wolverines were one of the Big Ten's worst rushing teams last season.
But the player with the highest hopes of all is falling behind his competition.
Derrick Green was the No. 1 running back in the country in the Class of 2013, according to Rivals' rankings. And after struggling as a true freshman, he was expected to have a big year as a featured back for Michigan this season. But according to head coach Brady Hoke, it's Drake Johnson and De'Veon Smith who have the edge in the position battle.
“Right now, it would be Drake Johnson and De’Veon,” head coach Brady Hoke said Sunday at Michigan's football media day, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. “So you’ve got a 1 and 1a, and you’ve got a 2 with Derrick.”
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None of the three sophomores were able to impress much last season. Johnson was injured in the team's season-opener, and Green and Smith combined for just 387 yards. Fitzgerald Toussaint led the way at running back for the Wolverines with 648 yards on the year.
Green, of course, could still end up displaying the type of ability that made him such a highly ranked recruit. And Hoke was undecided on whether there will be a workhorse back or it will be running back by committee.
New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier weighed in on the benefit of using multiple backs.
“When you have different styles in guys, it creates different perspectives for the defense,” Nussmeier said. “You may run certain plays with certain guys because those are the plays they run better. The rotation system a lot is built in today’s game on it’s difficult to keep a back healthy and playing an extended period of time and being successful in the length of a season when they’re being what I would term as overused.”