The future of Michigan's running attack rests squarely on the shoulders of freshman Derrick Green.
As 247Sports.com's No. 8-ranked running back of 2013, the former 5-star Hermitage High (Va.) bulldozer was expected to immediately contribute to the Wolverines' ailing ground game.
Fred Jackson, Sr.'s long history of grooming young ball-carriers spoke for itself, so it wasn't exactly delusional to think that Green would quickly adapt.
But he hasn't.
The offensive line has been thin and porous, creating a domino effect in the backfield—as in the backs fall like dominoes, one right after another, because they don't have a soul blocking for them.
Advancing the ball via handoffs has been a slippery and uphill climb for Team 134, which also features Fitzgerald Toussaint at the head of a stable that includes Thomas Rawls, De'Veon Smith and Justice Hayes.
Toussaint had burst for 151 yards against Indiana, but followed that up with eight carries for 20 yards against Michigan State and 27 carries for 27 yards versus Penn State—both losses.
After a solid 59-9 rout over Central Michigan in Week 1, Green hasn't been any better than his predecessor.
That's a problem for the Wolverines, because their pro-style offense averages just 135 rushing yards per outing, ranking No. 97 nationally. Green's rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries this fall.
Okay for a frosh, sure. Forty carries gives him a taste of action. However, in the preseason, he was expected to compete for the No. 1 job. So far, he's yet to skyrocket.
What The Others Are Doing
Rivals.com ranked Green as No. 1 in the country. However, at this point, 247Sports' rankings have proven more accurate. In a straight comparison, the No. 1 back should have the No. 1 stats, right?
That's not the case for Green, who entered camp at 240 pounds—20 pounds heavier than he was on national signing day.
Ranked as the best of the best by 247Sports, Arkansas freshman Alex Collins is unquestionably one of the top first-year runners. He's already rushed for an incredible 946 yards and four touchdowns on 169 attempts.
The downside for the 5'11", 206-pound power back is that his team is 3-7 and winless in SEC play.
Nevertheless, he's getting a ton of reps and showing why he was tabbed as No. 1.
The following table highlights some of the top-rated freshman backs.
Altee Tenpenny and Keith Ford, a pair that was also ranked among 247Sports' top 10, are among the players featured.
Circumstances vary from team to team, so it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.
Tenpenny's line at Alabama is much, much better than Michigan's. And he's behind T.J. Yeldon, who is arguably the best in the nation. He's also battled injury and spent time on special teams.
Ford has help from his front at Oklahoma. Collins has a group of ruffians protecting him.
|Battle of the backs|
Coaching Will Kick In
Jackson, Sr., a true Michigan Man for more than 20 years, has been behind the success of greats such as Mike Hart, Tim Biakabutuka, Anthony Thomas and Chris Perry.
Whether it's a blue-chip or developmental-type back, Jackson, Sr. continually proves that he has what it takes to mold Wolverines ball-carriers. Green will greatly benefit from his coach's experience and expertise. This is Toussaint's last season, so there will be an obvious opening in the department.
Given recent trends, it's certainly possible that Green will be the top option in 2014.
And it's also important to remember that players don't mature overnight. Through-the-roof expectations surround Green, so he may be an exception, but it took Perry two years before he became a 1,000-yard rusher.
Biakabutuka barely cracked 200 yards as a freshman, but finished with 783 as a sophomore. As a junior in 1995, he erupted for 1,818 yards and 12 touchdowns, spinning together one of the most memorable individual running efforts in Big Ten history.
Let the veteran do his thing. It's always been worth the wait.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.