Michigan Football: How Will RB Rotation Work in 2014?

Tom LoganCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2013

Freshman De'Veon Smith will compete with Derrick Green for the starting job.
Freshman De'Veon Smith will compete with Derrick Green for the starting job.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

From Tyrone Wheatley, to Chris Perry, to Mike Hart and all the way back to Heisman Trophy-winner Tom Harmon, the history of excellence at the running back position runs deep at Michigan. It's one of the most highly scrutinized positions at one of the most storied programs in the country. 

So with lead back Fitzgerald Toussaint graduating in May, how will the carries be divvied up in 2014? 

Freshman De'Veon Smith will give fellow freshman Derrick Green some serious competition for the starting job in the spring, despite Green earning nearly four times as many carries as Smith this year.

Green arrived on campus as a slightly higher rated recruit, but when Smith worked his way back into the game plan after an eight game absence at Northwestern, he proved he could be productive when he rushed for 41 yards on eight carries.

Smith followed up that performance by leading the team in rushing yards against Ohio State with 57 yards on just seven carries. 

Freshman Derrick Green showed some impressive ability at times this year.
Freshman Derrick Green showed some impressive ability at times this year.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Smith finished the regular season with 111 yards on 22 carries, good for an average of 5.0 yards per carry.

Green, who's shown glimpses of his much-anticipated potential, has averaged just 3.2. 

While Smith's sample size is admittedly small, he's finished runs with impressive force and has shown slightly better lateral movement than the bigger Green (Smith is listed at 224 pounds while Green is 240). 

They're both strong, North-South runners who should be able to wear down even the most physical Big Ten defenses.  

The two have the potential to create a formidable tandem in the Michigan backfield, and it's certainly not a foregone conclusion that Green will receive the lion's share of the carries in 2014. 


The Rest of the Bunch

Even with Toussaint's clear distinction as the No. 1 back this year, he still received just 60 percent of the carries among the running backs on the roster. It's safe to assume that if healthy, the Green/Smith tandem will receive slightly more than that percentage.

 So who's in line to back up these two sophomores-to-be? 

Redshirt Freshman Drake Johnson will compete for carries next year.
Redshirt Freshman Drake Johnson will compete for carries next year.Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ann Arbor product Drake Johnson could add some versatility, particularly in the passing game. The redshirt freshman possesses great speed and cutback ability, and likely would have seen some action this year if he hadn't torn his ACL in Week 1 against Central Michigan.  

Junior Thomas Rawls drew the attention of Michigan fans in 2011 when his high school coach proclaimed that he was a better high school player than fellow Flint, Michigan product and Heisman Trophy-winner Mark Ingram.

That hype hasn't materialized, but Rawls has been an efficient short-yardage back and is a sufficient substitute. 

Coach Brady Hoke has yet to add any running backs to his list of 2014 commitments, but there's still time for him to do so.

It looks as if No. 1-rated back Leonard Fournette has slipped out of his grasp, but the Wolverines are still in the mix for Cal Berkeley commit Vic Enwere. The 3-star recruit, who amassed over 2,300 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns at Ford Bend Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas, visited Ann Arbor this past weekend.

Enwere would add some nice depth to the running back corps, and themblock.com reported that he "felt like one of the guys" during his visit alongside a few 2014 committed recruits (including Jabrill Peppers).

Only time will tell if Hoke and his staff will be able to sway him as he still has a recruiting visit scheduled at Cal on Jan. 24, just a few days before National Signing Day. 

While the Wolverines will have to lean on an unusually young group of running backs in 2014, they're an extremely talented bunch that will give the Michigan faithful plenty to cheer about. 


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