FYI Hopkins didn't transfer. He just decided that playing football and getting his degree from the B-School was a little tough. He's still at Michigan, just not playing football.
Mike Lantry, 1972
UPDATE: NOW WITH 100% MORE BRANDON BROWN ANSWERS
It's that freshman you've all be waiting for. Michigan's new 5-star back was the highlight of this week's padless practice video. There are plenty more exciting carries to come, but just how many this year, and what's the expectation for sharing with the current starter? We try to tackle that. The backfield:
And the question:
Let's all make stupid predictions about running back carries this year. How many are there to go around? How many go to Toussaint, Green, guys down the batting order? Base expectations for YPC? Anybody cracking 1,000 yards this year? How about 10 TDs?
Seth: I believe Toussaint and the coaches that the senior RB who's proven he can torch defenses when given a reasonable amount of blocking will get the majority of carries this season. If I put us on a crappy graph (how do I make non-crappy graphs?) I'd be near the bullish Toussaint extreme and bearish on Green's yardage totals:
|Safe Prediction: Brian's YMRMFSPA for
Deveon Smith will be Brandon Minor
|2013 Seth's prediction:|
If the Green prediction in the above sound familiar you've been getting into the Chris Perry's freshman stats again. That year A-Train had a ludicrous 319 carries for 1733 yards and 18 TDs and Perry came on in the second half of the season as Thomas's No. 2 guy. They both got 5.4 YPC behind the best offensive line of my lifetime. No, this line won't be anywhere near that good; at best they're the 2000 line in 1997. That'll mean less to the No. 2 guy who gets the benefit of a softened defense and more trash time.
Regardless I'm going for a yard per carry better than last year thanks in part to more forgiving defenses, and a lot more attempts as QB carries (218 for 1455 yards with sacks removed last year) are halved in the world after Denard. When it's done Toussaint will emerge with a small majority of RB carries as he did last year, and increase his YPC to something under 5 but not that much.
I think Green will get more carries as the year progresses and he's worked into more two-back sets. In fact given the tight ends are still a developing thing, and Green's already 240 with reportedly advanced blocking techniques, and the fullbacks aren't anything special, why not make two-RB sets a regular feature in the Great Borgesian formation extravaganza? I was predicting something like that before Stephen Hopkins decided to
transfer [edit: give up football] and it didn't look so bad when it happened. I digress.
Green will severely eat into Rawls's opportunities, and unless they plan to redshirt Deveon Smith, last year's No. 2 back will have a tough battle to repeat half of last year's 57 carries. I'm of the mind that running backs don't change all that much (compared to other positions) over years in the program, and that Rawls won't suddenly develop the vision he didn't have last year. He remains what he is: Kevin Grady 2.0, albeit minus two stars of hype and any whiff of misbehavior. Having seen what we have in him, I'd like to see Smith pass him, since that would say nice things about Smith and set Michigan up nicely for the future.
I expect Justice Hayes will move into that 3rd down back role evacuated by Vincent Smith's graduation, and act as designated recipient of those fun throwback screens Borges loves. Obligatory Drake Johnson is on the roster note goes here. Maybe one of you guys know different but exactly zero hype on him from this spring made it my ears to corroborate the pre-bowl practice murmurs. Until I hear otherwise I'm figuring him for a non-factor.
Brian: Dennis Norfleet 500 carries for 5000 yards.
[After the jump: RB opinions from people like bloggers except more interesting]
BiSB: Well, obviously Norfleet for 5000 yards. But in the unlikely event that Norfleet gets moved to the slot several months ago, history may be instructive here. In Borges' six years in Auburn and SDSU, his primary back averaged 55% of the carries among the top 4 rushers, while his primary backup averaged about 25% of the carries. This was pretty close to the 2012 split, and almost identical to Seth's predictions.
I'm with Seth in that Fitz probably wins the starter label over Green, but I tend to think this is more like the 2004 split between Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown (a 53/34 split) than it was the 2010 split between Ronnie Hillman and Guy Behind Ronnie Hillman (a 66/17 split). After all, the kid seems about as college-ready as you'll see, and Borges and Hoke are going to want to take their new Tonka Truck out for a spin and see what he can do. On the other hand, with an inexperienced interior line and QB depth in the "gulp" territory, the ability of running backs to pass-protect will be at a premium, and maybe a true freshman isn't the ideal choice. So I'll go with about the Borges standard split.
While Justice Hayes may win the "third down back" crown, I wonder if Toussaint might take some of those snaps while Green takes some of Toussaint's first and second down snaps. Rawls' carries will take a serious blow, but he'll get a handful of carries because CMU and Akron exist. And based on nothing but a glance at the depth chart, I'll guess that DeVeon Smith redshirts this year. He may not need it, but given the logjam at RB and the lack of a back in the 2014 class (other than Leonard Fournette, of course), the coaches might want to spread the roster numbers a bit.
|Hayes doing the Howard, via TTB|
Trace amounts of Drake Johnson and Sione Houma may be detected, but will be within healthy levels.
Okay, here's what I think the queue for carries this year looks like:
Shallman and Smith will get redshirted unless Shallman carves out a niche for himself doing some other things. Rawls will get mostly garbage time. Hayes and Johnson will see themselves in games situationally and to spell tired starters.
That leaves us with Fitz and Green, who we've agreed upon are Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, but fast.
Based on their running styles, I predict a 60-40 split in carries between Fitz and Green. The real difference will be in yards per, and that's where I'm going to disagree with Bryan. Fitz has the advantage because he's faster and shiftier. He'll get 50, 60-yard runs a lot more often than Green, and that'll help his average even if he might only get like 2 yards on ho-hum runs where the line didn't block properly whereas Green might get 3.
In sum: I agree with Seth's dot, but not the scale of the x-axis, I'm kind of excited for this year's line, so I'm going to predict a 1,000 yard season for Fitz.
Ace: With the situation at backup quarterback — that situation being "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH SEND HELP" — I think Seth may even be a little conservative in his estimate of the number of running back carries available; keeping Gardner healthy is going to be priorities one, two, and three, so while I don't expect designed QB runs and options to disappear from the offense (au contraire, they may show more of a variety with DG), I agree more with BiSB's total workload.
Given his seniority, previously shown talent, and the fact that he flat-out said so, Fitz Toussaint will trot out with the starters against Central. The general consensus seems to be that Toussaint is a much better back than he showed last year when his running was hampered by a subpar interior O-line. By that same logic, however, we have to ask: is Toussaint as good as he looked in 2011, when Denard was healthy and drew the full attention of defenses for an entire season? A look at his game log from that season reveals some serious ups and downs — 108 yards on 11 carries against Minnesota was followed up the next week with a paltry 25 yards on 14 carries versus Northwestern, for example. He's very boom-or-bust, and with more viable options on the roster than the previous two years the coaches may want more consistency.
Derrick Green may not be the home-run threat that Toussaint represents, but he also seems more likely to be able to churn out five yards per carry in that Mike Hart, I'm getting these yards no matter what manner. I'll be the one who goes out on a limb — albeit a pretty strong limb — and says that Green will usurp Toussaint before the end of the season; with Toussaint getting the majority of the early carries, I think both guys will end up with similar numbers. Justice Hayes should get some chances on third down, while Thomas Rawls should get mop-up carries over the other two freshmen (Smith and Shallman), both of whom I expect to redshirt unless injury strikes the backfield.
My wild guess at the final numbers:
|Other (mostly Norfleet jet sweeps, plz)||15||4%||60||4||1|
Mathlete: So does anyone think there is a chance anyone other than Toussaint or Green gets meaningful carries this season? It will be interesting to see what role DeVeon Smith plays in the pursuit. On one hand I would love to see him get a redshirt and save a year but if he can make it a three way race it could get interesting.
In terms of spectrum, worst case scenario looks like a repeat of last year with the offensive line struggling in the run game and backs not finding good opportunities to open things up. In this scenario I see Borges/Jackson shuffling between Green and Toussaint hoping to get something going. Best case scenario is the interior line plays like their recruiting profiles and not their ages. Running back is the rare position within college football where age is almost completely irrelevant so if Green is the real deal, I could see him earning 50-60% of the carries with Toussaint still getting a quality portion. If Green isn't quite there yet and the OL is rolling, it's probably reversed with Fitz getting over half the carries and Green a run every 2-3 series.
Unless DeVeon Smith was the real star of the 2013 running back class, I see the two feature backs getting about 95% of the meaningful carries. As noted by others, third down back is going to be the big chance for Rawls/Johnson/Hayes/Smith to see the field. Having pass pro down will be the best chance for the second tier to get on the field and give themselves a chance to open some eyes.
|He means this guy. (Upchurch)|
Brian: I don't see guys other than Fitz or Green getting anything more than a few popcorn carries here or there unless--all together now--one of them emerges as a clearly superior third down back. That's not completely out of the question since Fitz hasn't really been used in that role much, but when in doubt go with the senior who's good in space over the competition. The only guy on the roster who can claim he's a better bet to gain five yards after a two-yard checkdown on third and seven is now at slot receiver.
Jackson did say he plans to get the running back competition down to three guys rather quickly: Toussaint, one new guy, and one old guy. All assumptions are that Green is the new guy and Smith will get a redshirt even if he's the third-best back because Michigan would like to space the two new guys out. So, then, is old guy going to make a dent?
I don't see anything that Rawls is going to do better than Derrick Green, so he's out of luck. Drake Johnson got a little bit of hype in the spring but given his recruiting profile I'll have to see it to believe it--or at least hear a lot more hype than we have, Braden-level hype. Hayes is probably next on the move-to-slot list, and I wouldn't be shocked to see that happen in camp. So... yeah. The problem for all of these guys is that if there is a true platoon between Toussaint and Green there will be little need to cycle in a third back since presumably both will always be fresh. They'll get scattered carries more for team-building purposes than anything else.
How Michigan's tailbacks do relies a lot more on Kyle Kalis than you know, them.
When I first thought about how this year could go as far as the running backs are concerned I thought about how Borges used Cadillac and Ronnie Brown when he was at Auburn. He put a lot of wear on those two in 2004 with Cadillac and Ronnie carrying the ball 392 times, 239 for Cadillac and 153 for Ronnie. That comes out to about a 60/40 split. While I don't think he'll use a newly-healed Fitz and a true freshman Derrick Green quite as much, I do see him utilizing both guys quite a bit with a distribution closer to 50/50. I'm with Ace I guess when I say I think that Green will actually carry it more than Fitz will this year. I think Fitz will start out as option #1 but Green will take him over before the season is through. I have it like this-ish:
|Other (Norfleet, Kerridge, Johnson)||8||2%||55||6.9||-|
I think Shallman and Smith will redshirt. Will be fun to see though!
FYI Hopkins didn't transfer. He just decided that playing football and getting his degree from the B-School was a little tough. He's still at Michigan, just not playing football.
He's a sports management major in kineis fwiw.
Fixed. Actually I knew that; I believe he's sports mgmt.
being a LB that has to take on a Ben Braden block then try and tackle Green. Glad I get to watch it as a fan
on the strength of rumor and possibility. Well, Drake Johnson is the story of a local boy possibly making the limelight. Everyone else wants Derrick Green to shine and shine at 240 while Fitz, who is a combination of Chris Perry and Tim Biakabutuka, can make a comeback and showoff that style that made him so electric in yesteryear.
And if Justice Hayes is justice served, then we can all rejoice when Justice prevails. That awaits a verdict of his own making.
In any case, I believe that Fitz and Green carry the load and Justice and Dennis Norfleet offer fun and possibility in a year of living dangerously.
I'd love to see Justice be served as well...he dumped ND to go Blue and I'd like to see that was for a good reason. Seems like a good kid as well, so I'm excited to see him get some quality carries.
Taylor Lewan continues to grow by about 5 "good" lbs/week.... The kids have got to be loving this cool late summer..... I really wish Coach Hoke would lose about 30 lbs for health's sake.
I hope, hope and hope the O line can create enough room this year for these guys to run. Last year was pretty tough to watch. Even teams that we should have Mack trucked over were able to stuff our running game.
I'll conservatively predict 1,200 yds combined between the two.
That is certainly a conservative prediction. I bet it will be more like 1,700, unless a lot of backs end up with carries. So I'll say 1,700 for the running backs as a group.
This is one category of offense where I have complete confidence in Al's ability to manage his talent. It is hard to find any team in the post-wishbone era that has managed multiple feature backs any better than Borges managed Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown at Auburn, and that includes the contemporary dynamite backfield of Lendale White and Reggie Bush at USC.
This is, by the way, also a huge plus for us in recruiting star RBs--not only do they get to compete in an elite program, but Borges has a track record of being able to send two RBs into the top half of the first round of the draft in the same year.
Both Green and Fitz are questionmarks; Fitz for his inconsistency, Green for his conditioning and rookie status. If Green is in game shape and is able to grasp his offensive responsibilities, though, the carries are there for the taking. His ability to break tackles and fall forward for key yardage will be huge for an offense that wants to avoid putting the QB in dangerous situations; as a consequence, he can earn carries even in high-leverage situations, unlike guys like Rawls.
Fitz is a bigger home-run threat, we think, but when you're in East Lansing and need one yard late in the fourth quarter, the chances are good that Green is the one they want taking the ball.
Arkansas did a pretty good job with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. They both went in the first round of the same draft. They probably weren't as good as Cadillac and Brown, but it was another great combo.
Won't thre RB's get more than 70-90 more carries? Denard had 177 carries, the vast majority of them were called runs.
Alabama, with its two-headed monster of Yeldon and Lacy, had no third back last year who had 70 carries, and that was with McCarron getting (presumably) very few called runs. 'Bama's third-busiest back had only 42 carries.
The typo is misleading. "Thre" was supposed to be "the", not "three".
My point is just that they're forecating 40-90 additional carries next year for RB's. That would actually mean we carry the ball 100-ish fewer times.
So let's extrapolate from the Gardner games then. Michigan carried the ball 184 times for 736 yards and 11 TDs in those games. That extrapolates over a 13-game season to 478 carries, 1914 yards and 29 TDs.
So much of that was Denard: 46 carries, 320 yards, 2 TDs. And Gardner: 47 carries, 101 yards, 7 TDs.
Yank out the WRs too and the RBs over those five games carried just 88 times for 287 yards and 2 TDs. That's not totally fair since Denard did a lot of that as a running back. So add Denard back in and you get a five-game total of 134 carries, 607 yards, 4 TDs. Turn that into 13 games and you're looking at 348 chances, 1578 yards and 10 TDs, with a YPC of 4.53.
I said 311 carries, 1513 yards, 17 TD. Maybe we're a little short, but not by all that much. I mean, Denard did a lot of that running lining up at QB or wherever, and is Denard, and a good chunk of that sample was him just juking Iowans out of their overalls. So we're not totally crazy.
FTR Gardner would extrapolate to 122 carries, 263 yards, and 18 (!) TDs. Except I bet you teams are already planning how to stop his bootleg.
Who's this "Bryan" you refer to? It's a good thing you are Borges' class pet...
My real-life existence, and its titular proximity to that of the title character, has caused much confusion around these parts. I may have to remedy this.
and also assumed Heiko is too smart to make that kind of pedestrian mistake - Heiko seems more the type to make an error in judgment by asking Borges one time too many about the bubble screen
In 17 seasons as an OC, Borges has had nine 1,000 rushers. He has also shown zero hesitation when it comes to using freshman RBs.
If Green is better than Toussaint, he'll get more carries. I tend to think that Fitz is pretty good, but I believe Green will have close to 100 carries this season.
I think it's important to point out that Al Borges has had lots of RBs have regressive seasons (statistically) under his watch. The O-Line is, without a doubt, the biggest factor in his teams' rushing success. While everyone is quick to point to his 2004 campaign with Brown/Williams, the Auburn rushing attack actually averaged more yards/carry the following season (with Kenny Irons at RB).
Large lineman and a stable of backs make this guy happy. I'm a huge fan of what Fitz has shown in the past, and with a presumably imporved line, I like his odds off carrying the ball +60% of the time.
With that being said, I can't wait to see what Green can bring to this team. It is a whole different dynamic for a defense when a team sports a "speedy shifty guy" with a "wholy cow that guy has legs bigger than my waist."
Good luck all opposing D's.
Fitz had an issue in the past trying to bounce outside ... where Kalis & Braden are not going to be there to clear the way. This won't be the case with Green. Once he develops a knowledge base of our interior linemen's blocking strengths then he'll be able to get consistent yards between the tackles. Yes ... its called MANBALL !
has anyone thought of the fact they couldve inflated green's weight as well? when i played we usually boosted our weight up 10-15lbs on the roster compared to what we actually were.....reading a scouting report and seeing that you have to tackle a 240lb RB compared to a 225lb back is a pretty big difference....food for thought..
I don't think any of us hope that the interior linemen play to their recruiting profiles. Braden and Miller were 3-stars, and Kalis was a 5-star. If they play like their recruiting profiles suggest, the LG and C will not be good.
Braden was only a 3-star, but for a 3-star he came in with an exceptional amount of hype. Brian labeled him his Sleeper of the Year in '12.
One term for the fear of crowds or mobs, such the fear that with six running backs attempting to squeeze into one space, one or two might be scared off and decide to move on to more sparcely populated spaces.
Smith is a freshman and an obvious RS candidate. If he's smart and I suspect he is, he'll recognize the value to him of a RS. Hayes has had his RS year, but still has 3 years of eligibility. Rawls is a junior, with two years of eligibility left, or more likely one since he's apparently decided to stick it out in AA. If he transferred he'd have to sit out a year --- depending on where he transferred --- to gain one more year of PT. That doesn't seem like much of a bargain. But then, that's what Mike Cox did (sorta) and the NY Giants drafted him.
IMO the transfer candidates are Hayes and Johnson. With Fitz gone after this year, Rawls might as well hang on and see whether he can split some carries with Green in '14. Smith's RS year would mean he'd have at least one year without having to contend with Green.
But Hayes, a RS SO and Johnson, a RS FR, must look toward a best-case scenario of splitting carries not only with Green, but with Rawls and then Smith. Even if Green were to leave after two years (an unlikely prospect, I hope) Hayes would only have one year left and Johnson two, albeit for Johnson, still with limited PT prospects. Smith would be in pretty good shape.
Of course the injury bug could shake everything up, but Brady, Gorgeous, and Fred will nonetheless have their hands full keeping these kids happy and in the fold, I think.