Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith aren’t roommates.
They’re closer than that.
Unlike roommates, they actually spend time together, eat together, study together and, well, be great friends together.
However, that bond all but disappears once the sophomores hit practice. As interchangeable 1A and 1B options in Michigan’s backfield, they’re chasing the same job—that of the true No. 1.
On Wednesday, Green was asked what he’s doing to gain leverage in the race for top billing—which is everything in his power, he says—but said he feels that running backs coach Fred Jackson and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will ultimately make that ruling, not the backs themselves.
Until that happens, he'll continue to encourage Smith to reach his goals—even if it’s the same one he wants.
“We’re competing. Every day we come out [and give full effort]—but at the end of the day, we’re brothers and we love each other,” Green said.
And when he says “brothers,” he means “brothers.” They spend hours playing video games together. They’re pretty tight. So, it should come as no surprise that Smith had a similar answer when asked what he’s doing to claim the advantage.
“Right now, we’re pretty much even,” he said. (Note: Size-wise, that's true too. He's 5'11", 220 pounds; Green's 5'11", 230 pounds). “I honestly don’t know [what I’m doing to separate]—we’re really good friends, so we compete at every little thing we do. [Who’s No. 1] depends on who gets in Coach J’s [Jackson] room the most and studies film.”
Chances are, they’ll probably be together when that happens too. Maybe they’ll flip a coin to see who’s responsible for the popcorn?
All jokes aside, Green and Smith’s association can only make for a positive impact on their position group. When one’s down, the other will be there to pick up the slack. When one’s on a hot streak, competitive nature should take hold, forcing the bystander into becoming an active participant.
It’s yin and yang, running back-style.
Michigan can't lose either way. And it all starts Aug. 30 versus Appalachian State, Green said.
And so did Smith.
The calls for someone other than Fitz Toussaint rang loud and clear for most of 2013. The senior didn't perform to his previous standards, so fans wanted a change. Unfortunately, Michigan didn’t hear those pleas until late in the year, finally giving in and presenting Green and Smith real chances to prove themselves.
Generally speaking, they didn’t do very much as freshmen—that much is clear. But they were each vital contributors during the one that counts for double, the Wolverines' 42-41 loss to Ohio State. Smith had seven carries for 57 yards (obviously a season high), and Green chipped in with 12 totes for 47 yards.
As time evaporated, the hard-running bruisers moved the chains and wore down the Buckeyes defense, which was No. 34 overall in 2013, per NCAA.com. That game serves as the best example, to date, of their one-two-punch capabilities.
Back on media day, Smith mentioned his team’s heightened sense of continuity. In hindsight, there’s a chance he could have been making a reference to his friendship with Green or to other similar bonds that teammates share.
During a recent ESPN survey, Hoke was asked to sum up the Wolverines with one word.
He said “together.”
Green and Smith embody that.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
Quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.