2015 Michigan Running Backs

Submitted by Dawkins on July 19th, 2015 at 4:53 PM

How do you guys see the depth chart shaking out?

I see lots of talk about Green and Isaac and even Drake Johnson, but I feel like De'Veon Smith is the one who is best poised for a breakout season in Harbaugh's offense given his running style. He's a dependable north/south type of runner who can make the necessary cuts but doesn't depend on dancing around in the backfield like some runners do. He reminds me a lot of Brandon Minor (Minor was more shifty but his game was geared more towards runing through tackles rather than running around everybody). 

I see Green continuing to run right into traffic too often, and MGoStrength's thread has convinced me that Drake Johnson will be injured again (or at least be too injury-prone to carry the load over the course of an entire season).  

I anticipate the depth chart will end up as:

1. Smith

2. Isaac

3. Green/Johnson

4. Higdon/Shallman

Wildcard: if Norfleet is allowed back I could see Harbaugh putting him somewhere in the RB rotation. 


Avon Barksdale

July 19th, 2015 at 4:58 PM ^

If Ty Isaac has his head right and spends more time on the football field than his social network accounts, he should by far be the best fit. Toby Gerhart size but with slightly better speed and can catch the ball out of the backfield.

If not, I think it could be Smith and Green with Isaac on third downs. I just don't think Drake Johnson will be healthy enough, but we'll see.

Avon Barksdale

July 19th, 2015 at 5:37 PM ^

That last season, although only red-shirting, he was more of a "Where the party tonight" type on Twitter as opposed to a "Let's get in this weight room" type.

I'm not saying that's the type of guy he is, but his social networks at the very least, did not really come off to me as a go-getter, in the weight room or film room 24/7 type of guy.


July 19th, 2015 at 9:59 PM ^

Well, my own barometer of your person is what you post online at MGoBlog, and from that I can only deduce that you love to be overly judgemental of college athletes who don't fit into a narrow view of "hard-working" players, and that you base these characterizations on extremely limited information gleaned from a social media account that you (apparently) check up on semi-frequently.

I am sure this is a grossly-unfair generalization of you as a person, but if we are in the business of painting people with broad brushes, I want in!


July 19th, 2015 at 5:13 PM ^

Yeah I've found it odd that there hasn't been any rumblings about him. Yeah I get camp hasn't started and all that but from him being on Twitter all the time and never mentioning football seems weird, and yes I realize how stalkerish I sound. Haha


July 19th, 2015 at 4:59 PM ^

I feel good about Isaac. Green seems like once he figures it out he will be up there too. Smith will get some run too, especially early in the season.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

Yostbound and Down

July 19th, 2015 at 5:03 PM ^

Norfleet is not going to play RB. And I do wonder if Green gets encouraged to bulk up and move to FB or something, I don't see him getting reps at HB. Seems like one or two of Smith, Johnson and Isaac should rise to the top.

Edit: Higdon I would think would RS... Shallman, who knows. Didn't look particularly good in the spring game.


July 19th, 2015 at 10:05 PM ^

Green has potential.  Given how poorly the whole team looked the past couple of years running/blocking, I'm not sure if anyone can be cast aside as a potential lead back.  Again, Isaac hasn't played a down of college ball in a year, and wasn't draped in glory at USC based on the depth chart.  Smith is good in spaces but misses just as many holes, and there was a reason he was passed by Green basically twice.  Drake had some great moments, but he's also coming off a second ACL injury, and lawd knows if he'll be the same player he was.  Then you've got true freshmen, tweeners like Shallman, and questions galore.

My guess is that Smith, Green, and Isaac split early carries unless Johnson really does come back healthy, but this feels like the ultimate RB by committee team to start the year.  Maybe someone emerges late, but none of the backs on the roster look like #1 backs right now.  By the end of the year, though, my guess is that 2 of them will get the bulk of the carries because that seems to be Harbaugh's MO.

rob f

July 19th, 2015 at 5:04 PM ^

competition.  Whichever one(s) come in most prepared and healthiest will get a leg up, but it's a long road ahead until that game @ Utah, and any of them could rise to the top as long as they stay healthy.  Bottom line, though, is that it will still boil down to competing in practice.

Personally hoping that Drake Johnson is 100% this fall and can pick right up where he left off before getting injured last season in The Game.  I am very impressed by anyone who shows the perseverence he has.


July 19th, 2015 at 5:08 PM ^

I have a similar feeling about the depth chart as you do. I think Smith and Isaac will be interchangeable unless Isaac has a great camp in which case he could be special this year. I think Johnson is clear #3 and Green #4 when Johnson is full-go.


July 19th, 2015 at 7:07 PM ^

I'm sorry but I haven't seen much of anything that tells me Green can be a starting back in the B1G. In all honesty I think he transfers by the end of the year. In his two years here he has shown horrible vision and zero toughness on contact. He struggles to maintain a steady weight and body type. Isaac is the most talented, Smith is the toughest, and Johnson has played the best when healthy. Higdon has a really nice HS film. I just don't see room in the stable for Green if he is at best the 4th most talented back we have as a junior.

I would love to see him meet expectations, I was over the moon when he committed. He just has looked very poor on Saturdays so far.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


July 19th, 2015 at 5:11 PM ^

1. De'Veon
2. Green
3. Drake
4. Ty Isaac

I did have Karan Higdon as a dark horse to be a solid back up this year, but I believe he ends up a RS this year.

We'll be Champions

July 19th, 2015 at 5:11 PM ^

I think it will be
1. Green/Isaac
2 Smith
3. Johnson (if he can remain healthy, I think he can move up
4. Higdon/ Shallman

I think that Isaac and Green are the best options as far as talent goes, but I think it might come down to something as small as who can keep their balance best and always falls forward which I think puts Smith at an advantage at first but because of all the talent between Isaac and Green, I think they will be the workhorses by the end of the year.


July 19th, 2015 at 5:23 PM ^

I think it's unfair to judge the running backs in regards to the spring game due in part to the split lines. I do not feel that we have had a line worth it's salt in the past seven years. When you split a terrible line the running game will understandably suffer. With Drevno's tutelage and Harbaugh's tenacity through fall camp all should prosper. I also think that with quarterback that must be respected on the pass defenses will need to respect all aspects of the offense. The running backs are all the same back excited to see what Ty Issac can do and hope Drake Johnson can return at some point during the season as he provides an element of speed that is severely lacking from this running back group.


July 19th, 2015 at 8:43 PM ^

You dont continue at the same pace you do against App State and Miami OH the whole season. Because those teams suck. Both he and Isaac racked up the bulk of their yards vs bad defenses. We have not seen him do it vs good teams. 

Doesnt mean he cannot but extrapolating what a guy has done against junk defenses to OSU, MSU, PSU, ND, Utah, Wisconsin, Nebraska defenses is going to lead to disappointment.

Here are his splits:

  • (2 games) App State/Miami OH = 37 carries, 307 yds = 8.3 yds per carry.  (A monster!)
  • (4 games) ND/Utah/Minn/rutgers = 45 carries,164 yds= 3.6 yds per carry  (A bottom half Big 10 back)

Which is he?  I don't know but unless he transfers to the MAC or wherever App State plays I am not extrapolating those 2 games.

Cranky Dave

July 19th, 2015 at 9:38 PM ^

His 62 yd run against App and Green averages 6.8 YPC. Smith had a 61 yd run in that game... nice average but against that competition a great back would have gone for 10+YPC. I think Drake was the best back we had last year. Hope he's healthy or Ty is fantastic in camp.