Brady Hoke may just have the workhorse tailback he needs.
Michigan's 2013 recruiting class got its crown jewel on Saturday when 5-star tailback Derrick Green verbally committed to the Wolverines. With national signing day just days away, it's extremely unlikely that Green will renege on his commitment; he had also been considering Tennessee and Auburn.
So, now the question becomes what Green's addition to the 2013 Wolverines does to the offense as a whole. Sure, he might redshirt. He also might start. The talent's there.
Assuming Green makes it onto campus and on the field without incident, he's going to be in the mix at running back, and that is not a very crowded scene.
Vincent Smith is gone to graduation, and Fitz Toussaint's future for 2013 is still in doubt. Past that, there's just Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes in terms of running backs who saw any action in 2013, while Drake Johnson redshirted in 2012. DeVeon Smith is another tailback recruit in this class; Johnson and Smith both earned only three stars, per Rivals.
Who'll get the most rushes in 2013?
Michigan struggled mightily at tailback in 2012. The Wolverine rushing attack was 41st in the nation in yardage, but without Denard Robinson and all his non-traditional running friends, the backfield was a mess. All in all, Michigan's running backs accounted for only 933 yards rushing in 2012, with a meager 3.84 yards per carry to show for it.
And again, Fitz Toussaint may not be ready for action come September. So there's some serious potential for immediate playing time for Green.
Green is a big body at tailback—he's currently listed as 6'0" and 220 pounds—but the kid is fast, even if it's not immediately noticeable on film.
He has a straightforward running style that practically invites contact within the first 10 yards, making that speed less of a factor, but pay special attention to the runs at 1:10, 2:00 and 7:15 in the following video. You'll see some bad pursuit angles. Those are functions of Green's speed taking tacklers out of position in space; if his speed were average for someone his size, those angles wouldn't be so bad.
If there's a good corollary for Green's skill set, it's current Philadelphia Eagles tailback Bryce Brown. Their measurables are nearly identical, as are their rushing styles. Like Green, Brown is an upright, one-cut back who can pound it between the tackles and get to the corner with surprising ease. Here's a look at Brown from the 2012 preseason:
Now, one can't really talk about Bryce Brown without all the dopiness surrounding his collegiate career. But all of that was independent of his rushing ability, and there's little reason to suggest that Green would be a cause of similar headaches. Moreover, Brown's at least fulfilling his potential now, and that's a level of potential that Green can match.
It's worth mentioning that Green's rushing style may not match Michigan's strengths on the offensive line. Yes, he's capable of getting to that corner with surprising speed, but he's a "get it and go" type of guy first and foremost. And with Michigan having to replace its three inner offensive lineman (a unit that struggled mightily at times last year), Green may have a rough go of it trying to get his inside rushing game going.
Still, it's obvious that Green adds a dynamic dimension to an offense that desperately needed it in 2012. If he stays healthy and keeps his head on straight, there's no reason why Green can't be a major factor in the backfield for an offense in dire need of exactly that.