By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
De’Veon Smith doesn’t need to dodge, duck, dip or dive to torch opposing defenses.
“(The offensive line) made some huge holes,” Smith said, “holes that busses could drive through.”
Or in Smith’s case, a bulldozer.
At 5-foot-11, 228 pounds, he’s a big, physical running back who prefers to plow through a crowd, or a massive defender, rather than dart past them. And in Michigan’s 35-7 win in Jim Harbaugh’s home debut, Smith displayed a trait that the coach’s offense thrives on: power.
“We started grounding and pounding it,” Smith said. “If you have a big back…they’re going to start getting tired tackling a big guy.”
Power is something the Wolverines need with Harbaugh at the helm. They’re famous for a strong, smash-mouth running style, but the situation has been anything but since 2007, Mike Hart’s last year suiting up for the team.
The unit’s troubles have been well-documented over the years.
But Smith’s performance against Oregon State and his never-give-up attitude and play style is something for Michigan fans to put hope into. He rushed for 126 yards and became the first Michigan running back to score three touchdowns in a game since Fitzgerald Toussaint scored four against Indiana in 2013.
And he’s willing to become better.
In Michigan’s opener against Utah, Smith dropped a wide open pass. Harbaugh’s offense features running backs who can catch passes, so he took it upon himself to improve the skill last week during practice.
It paid off in the second quarter against Oregon State. Michigan was facing 4th-and-5 on the Beavers’ 28-yard line. Its offense was reeling and needed a spark, and the Wolverines opted to go for the conversion.
Quarterback Jake Rudock took the snap and for the second-straight week, Smith was open. This time, he caught the pass for a 20-yard gain, setting up the team’s first touchdown of the game.
“I’m happy I caught the ball this time; last week I dropped a ball,” Smith said, laughing that he was the last option on the play. “That’s one thing I was trying to work on this week, catching the ball, looking in the ball and getting up field.”
Smith knows toughness. Growing up in a house with two Division-I running backs, it’s a trait he had to learn quickly.
“De’Veon’s a tough guy; he doesn’t go down on one hit often,” Michigan safety Delano Hill said. “You’ve got to hit him hard, too, for him to go down.”
And that toughness wears down opposing defenses, which plays to Smith’s strengths.
“If you can tell the defense is wearing down, you want the ball even more, because personally, my strongest quarter is the fourth quarter,” he said.