Michigan Football Position Preview: Running Back
Kickoff is less than two months away and we are in the dead period for any news on the team and in college football in general. With that being said, let’s look over each position on the team and who is competing for the starting position and predict who will win each position. Today I will look at the running back position. This position has seven guys fighting for the top spot and four have legitimate chances to get the nod. Smith was the starter last year as Johnson and Isaac got some playing time along with Higdon. Walker and Davis are incoming freshman and Hewlett has been a bench rider for most of his career. These seven men are going to fight like hell to prove to coach Harbaugh that they are the starting running back at Michigan. Let’s breakdown each candidate.
The starting running back of last season and the front-runner to be at it again this year is De’Veon Smith. Last year Smith ran for 753 yards and six touchdowns, along with 19 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown. Smith did well as the clear-cut number one back last year with his strength shown on the field at the running back position. Smith should be the leader with his experience on the field. Smith has the power to break tackles and can take his speed to a second gear if needed.
The biggest incoming threat to Smith’s job is freshman Kareem Walker. In his career, Walker has run for 4,563 yards and 55 touchdowns, along with 20 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Walker is pretty much the same type of running back as Smith. Power and speed when needed. Walker even said that he came to Michigan to play, not to ride the bench so he already has his eyes set to start, if not at least get some playing time. Walker was ranked the number six running back in the nation and the last time Michigan had a top 10 running back on their team, he didn’t work out so well for the team so let’s hope Walker can prove the doubters wrong.
Isaac is the only running back on this list with some controversy. Isaac played in seven games in his first year at Michigan after transferring from USC and while you could point at his fumbling issues as why he got cut down in playing time, something else happened. Isaac was dismissed for two weeks on the dress list and something happened in Orlando for him to not be able to play in the Citrus Bowl last year. Isaac has seemed to improve and start focusing on football again and compete for the starting job. Last year Isaac ran for 205 yards for a touchdown and had two catches for 12 yards. He impressed at the spring game, getting 10 carries for 78 yards. The former five-star running back is looking to make an impact while he finishes his career at Michigan and he could start with a solid 2016 season.
The man of a million injuries. Drake Johnson has suffered through a lot of pain while at Michigan. In 2013, Johnson tore his ACL in the season opener, missing the entire season. In 2o14 in the final game against Ohio State, he tore his ACL again. 2015 was a good year though, Johnson played in 10 games which was a career high, but 2016 preparation isn’t looking good as he got run over by a forklift in a freak accident in April during track practice. Harbaugh said it was a “miracle” that he did not get injured anymore seriously. No details have been released about what injuries that have occurred, but Johnson is still someone, if healthy, that can compete for the starting job. Last year he ran for 271 yards and four touchdowns along with six catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson is a mix of a power and speed back and did well in 2014 while he was healthy and 2015 he didn’t play as much with Isaac getting more touches, but if Johnson can come back healthy in 2016 he can compete well.
Higdon was a freshman last year and had very little playing time. Higdon appeared in three games and ended with 19 rushing yards and a catch for three yards. Higdon will have to battle with a lot of experienced players if he is going to get more of a sniff of playing time in 2016.
The redshirt of the group is going to have to be Kingston Davis. Davis had a great career in high school, rushing for 3,655 yards, 39 touchdowns and getting 18 catches for 268 yards and a touchdown. There is no way that Davis will be seeing any action this year, so giving him a year to learn and get better, and with Smith and Johnson leaving after this season his chances of playing time go up way more when they are off the team.
Joe has never played a down for the Wolverines and the chances of him even getting a whiff of playing time is very slim. He is a junior and with many of the people ahead of him being a junior or higher, Hewlett may never see the field as is.
Who is the Starting Running Back Come Week One?
This battle has several people who could end up with the job. Many of the people who don’t end up starting, will still get plenty of playing time which is good to see the team do, not waste any talent. Here are my predictions for the running back depth chart.
- De’Veon Smith
- Ty Isaac
- Kareem Walker
- Drake Johnson
- Karan Higdon
- Joe Hewlett
- Kingston Davis (redshirted)