Michigan put together a decent season in 2012, but they're looking for more in 2013. In order for that to happen, the running game will have to develop in a hurry.
Things are not going to be easy for the Wolverines this season. The squad is losing a lot of talent on both sides of the ball due to graduation, including starting quarterback Denard Robinson.
Still, there are reasons to be encouraged. Taylor Lewan will be arguably the best tackle in the nation next season, reducing a great deal of concern on the offensive line. In addition, Devin Gardner looked impressive at quarterback when he replaced Robinson due to injury.
The defense will also have to fill in at a number of positions, but Brady Hoke has proven that he has what it takes to coach that unit into one of the best in the country. Michigan finished 20th in the nation in points allowed last season.
However, the running backs might be the most important part of the roster heading into next year.
Over the last few seasons, Robinson took on the role as the primary rusher. The running backs had a secondary role and the stats reflected that fact.
Fitzgerald Toussaint led all backs with 514 rushing yards and Thomas Rawls was second with 242.
Both players will be back next season, but their job will be tougher. Gardner is much more of a pocket passer than Robinson and he will need a solid rushing attack to balance the offense.
Although Toussaint has experience, he ended his year with a gruesome leg injury and his future is uncertain. Rawls could be good, but he has not yet shown he can be an every-down back.
This could lead to a freshman taking over the starting job in the backfield. Virginia native Derrick Green is very highly touted and has the ability to step in and perform well right away.
Whichever player or players get the ball, they will be needed. Without a run game, Gardner will be under a lot of pressure—both physically by pass-rushers and mentally as the leader of the offense.
The rushing attack will also keep what is certain to be a young defense off the field for large chunks of time.
Michigan has a bunch of options for the running back position next season. Solidifying this spot will go a long way toward having a successful year.