By GEOFF MEHL, Staff Reporter
Michigan’s running game is attempting a return, and it’s coming in the form of a one-two punch.
Sophomore Running Backs, Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, showed off why they were touted recruits in Michigan’s 2014 season opener. The duo totaled 285 yards on 23 carries to lead a 52-14 rout.
“Coach calls us the one-two punch,” Smith said, following the season opener.
Watching these two running backs can be quite confusing, because both boast a 5-foot-11, 220 pound frame with similar running styles. Both backs are physical runners, but Smith does not shy away from contact once he reaches the next level of the defense.
“I wouldn’t mind running into a small defensive back,” Smith said. “I’m pretty sure that if I hit him once then he probably wouldn’t come out as hard at me as he did before. I mean, they really just say if you and a DB are in the secondary, then you just never get tackled by just one guy.”
Green has no problem running a guy or two over either, but he also isn’t afraid to dance around the line to find the open hole.
In 2013, Green was a high profile recruit who didn’t quite live up to the high expectations that fans unfairly held him to. He averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and had 270 yards on 83 carries. He scored only two touchdowns and his longest run was for 30 yards.
In comparison, Green carried the ball 15 times for 170 yards, and a touchdown in his first game of the 2014 season. His longest run was a 62-yarder. Afterwards, reporters asked if the breakout game was a load off his shoulders.
“It felt like a little bit of weight off, but I know I just have to keep it going into next week,” Smith said.
The tandem of Green and Smith has embraced the shared playing time and see it as an advantage.
“If I make a big run, it makes him want to get one. Or he gets one, it makes me want to get one,” said Green. “It’s always a friendly competition with us, but I think, more than anything, we feed off each other.”
As Green and Smith mature in this young Michigan offense, under Coordinator, Doug Nussmeier, all eyes will be on this talented pair of running backs.