How does everyone think the RB position is going to play out

Submitted by coachdad on January 11th, 2016 at 12:13 PM

Will Deveon be able to hold on to the bulk of the carries? Will one of the new guys steal carries from him? I think when healthy he is a fantastic running back, but look forward to seeing how this battle plays out.



January 11th, 2016 at 12:16 PM ^

I liked the way they used the RBs in the bowl game, frequent rotation between Johnson and Smith.  Some have speculated that Smith could move into the Houma position of RB/FB hybrid which he seems to have the skill to excell at.  If Isaac has bought in as has been indicated it could be Isaac and Johnson at RB with Smith as the short yardage/FB dive guy.


January 11th, 2016 at 12:17 PM ^

He will line up as QB and run wildcat keepers.
He will line up as fullback and run dive plays.
He will line up at wide receiver and replace Chesson on jet sweeps.

Every time a run play is dialed up, I personally guarantee that Smith will tote the rock.


January 11th, 2016 at 1:52 PM ^

Do you detect the sarcasm in these responses?


When starting a post, you have to add some insight and statistics to go along with your questions.  Have a thesis, if you will, and state your prediction.  These kind of posts will always bring out the snark.  

Also, if your post sucks, you could be negged back below 100.  Getting to 100 points doesn't mean you HAVE to post, it just means that your are allowed to post.

/drops mic 


January 11th, 2016 at 12:19 PM ^

Deveon looked the part of a feature back in the bowl, I don't really see much doubt that'll continue. I think Isaac works himself out of the dog house and contributes, although it might be at H-back/Flex. Drake, Higdon, and Walker will probably split the rest evenly-ish.

SC Wolverine

January 11th, 2016 at 1:02 PM ^

We will have an improved running game with a better Deveon (a la the Florida game), contributions from Ty Isaac, and improved run blocking.  Meanwhile, if the QB works out, we are going to throw the ball very effectively.  Walker will get a year of experience, whether he redshirts or not.


January 11th, 2016 at 12:21 PM ^

In snap percentages:

Smith - 60

Walker - 20

Johnson - 15

Isaac - 5


I think Ty will get some play when we want another big pass catcher on the field. Walker will be given every opportunity to get PT, but if healthy no one can take the bulk of snaps away from Smith. We saw glimpses of his ability during the year while he was hurting (his run against BYU was one of the most fun moments I've had in the stands at the stadium in years), but what he did against Florida was indicative of how good he can be when he is near 100%. Give him an improved line and he can be a top 4 back in the conference. 

I admire Ty for sticking with it and trying to right his ship. He has transferred, made bad decisions, not been fully committed...but I think his persistence and maturation will get him some time. 

I love Drake, known him for a while, think he's a really good back...but I think his injury history will prevent him from ever being more than a change of pace guy. Which is fine because he comes in and gets 6 YPC and does well in the screen game. He just won't be in the league anytime soon. 


January 11th, 2016 at 1:45 PM ^

As did I and most people, as everyone should have. 

I was referring to your comment about Smith, particularly his lack of shiftiness. No he does not have elite speed, but he showcased this year that you don't need elite speed to be very effective. 

If Smith weren't shifty he MAY have ran for 40 yards against Florida. Our OL did not play well, but Smith made nearly every first contact miss in that game. He had double digit missed tackles. I'd also point out his monster run against BYU. A "non-shifty" back doesn't get through that mosh pit. 

Being shifty doesn't mean breaking everyone's ankles, having guys tackling air and renting a room in the Sportcenter Top 10. Shiftiness is being able to move laterally and quickly enough to make people miss you, which Smith does incredibly well for a 230lb man. He is a contact runner, but contact and shiftiness are not mutually exclusive. No one will ever confuse Deveon for a track star, but he is incredibly agile for a "bruiser" back. 

The Mad Hatter

January 11th, 2016 at 2:39 PM ^

seemed to have improved significantly between the end of the season and the bowl game.  Either he spent a lot of time working on it, or he was playing in a lot of pain during the season.

I think it's clear that Drake was more seriously hurt than everyone thought, and he seems to have lost some speed, but he also looked much improved in the bowl.

I'm hoping that the off season gives both of them a chance to finally get fully healthy.


January 11th, 2016 at 5:46 PM ^

Mike hart was shifty.
He makes the same runs as a healthy deveon does but in a totally different manner. Deveon plows guys and hart eluded tacklers. Making the first cut properly is not shifty. Thats called vision, which deveon showed for the first and only time against fl. So im hoping that continues.
Both may make that run against byu. But in a different manner.that run is the last example to use bc that was textbook earl campbell that deveon used and definitely not barry sanders, who would be my definition of shifty.
Anyways, if higdon is a poor mans hart or broke ass barry sanders, he will have a role next year.
Ill agree, deveon gets a ton of carries, but ive liked him and eventually king davis as a modern bj askew for awhile.
In the end, barring health issues, my breakdown is pretty close to yours.
Deveon 60
Johnson 20
Higdon, isaac, walker and possibly schallman as a fb taking the other 20.


January 11th, 2016 at 12:28 PM ^

With 4 returning starters on the OL (5 if you want to count TE/Butt), no scheme change for the first time in 3 years, AND year 2 of Drevno, Michigan should have excellent RB productin.


January 11th, 2016 at 12:32 PM ^

Unless you have an elite guy, the back is not going to be a major differentiator here.  It's about the OL and how honest the QB can keep the secondary from cheating into the box.

But since we're on the topic -- I don't see anyone passing over our best RB in 2015 anymore than I see anyone passing over our best WRs, TE, OLmen, DLmen, or DBs from 2015.  Leapfrogging could happen, but the guy who played the best will probably be the guy played the best before.


January 11th, 2016 at 12:30 PM ^

with someone not fumbling the football and seeing the holes created in front of him by the experienced offensive line. Beyond that, I could care less who starts, who gets the most snaps or who rides the pine. 

Arlo Pear

January 11th, 2016 at 12:42 PM ^

I hope to see a little more Higdon. I thought he had some burst with the few carries he received. Hopefully after a full year/off-season he will have a better grasp of the position at the college level.


January 11th, 2016 at 1:35 PM ^

Higdon tripped over his own feet late vs. MSU and gained only a yard with nothing but green grass in sight and us needing a 1st down like oxygen. He was rarely seen after that. Not saying he won't improve but the staff lost confidence in him.


January 11th, 2016 at 12:38 PM ^

1. Smith - When healthy and chooses the right hole gets positive yardage and punishes defenders.  Harbaugh obviously likes him and he's a good bloker.

2. Johnson - When healthy is the faster and better vision back, but hasn't been back to his old self yet so there hasn't been a fair comparison yet.  Looked great in the bowl.  If back to his old self may become #1 or #1A.

3. Isaac - Has the ability, heard some noise that he improved the last few weeks of the year, but was in the doghouse, didn't block that well, and had fumble issues.  May be the most talented and complete back if he ever puts it all together, but still has a lot of prove.

4. Walker - Highly rated back that will get an opportunity, especially if he shows something during the spring since he enrolled early, but will have to be better than the people ahead of him, it won't be given to him.

5. Everyone else has a lot of work to do to get meaningful snaps

***The bigger question is who plays FB


January 11th, 2016 at 12:51 PM ^

Before the  bowl game, my prediction was the Smith moves to FB and Walker becomes the #1 back, with Drake, Issac, and Higdon getting the bulk of the backup carries (in that order) with Peppers and Chesson getting a few handoffs a game each.  After seeing Smith's improved vision and cutting ability, I'm more inclined to think Deveon will hold onto that #1 job, with Walker taking the bulk of the backup carries and the others fighting for a few carries a game.  Although who steps up as our top fullback in that scenario, no idea.  I'm also not 100% sure that's actually better, because I kinda like the idea of maximizing the number of threats on field to make things harder on the D, and having Smith and Walker out there together does that best, but we'll see. 


January 11th, 2016 at 12:57 PM ^

Smith will get most of the carries.

Johnson, if healthy will get the 2nd most carries

(Why do most of you not mention Drake?  He is the quickest and best back on the roster when healthy.  Dont count out the Drake)

Issac, Higdon, and Peppers will get most of the rest

Kareem Walker is currently not ready to play college football.  He could use a good year to get stronger, and build up his legs. Red Shirt.

Michology 101

January 11th, 2016 at 1:48 PM ^

We have a lot of in coming recruits that we have to make room for. Therefore some tough decisions will have to be made. Johnson has a long history of injuries and may easily be one of the players not brought back.

Harbaugh may decide that it's better to let one of the younger RBs develop and get playing time.


January 11th, 2016 at 1:11 PM ^

Give him some carries early on to soften up the defense and let some of our quicker guys work the middle quarters primarily.  Once it's time to close out the game, use him heavily to pound on a tired defense eat up yards and time.