Michigan has an apparent stable of capable running backs, though none stood out in last Saturday's scrimmage. They'll each get a chance to show what they can do in the non-conference portion of the season, an audition of sorts before Big Ten play starts.
Sophomore Derrick Green took the majority of carries Saturday but had nowhere to run; ditto fellow soph De'Veon Smith, though head coach Brady Hoke said both could have done a better job finding holes. The defense got the better of the offense as a result, though that hasn't been the case all fall, redshirt junior Justice Hayes said.
"The scrimmage was kind of mellow," he said. "We really weren't doing a lot, just basic stuff. We've been hitting each other for two and a half weeks, know each other's stuff. When we get into our first game … you'll see those explosive plays."
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison turned the dogs loose on the blitzes, he added. Smith acknowledged he failed to pick one up, but it's nothing that can't be corrected after watching film.
For now, though, it appears redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson and Hayes will be the third down backs. Hayes had a couple nice pickups and also a reception out of the backfield for a big gain (though he also dropped a pass).
"Coach Mattison, this is my fourth year and he's always brought blitzes the offense has to adjust to," Hayes said. "That's how he is getting us ready for that first game.
"But I don't mind sticking my nose into a defender. Drake has that same mentality, and that's what you need as a Michigan back. Pass protection is not being afraid to get in there and hit somebody in the mouth."
Smith and Green will likely get the majority of carries in the opener, though Hoke said last week, "Johnson will have a role on this team." The fullbacks, too - particularly junior Sione Houma - were involved in the passing game.
For the most part, though, the scrimmage showed the offense has a long way to go, even though previous scrimmages had been much better.
"It was a tough scrimmage, but it's hard to do a lot when the offense knows the defense, the defense knows the offense's plays," Green added. "The offensive line is going to do a great job. They've had a great fall camp, which you'll see come August 30.
"The defense brought a lot of things out, but this camp we've been running the ball a lot, being real physical, running downhill. All of the backs have had a lot of good runs. Saturday wasn't good enough, so we'll watch the film and make corrections. It wasn't just one unit, but the offensive group as one. The line wasn't communicating, and there were things the running backs and quarterbacks could have done differently."
They've got just over a week to polish things before the curtain goes up.
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