Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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64 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW RUNNING BACKS pened for three quarters of football at Columbus." The wide receivers have to play their part at well, Karsch observed, or the opportunities up front come with increasingly long odds. "You can be dedicated to doing something, and you can try it all you want, but if there is no consequence to loading up the box and stacking the line of scrimmage against the run, they're going to be running against some fronts that won't be easy to run against," Karsch said. "As much as we talk about the commitment to run the football, the running game might be predicated on [sophomore wideout] Freddy Canteen, [redshirt junior wideout] Amara Darboh, and guys of that ilk being able to burn teams that overlook the run. "My guess is, we're going to see a lot of that early in the year, for them to prove that you can't single-cover and walk safeties up to the line of scrimmage without running the risk of giving up the big play. "Coordinators hate giving up the big play, but until some of those wide receivers prove it, Michigan is going to see some defenses spe- cifically designed to stop the run." Karsch does assure that the offensive line should be in position to move forward forcefully. "I've spent the better part of the last year talking with former of- fensive linemen at Michigan who hold a lot of accolades," he said. "That's who makes up our broadcast team. To say they've spent plenty of time discussing line play is an understatement. "Drevno is, by most accounts, a step in the right direction in getting this line going. I think there is some ability there. Then there has to be a commitment to get better." PRESEASON ANALYSIS: RUNNING BACKS Starter ✪ ✪ ✪ The starting job remains open, with a number of backs potentially on the verge of breakout seasons. Given an upgraded level of blocking and good health, juniors De'Veon Smith or Derrick Green could top the 1,000-yard mark. Redshirt sophomore Ty Isaac could also emerge, provided he gets healthy. Depth ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ Depth should not be an issue, with three experienced tailbacks, not counting still- rehabilitating redshirt junior Drake Johnson. Michigan's tailbacks have been on the field, and fifth-year senior fullback Joe Kerridge has been supplemented by a number of younger blockers. X-Factor Johnson proved Michigan's most effective back late last season, before he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee he had ACL surgery on before. He vowed to fight his way back, but it remains to be seen if he can do so, and how effective he'll be if he returns. Overall ✪ ✪ ✪ There are too many moving parts here to make an overly optimistic call before fall. Michigan has some backs that could enjoy a strong season. It features a new scheme, and different input on a maturing offensive line. But U-M opponents may not be scared enough of the Wolverines' passing game to allow much running room. Note: Star rankings are made on a scale of 1-5 stars. QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Tyrone Wheatley (first season). Returning Starters: TB Derrick Green (7 career starts), TB De'Veon Smith (2), TB Drake Johnson (2), FB Joe Kerridge (10), FB Sione Houma (2). Departing Starters: None. Projected New Starter: TBD. Top Reserve: Ty Isaac. Wait Until 2016: None. Newcomers: Karan Higdon. Moved In: None. Moved Out: Ross Taylor-Douglas, to CB. Rookie Impact: Higdon. Most Improved Player: Green. Best Pro Prospect: Smith. FYI: USC won a recruiting battle over Michigan and others for Issac's services … Hig- don flipped his commitment from Iowa to Michigan, following a call from new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh … Michigan's rushing attack is looking to improve over its 2014 performance, when the Wolverines were eighth in the Big Ten, averaging 162.8 yards per game on the ground …The Wolverines rushed for 1,954 yards last season, up from 1,634 the year before, but those two seasons were the two worst rushing years for Michigan since 2008 … U-M also rushed for only 17 touchdowns, tied for the lowest total since 2005 in Ann Arbor … Smith led Michigan in rushing last season, with 519 yards, continuing a trend of few 1,000-yard tailbacks for the Wolverines … Fitzgerald Toussaint last broke that barrier in 2011, after Mike Hart topped the 1,000-yard mark for U-M in three of his four seasons at Michigan (2004-07). "It all goes together. 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 happened for three quarters of football at Columbus." MICHIGAN SIDELINE REPORTER DOUG KARSCH Junior Derrick Green started six games in the fi rst half of the 2014 season, racking up 471 yards on 82 carries (5.7-yard average), before being lost for the season with a shoulder injury. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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