De’Veon Smith, junior
2014 rushing stats: 12 G, 108 attempts, 519 yds, 4.81 avg., 6 TD, 43.25 yds/G
De’Veon Smith has been in Derrick Green’s shadow even before the two arrived in Ann Arbor two years ago. He was Michigan’s lone running back in its 2013 recruiting class until the Wolverines landed the highly-coveted Green before signing day.
Besides two strong performances — 115 yards vs. Appalachian State and 121 yards vs. Northwestern — Smith’s season was a dud. He was held under 50 yards in nine games, including two games that featured single-digit rushing yards.
Smith was elevated to Michigan’s feature back after Green’s injury but he wasn’t able to take advantage, eventually losing the starting job to Drake Johnson.
It will be an uphill battle for Smith this season; a healthy Green and Isaac are likely candidates for Michigan’s top two running back spots.
Drake Johnson, redshirt junior
2014 rushing stats: 12 G, 60 attempts, 361 yds, 6.02 avg., 4 TD, 30.08 yds/G
Drake Johnson had his fair share of roadblocks during his career, but he developed into Michigan’s best offensive player come November.
Johnson’s breakout came against Indiana at the start of the month (122 yards and two touchdowns), and until tearing his ACL mid-game, the rising redshirt junior had Ohio State’s defense on the ropes.
There’s new roadblocks for Johnson to get back on the field and contribute for the Wolverines: the recovery from the injury and the duo of Green and Isaac. But he did prove last season that he can be a force if given an opportunity.
Depth: Karan Higdon, freshman (Riverview/Sarasota, Fla.); Wyatt Shallman, redshirt sophomore; Antonio Whitfield, junior