Michigan struggled to run the ball last season, hampered by an ineffective offensive line and an offensive strategy that varied by the game.
Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was hired to stabilize the Michigan offense and create a consistent identity for a unit that spent too much time trying to do everything last season and not enough time doing anything well. During spring practice, Nussmeier has streamlined the offense, emphasizing the running attack much to the delight of running back Derrick Green.
“Michigan is about running the ball, and this unit is going to bring it back,“ said Green, who looks noticeably leaner and says that he is 20 pounds lighter than when he struggled for playing time last year. “I feel a lot faster, stronger; my body feels a lot better than last season.”
Green, the top returning running back (83 carries for 290 yards and two touchdowns), will compete with De’Veon Smith (29 carries for 119 yards) for playing time this fall.
“De’Veon and I are brothers, but competition is what will make this team better,” said Green while acknowledging that they might share the load. “Coach Nussmeier is all about having a one-two punch.”
When pressed for differences between the offense under former coordinator Al Borges and Nussmeier, Green says that things are “…lot more downhill.”
Michigan has a long way to go to reestablish its credentials as a team with a feared running attack. According to the NCAA statistical database, the team had one of the worst running games in the nation, trailing Tulane, tying Pittsburgh and just edging out Massachusetts and Louisiana-Monroe.
|Rank||Team||Rushing Yards||Yards Per Game|
Long gone are the days when Michigan would run over opponents while regularly competing for the Big Ten title.
Last season, Brady Hoke declared that power football was returning to Ann Arbor. But it didn’t happen last season as Michigan limped to a 7-6 record and a place in the cellar of the Big Ten Legends division.
Doug Nussmeier is preparing the offense to deliver on Hoke’s prediction, albeit a year late. While questions remain on the offensive line and at wide receiver, Derrick Green is poised to be part of the answer at running back.
All season statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department web site.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.