By ERICK LEHMAN, Staff Writer
The Michigan Wolverines have themselves a problem at the running back position in the upcoming season.
And it is a good problem to have. One that second year coach Jim Harbaugh likely is not all too worried about.
That problem is having a logjam.
The Wolverines boast of bevvy of talent at the running back position for the 2016-17 football season as they return all but one running back who received carries from last season.
Derrick Green transferred this off season, but the Wolverines will return 2015-16 leading rusher De’Veon Smith, as well as Drake Johnson, Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon.
Last season Smith rushed for 753 yards and six touchdowns as the Wolverines lead back. Johnson followed behind Smith with 271 yards and four touchdowns. While Isaac rushed for 208 and one touchdown. Higdon played a small role in the offense last season, but found some carries in a position group that was already full when he arrived.
The Wolverines welcome prized recruit Kareem Walker this season, who is likely to be the only true freshman to find playing time in the backfield.
Walker is a 6’1, 207 pound back from New Jersey who was the top rated running back recruit in the country.
Despite the talent ahead of him, Walker could quite possibly find himself in a position to make an impact this season.
While Smith had a successful season, there were times when the Wolverine running game looked unimpressive throughout last season. Harbaugh will likely not have second thoughts about going to someone else on his roster if Smith, Johnson, or Isaac are not performing. Walker could be the young spark plug that the Wolverines are looking for.
Walker could be a back that splits time between the 20 yard lines with Johnson, while Smith takes majority of the goal-line carries.
Walker, however, did have a tad bit of controversy surrounding him this offseason.
Walker was one of three players who were not present for a team photo. Harbaugh said that two of the players were suspended, and it was later announced that Walker was not one of those players. Ahmir Mitchell, one of the suspended players has since transferred out from Michigan.
This could potentially hinder Walker seeing the field early in the season, more prominently in the opening game, but it likely will not be anything significant.
The running back position will be one of the strongest position groups that the Wolverines possess this season. Behind essentially the same offensive line as last season, the Wolverines should, in theory have room to run. The biggest, and only question about this group is; who is going to step up, and take control of the carries? The days of the Wolverines having one bellcow back are likely over. Having four backs who can take control of the ground game at any point is that problem Harbaugh wants to have on his hands.
Don’t expect anything in the running game to be the same from week to week.
The Wolverines also lost fullbacks Sione Houma, and Joe Kerridge who provided chunk plays, and significant goal-line opportunities.
Michigan returns Henry Poggi and Khalid Hill, who will look to take over the duties left behind by Houma and Kerridge.