Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 64 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 63 RUNNING BACKS BY JOHN BORTON F or nearly three quarters of the game in Columbus last season, Michigan had the eventual national champions on the ropes, with the running game doing some significant pounding. Then redshirt sophomore tailback Drake Johnson fell, and it all slipped away. Johnson crashed into the end zone at the 7:41 mark of the third quarter, tying the Mich- igan-Ohio State game at 21-all. But the hard- charging Johnson — who'd already racked up 74 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries — tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on the play and wasn't seen again. The Buckeyes pulled away, 42-28, but Michigan sideline reporter Doug Karsch in- sisted the earlier part of that contest shouldn't be forgotten. "Nobody played Ohio State closer than Michigan did at the end of the year," Karsch reminded. "Drake Johnson emerged, and him running against that defense was one of the most encouraging signs of the Brady Hoke era. "Against a defense that was good enough to win a national cham- pionship, Michigan has a running game going in a game with huge stakes, at a high level. Drake Johnson was making people miss like Mike Hart, and it seemed like there were holes there." So much has changed since then. Johnson is still rehabilitating and trying to get back. A new coaching staff is in place, with offensive line coach and run game coordinator Tim Drevno in charge of creat- ing many more moments of success. That needs to happen, Karsch noted, and it doesn't just depend on the running backs. Michigan's offensive line has a couple of years under its belt and should start to domi- nate more, Karsch pointed out. The backs themselves have been on the field, and cer- tainly head coach Jim Harbaugh is committed to the run game. "It all goes together," Karsch said. "The run game is not just the offensive linemen, and it's not just the running backs. They both have to be doing the right thing. It hap- UNSETTLED Contenders Vie For Snaps And Lead Tailback Status Junior De'Veon Smith was the Wolverines' leading rusher a year ago, with 519 yards and six touchdowns on 108 carries (4.8-yard average). PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Leading Rusher Year-By-Year Year Player Carries Yards TD 2014 De'Veon Smith 108 519 6 2013 Fitzgerald Toussaint 185 648 13 2012 Denard Robinson 177 1,266 7 2011 Denard Robinson 221 1,176 16 2010 Denard Robinson 256 1,702 14 2009 Brandon Minor 96 502 8 2008 Brandon Minor 103 533 9 2007 Mike Hart 265 1,361 14 2006 Mike Hart 318 1,562 14 2005 Mike Hart 150 662 4

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