Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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66 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW RUNNING BACKS average) with three touchdowns. A shoulder injury took him out of the lineup for the second half of the season, but he's back and ready to make his bid for the top job. "Watching from field level during the spring game, I thought that was the best he looked at times," Karsch said. "I can't speak to how the other aspects of the game are, from pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield, but there was one run in particular where I saw a crease open and Derrick shot through that crease and came out the other side quicker than I'd ever seen before. "He looked leaner to me. He looked more sure about what he was doing. I thought Derrick was starting to show flashes of living up to the billing he had out of high school." That billing included five-star status, which is always difficult to live up to on the next level. Green has gone through his growing (and shrinking) pains, and has a chance to start with a clean slate under Harbaugh's crew. "In an ideal world, when Derrick comes in as a true freshman, he doesn't get as much action as he got, and maybe even redshirts, or plays a much lesser role," Karsch said. "I have seen some signs that it's time for him to take some huge steps." Many expected Isaac to come in and take over, following his trans- fer from USC and subsequent redshirt season of practicing with the Wolverines. He wasn't seen much on the practice field in the spring, though, and that has set him back. "Health is a question there," Karsch pointed out. "I was at a prac- tice after Ty came to Michigan. He had a couple of carries that had me rethinking whether the problem was with the offensive line, be- cause I was so impressed with how quickly he got into the hole, his cutting ability, and his size. "When Ty Isaac is 100 percent, I think he'll play a factor in the Michigan run game. But that's based upon what I saw a year ago. I haven't seen much of him this spring, so it's hard to know where he is in his development." Johnson's status remains in doubt, although he was cleared to run following spring practice. The odds seem long, given two ACL inju- ries to the same knee, but no one has ruled him out. "I don't want to dismiss him, but other guys are clearly going to have a leg up with this staff, getting the first crack at the running back position," Karsch said. "It's up to Drake to return — physically, mentally — and be able to compete again. "I've talked to him about his career goals. He wants to solve the world's energy crisis, and is studying how solar panels can be used to try and power entire countries. He's a deep thinker. He isn't scooting through school. Drake is taking advantage of the opportunities that Michigan provides in the classroom, as well." Redshirt sophomore Wyatt Shallman carried the football one time for five yards in making his on-field debut last season. He's likely targeted for a role not as a traditional running back. "The template for Wyatt Shallman might be Aaron Shea — a guy that can do a little bit of everything, and is often going to be over- looked when defenses are scheming," Karsch noted. "So make sure you catch the ball out of the backfield. Make sure you surprise people with the run. Be the occasional threat. "I don't see, with the other guys in the mix there, that Wyatt is go- ing to get a ton of run. But there is plenty of film on guys that have played that role at Michigan, who have made big catches out of the backfield. It's sort of that hybrid fullback/tight end guy." True freshman Karan Higdon out of the state of Florida will get his opportunity as well come fall camp. Higdon carried 96 times for 565 yards in an injury-plagued senior season at Riverview High School in Sarasota. Fifth-year senior Joe Kerridge is someone who can certainly help out the Wolverines at fullback this season, Karsch pointed out. Se- nior Sione Houma is on hand as well, but missed spring back due to injury, and Kerridge is the clear No. 1. "Great kid," Karsch said of Kerridge. "He's one of those guys who will do anything for you to win. At times in his career, he has been the only back in the backfield because he could pick up a blitz. The problem was, if Joe was the only back in the backfield, everybody knew what was coming. "It will be intriguing to see what role the fullback plays moving forward. It's been a position for years that has been manned by a walk-on or a tailback that's been too heavy. Kerridge, when the ball is thrown to him, he catches it." The sideline reporter's memories of the fullback in a Michigan of- fense during Harbaugh's playing days remain vivid. "When Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback at Michigan, the ball got thrown to the fullback a lot, and in key situations," he said. "On third-and-four, you can count on the fullback catching a ball out in the flat for a first down in a big game." Ohio State remains the biggest of big games, and the Wolverines were running well, at least until Johnson succumbed. Harbaugh and his staff are committed to producing high-level rushing efforts on a consistent basis — including at the end of November. ❑ Fifth-year senior fullback Joe Kerridge played in all 12 games, with three starts, in 2014, catching six passes for 53 yards. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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