Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 68 of 179

THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 67 RUNNING BACKS FYI Michigan's total of 2,768 yards rushing in 2016 represents the most by a Michigan squad since the 2011 campaign, when the Wolverines posted 2,884 yards on the ground. The total was the third highest by a Michigan unit since the 1992 team rushed for 3,217 yards. The Wolverines' 41 rushing touchdowns in 2016 proved the most by a Michigan squad since the 1976 crew crossed the goal line 43 times on the ground, and it ranked as the third-best effort since Michigan began keeping the statistic in 1970. The Wolverines kept the ball on the ground for 574 plays last year, the most rushing attempts by U-M since the 1995 squad ran the ball 600 times. The Wolverines averaged 212.9 rushing yards per game, only the second time since the year 2000 a Michigan team topped the 200-yards-per-game mark. Sophomore Chris Evans' 614 rushing yards in 2016 marks the best effort by a U-M freshman tailback since Mike Hart bolted out of the gates for 1,455 yards as a rookie in 2004. Harbaugh identified Isaac as Michigan's best blocker among the tailbacks this spring, no small bullet point to have on the résumé. "I'm getting better in that area," Isaac said. "It wasn't my strongest suit in my game the past years, and I know that's a big key to being able to stay on the field. I've watched a lot of film and made a point of emphasis on that this spring. "I'm a lot more physical in pass pro. Knowing all of your assignments, you play faster, and you play more physical." According to a number of onlookers, Isaac is more physical, period. He ran away from defenders in bursting to a 28-yard touch- down in the spring game, but caused a stir among the coaches this spring when he pun- ished people as well. "He's playing more physical, and he's just focused on being a more aggressive, violent player," Harbaugh observed. "He's playing with the attitude that matches his stature on the field, playing like a big back. "That's something that we're really ex- cited about." Fans watching the spring game grew ex- cited about seeing junior tailback Karan Higdon sprint away from defenders mul- tiple times. Higdon led all ball carriers in the exhibition, rushing 12 times for 81 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown run among a pair of TD bursts. In 2016, Higdon rushed 72 times for 425 yards (5.9 per carry) and six touchdowns, second only to Smith among the tailbacks. Illness a year ago kept Higdon out of the last part of spring ball and much of summer workouts, but he's been preparing hard this year and demonstrating his ability to move. He's anxious to go into a season fully ready for action. "It's definitely a stiff competition," Hig- don noted in the spring. "Each and every day, you've got to bring it. Every day, you see someone do something that makes you go, 'Wow, that guy is pretty good.' You keep fighting, and we'll see come season time … "It starts now. Spring is what sets you up for the fall. Granted, you have to stay healthy, but spring is where you make your statement. Each and every day is a battle. Guys are going head to head for carries." Higdon appeared to make his statement with some emphasis, during the spring game and in other practices. " H e 's g o t s o m e burst, some explosive- ness," Harbaugh as- sessed. "He's low to the ground. He's got really good balance, YEAR-BY-YEAR RUSHING LEADER Year Player Carries Yards TD 2016 De'Veon Smith 181 846 10 2015 De'Veon Smith 180 753 6 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 Fifth-year senior RB Ty Isaac chipped in 417 yards (5.6 per carry) and five touchdowns on the ground last season. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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