In the entire calendar year of 2013, the most prominent Michigan running play was a 10-yard loss.
Yeah, you've probably heard of/seen this one.
That happened on Jan. 1, 2013, in the Outback Bowl, a vicious hit on Vincent Smith that immediately made Jadeveon Clowney a household name and will soon make him a very rich young man. The thing is, Michigan's running game actually went downhill from that.
To arrest the free fall, there's a welcome sight in spring camp that began Tuesday. Sophomore running back Derrick Green arrived 20 pounds lighter than when he showed up on campus last year. A much-hyped recruit in 2013, Green had a disappointing freshman season, finishing third on the team with 270 rushing yards on just 3.3 yard per carry and two touchdowns.
"I'm down to 220, I went home from spring break at 227, I came back at 220 and I feel a lot better, faster and more explosive," Green told MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner. "I couldn't come in at the same weight I did last season.
"I feel better, I'm just going to come out and be productive for my team."
|Michigan's Top Returning Runners|
|Player||Class||Rushing Yards||Yards Per Carry||Long||TDs|
|Devin Gardner (QB)||Sr.||483||2.9||36||11|
|* Statistics from 2013 season|
Green wasn't the only one that needed a fresh start. In the 2013 season, the Wolverines finished next-to-last in the Big Ten in rushing, with 1,634 rushing yards and 3.3 yards per carry—and they weren't dead last only because Purdue was historically atrocious at running (805 yards, 2.5 YPC).
To put it in perspective, conference leader Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska had more rushing yards than Michigan by himself (1,690), as did eight other FBS players, including a quarterback, Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch.
To stop Bo Schembechler from stomping in his grave, Michigan went about to fix this. Offensive coordinator Al Borges was the first casualty, as he was fired just after New Year's. Michigan paid a king's ransom to pry Doug Nussmeier away from Nick Saban as Borges' replacement. And his first order of business is to simplify things.
"It seems a lot more easier (to understand) than last year's offense, we're going to get used to it," sophomore running back De'Veon Smith told MLive.com. "The running schemes, they're a little bit more simple. Coach Borges, to me, was more of a pass first and run second (coach), I feel like coach Nussmeier (is the opposite)."
With the departure of leading rusher Fitz Toussaint, Green and Smith will be counted on to shoulder the load in Nussmeier's retooled offense in 2014. A leaner Green, who once ballooned to 270 while in high school, will be asked to propel an offense that puts an emphasis on shoving the ball down opponents' throats.
"This is a lot more downhill, that's what I like," Green said. "That's the biggest thing. That's the focus this year. Getting that running game back, that's what Michigan's about."
Somewhere in the Blue yonder, Bo is nodding in agreement.
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