There’s no questioning Derrick Green’s future at Michigan—it’s bright, very bright.
But the freshman didn’t get enough opportunities in 2013 to showcase his powerful running style. However, the 5’11”, 240-pound former Hermitage High (Va.) bulldozer most certainly set a solid foundation to build upon during his sophomore year.
With 42 of 82 carries coming during the final three weeks, Green’s “debut” was a long time coming. Really, it’s still coming, because Wolverines followers were only afforded a mere glimpse into his arsenal.
Difficult to tackle and able to maintain balance while shrouded by defenders, Green proved he’s cut out for the rugged Big Ten. His hard-nosed approach helped the Wolverines (7-5, 3-5) slip by Northwestern in triple overtime, and his tree-trunk legs provided plenty of energy during late drives vs. Iowa and Ohio State.
Rushing for 265 yards and two touchdowns wasn’t what most expected from Green, who entered college as the No. 8-ranked running back, per 247Sports. Ideally, his first-year production should have been closer to 500 yards and six or more touchdowns.
Time is on his side, which is the only positive that can be taken from his lukewarm rookie year.
|The Year That Was|
|ESPN player profile|
Adapt to the Situation
Next year will be much more difficult now that Michigan has to replace Taylor Lewan, an All-American left tackle who was named the Big Ten’s OL of the year, and Michael Schofield, a versatile senior who anchored the right side of the line—Green must rely on his experience to guide him to the Promised Land.
Easier said than done, right?
But that’s college football. The revolving door doesn’t stop. With any luck, the Wolverines will finally develop their interior offensive line, groom a couple of replacement tackles and give Green something to run behind for the next three seasons.
One of the keys to personnel change is establishing chemistry—and the line certainly needs to do that. As a running back, it’s important for Green to have a great working relationship with the 300-pounders creating holes for him to run through.
Come to a Realization
Green appeared college-ready as a high school senior, just like most backs of his caliber. They carry 4- and 5-star rankings for a reason—they’re capable of excelling at the next level.
In the past, Green may have not had to work all that hard to get starting reps. He was in a different league than his competition, so workouts could have been more for personal pleasure rather than actual physical development.
If that was the case, it must stop now—no more trucking preps on Virginia fields for Green, who’ll face grown-men defenders from Ohio State and Michigan State from this point forward. Taking a serious approach from day one of camp to the final week of the season is imperative.
Entering camp at 20 pounds heavier than his listed weight wasn’t the way to start his career at Michigan. However, Green dropped about 10 pounds as 2013 progressed, which led to more carries vs. Northwestern and beyond.
If he can trim a few elbows off his frame, he’ll be in great shape (pardon the pun).
This is the Big Ten. This is Michigan. This isn’t high school. Green seems to have gotten the picture, but he must maintain the same level of hunger that afforded more than 20 Division I scholarship offers. Getting there is difficult, but staying at the highest level of college is far from a cake walk (again, pardon the pun).
The No. 1 job is Green’s for the taking. He can’t let his weight cause Michigan to wait.
Learn from Mistakes
Everyone has “my bad” moments, even the star recruits. Dusting off after committing an error is the mark of a resilient competitor. Green still has a long way to go before he’s anything close to resembling a great Wolverines power runner, but he has the makings of a great.
Size, of course, is his best attribute. The next step is mastering the mental part of the game, which can be more challenging than those on the outside fully comprehend.
Why didn’t Green immediately get the No. 1 reps? In an effort not to go overboard with speculation, let’s assume he wasn’t mentally ready for the rigors of college football. Maybe he wasn’t up to par when it came to learning the plays.
Maybe his weight was really an issue. Head coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges weren’t going to throw an out-of-shape frosh onto the field and tell him to go with the flow. Not a chance—only Green and his coaches know for sure.
Green has to be receptive to new ideas, should they be presented. It’ll be a learning process, sure, and now that Michigan’s left a little skinny on the line, Green may be asked to add a couple of new skills to his bag of tricks.
There will be failure—lots of failure. Tim Biakabutuka didn’t become a star overnight. In fact, he needed two years before rushing for 1,818 yards as a junior in 1995, per TotalFootballStats.com. Not many running backs are knockouts from the get-go, and Green has to realize he has to work twice as hard as he did while in high school.
It’s all part of the process. Green won’t be the first to do it, and he will not be the last. Maintaining a level head, hearty hunger and passion for excellence will develop Green into the next blazer at Michigan.