Will rushing yards improve this year?

Submitted by GVSUGoBlue on May 19th, 2017 at 11:24 AM

After reading this article on MLive about our OL this upcoming season I began to wonder how our rushing output could change. It's the offseason so let's do what we do best, speculate.



The team is entering into year 3 of Harbaugh and I was curious how his previous coaching stops would compare.


Stanford Total Rushing Yards under Harbaugh

2007 - 1134 yards

2008 - 2385 yards

2009 - 2837 yards

2010 - 2779 yards


San Francisco Total Rushing Yards under Harbaugh

2011 - 2044 yards

2012 - 2491 yards

2013 - 2201 yards

2014 - 2176 yards


Michigan Total Rushing Yards under Harbaugh

2015 - 2057 yards

2016 - 2768 yards


As you can see by the numbers, Harbaugh's 2009 Stanford team had the best output at 2837 yards. Obviously the NFL game is a little different, but I included those numbers for those curious of the rushing trend in San Fran.

With the addition of Frey and tidbits that Michigan is going to run more spread looks, how much of an improvement can we really expect in terms of total rushing yards? Or should we just expect better pass protection and cleaner holes for the RBs? The current projections of the OL are LT Cole - LG Bredeson - C Kugler/Ruiz - RG Onwenu - RT Runyan/JBB





May 19th, 2017 at 11:57 AM ^

OL play will be much better with the run, but will be worse in pass prot.  Overall, an improvement though.

Based on this, I see our rushing yards going up, a lot of short passes to the outside or WR end-arounds to take advantage of our WR skillsets (also adding to the rushing yards), and a lot of screen passes to mitigate pass prot.

SF Wolverine

May 19th, 2017 at 11:26 AM ^

You are going off a pretty big number to start.  Lots of that got racked up, I expect, as we ran the ball in the second half of blowouts.  Be great to be well over 200 yards a game again.

711 Arbor

May 19th, 2017 at 12:04 PM ^

unless every player is the same on offense, every player of your oppostion is the same, and ever opponent is the same for all years being compared, how can you make a conclusion that past results indicate future success?  There are different variable sever year.    Please explain it to me because I'm not smart.  


May 25th, 2017 at 3:03 PM ^

if there were small variances...but if you double your running production the year before with maybe 1 change on the O-line..at some point you have to recgonize that one coach is better because you have to assume that taking the same X percentage of players and doubling a win total is reasonable enough to say the coach was the difference.


May 19th, 2017 at 11:46 AM ^

Here's something where I think we need to look at the "bump" in production caused under Harbaugh, so if you tack on the final years of Hoke, you get this trend:

2013 - 1634 yards

2014 - 1957 yards (roughly 16% improvement from 2013, but 5-7)

2015 - 2057 yards (roughly 4%, but obviously new coach, so whatever)

2016 - 2768 yards (roughly 25% improvement in year 2)

So, if I had to guess, 2017 - barring OL issues - might see another increase, but I doubt such a dramatic one.


May 19th, 2017 at 11:27 AM ^

YES!!  I think Evans will be even better this year and hoping Kareem Walker will show us why he was one of the top backs in the country out of high school.  Greater home run threats with our speed so really looking forward to a more Michigan-like running game this year.  I have faith that our O Line will be better than average by mid season.


The Fan in Fargo

May 19th, 2017 at 7:17 PM ^

We'll see soon enough how good the featured back is against the Florida defense. It usually isn't that bad either so I hope all of your guy's hype with Evans is true. I think he's a shifty and fast kid but I don't think he is a top 5 (running back) even in the B1G. Hopefully I'm wrong.


May 19th, 2017 at 11:33 AM ^

I think the line will be better. Although there is less experience than last season, I think it will be a case of addition by subtraction. It also sounds like some of the guys in the lead for starting spots have better run blocking skills than pass blocking (Onwenu, Bredeson, Runyan).


May 19th, 2017 at 11:38 AM ^


Yards per attempt

Yards in wins vs losses

Yards in 4 th quarter

Other ways to reflect whether run the ball better


May 19th, 2017 at 11:42 AM ^

Should probably wait for more comments to see the trend either positive or negative, but my prediction is are rushing yards go up. I think Evans is the real deal, but unlike some I think Issac is the one to have the beakout year. He needs to get more touches, but he is the type of back who can wear defenses down. If one of our QBs could get a better down field touch we really should destroy teams. Harbaugh runs play after play to set up the play action and then Speight misses it. You can see how pissed Harbaugh gets because it is there all day. Hit one in the Iowa game and season is different. I think we run the ball more this season because we have the line for it. Our offense will be better this year and the season will go as the defensive backfield goes IMO.


May 19th, 2017 at 1:27 PM ^

I'm in the minority here I think, but as long as the defense stays healthy--especially the D Line--that the defense really by the end of the aeason doesn't miss a beat. I expect the secondary to be more than serviceable albeit young and obviously inexperienced. Of course I still believe that growing pains will happen but I have pretty high expectations for this team as a whole. If our run game improves late in games and produces more chunk type gains, I think pass protection is less of an issue than it otherwise would be.


May 19th, 2017 at 11:43 AM ^

I mean they could be up or down depending on if Michigan chooses to run or throw for 1,000 yards against Rutgers.

I'm guessing the numbers are similar to last year if not down a bit. Not a whole lot of opportunity to go up from last year's 200+ yards per game unless they throw the ball fewer times per game. I'd expect more passing attempts with second year starter Air Wilton and his merry bunch of Tacopants-sized wideouts. 


May 20th, 2017 at 4:22 PM ^

I think having Frey aboard means that the interior lineman and the tackles will get more individual focus. So, not only do we get Frey's expertise, but we will also maximize Drevno's impact on the line. I'm not saying the run game will be better from day one, but I believe it will end up better, for sure (hopefully this season).


May 19th, 2017 at 11:48 AM ^

improvement when we play good defenses. Our rushing game was garbage against Wisconsin, Iowa, OSU, and FSU last year. Basically anytime we played a defense with a pulse. 

The running game wasn't great against IU either. Smith broke a couple big ones and O'Korn had the 30 yard scramble to pump up the YPC. 


May 19th, 2017 at 11:48 AM ^

is by large a mirage. They weren't very good against good defense. They went under 100 yards against OSU, FSU and Iowa. They went over 100 yards against Wisconsin but their ypc is 3.0 which is awful. They struggled against UCF with under 3.0 ypc. Only good defensive team they did well was against Colorado which is over 4.0 ypc.

Most of their yardages were against bad defense especially Rutgers which they ran over 400 yards. Ran for over 200 yards against Indiana, Maryland, Hawaii and PSU. PSU was without 8 of their 11 starters(plus starting LB was ejected by a dumbass rule). Not exactly murder's row.

N. Campus Tech

May 19th, 2017 at 11:52 AM ^

Yes, we will have more rushing yards.

1. This year's backs are better than last year. Deveon was solid runner and a great pass blocker, but he was not a home run threat. Evans, Higdon and Walker are better runners.

2. The wide receivers will be worse. We are losing two NFL wide receivers and are gaining very athletic freshmen. Freshmen WR are not great. I'm expecting there will be more running plays called to compensate for this.

3. The offensive line should be better than last years group. I'm hoping.

In summary, more yards per play + more running plays called = more season rushing yards.


May 19th, 2017 at 12:12 PM ^

I think we'll see improvements with the additon several players or players with more prominent roles, like the RB's you mentioned.

Magnusun, Kalis and Braden played a lot of football for UM but never seemed live up to lofty recruiting rankings. I think this year's offensive line will have a much higher upside.


May 19th, 2017 at 4:37 PM ^

I'm not expecting too much drop off in terms of receiving production from the wr's.  Last year Darboh and Chesson were:

Darboh - 57 catches, 862 yds, 7 td

Chesson - 35 catches, 500 yds, 2 td

Chesson didn't even average 3 catches a game!!  I don't know if it will be just 2 players, maybe it ends up being 3 or 4, but if the production from the starting wr's in 2017doesn't match or come down close to matching what Darboh and Chesson did, then UM's passing offense will probably be pretty poor.

The area where I think we'll really miss Darboh and Chesson is their blocking in the run game.

SC Wolverine

May 19th, 2017 at 11:53 AM ^

There are a number of ways to improve rushing performance.  The most obvious is to improve O-line blocking.  Another way is to give more carries to a back who is able to create yardage.  Yet another way is a quick passing spread attack that keeps the linebackers off the line of scrimmage.  I am hopeful that we will see all three of these in 2017.  Obviously, we will have to see about the blocking (I am hopeful).  But more carries to Evans can only help (I like Higdon alot too), and an NFL spread passing scheme can really open up running lanes.  It will be interesting, for sure.


May 19th, 2017 at 1:18 PM ^

Expect high variance.   I like Kugler from what I've seen, have a feeling we'll be asking why he didn't play last year.  Cole will be good and Bredeson average.  I'd expect better from left side runs, given improved RB potential.  Right side is going to be a mix of Onwenu pummeling and opening huge holes and missing his assignment or bouncing off his guy (or being late off the ball) and getting the play submarined.  RT is an unknown, but the expectation should be below average. A lot of the time the tackle's job is either blocking down or walling off the DE, which isn't that difficult against bad or mediocre teams. 

Similar high variance story - though for different reasons - for DBs, WRs, TEs.