The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 93 RB "Chris Howard, Michael Hart and Chris Perry would just knock you in the mouth," Jackson said. "De'Veon is like that. He wants to hit you. Once he learns a bit more, he'll be a fantastic pass protector." Smith averaged 4.5 yards on 26 carries last year, tops among the backs. Hayes, on the other hand, carried only twice for two yards in limited action and might have the most to prove just because of his smaller stature (5-10, 190). Other small backs have proven themselves as good third-down options — Vincent Smith (2011-12), for example — but it takes someone with great instincts and technique. Hayes isn't there yet, nor has he proven he can take the week in, week out beating from bigger defenders, but he's improving. "He's developed a certain amount of toughness, but you've got to watch carefully as a coach. He's still only 190 pounds," Jackson said. "He's willing, doesn't mind doing anything you ask him and will hit anybody in the face, but that's still 190 as opposed to 220 pounds hitting you. It's totally different. "Justice is plenty fast. We just need to know what his thrust and power is. That's what hurt with Fitz. He was as tough as anybody I ever had, but at 190 pounds, those linebackers you face — they don't stop." Figuring out how to get to them before they get started and know- ing what they're doing before they do, as Jackson puts it, is critical to being a good pass protector at Hayes' size. But he's also U-M's only returning back to have caught a pass, which works to his advantage. Hayes, who hauled in six receptions for 40 yards last season, and Johnson have the best hands of the four backs with experience. "There are two different types of runners. The most powerful running back by far was De'Veon, the most elusive by far was Jus- tice, and Justice Hayes has I think excellent hands for a running back," Jackson said. "The other guys are good, but his hands are better." Green admitted he wasn't much of a receiver in high school, only because he didn't have to be. Most expected him to threaten Toussaint for the starting job when he first arrived on campus, but he didn't show up in the kind of shape necessary to achieve his goal. The sophomore started one of the 13 games in which he appeared last year and carried 83 times for 270 yards, an average of 3.3 yards per carry. He approached the offseason with the sense of urgency he admitted he should have brought with him last year. "He looked so much faster this spring, and I think he's stronger," Jackson said. "His problem right now is he runs too high. It's like any freshman I've had, like Anthony Thomas [1997-2000] when he was here as a rookie. I thought he was never going to play because he was always running too high. Derrick is working on it, and he's getting lower." He'll put himself in position to start, Jackson predicted, because of how badly he wants it. "He's right there, and he's got the ability to be a great back," Jackson added. "Of all of them, he has an ability to be a great back because he's fast, he's big and he's intelligent. "He's just got to learn the protections, because he never blocked anybody. I think he's willing, but it's something he's going to have to learn to do and be willing to do. If not he's not going to play, and Leading Rusher Year-By-Year Year Player Carries Yards TD 2013 Fitzgerald Toussaint 185 648 13 2012 Denard Robinson 177 1,266 7 2011 Denard Robinson 221 1,176 16 2010 Denard Robinson 256 1,702 14 2009 Brandon Minor 96 502 8 2008 Brandon Minor 103 533 9 2007 Mike Hart 265 1,361 14 2006 Mike Hart 318 1,562 14 2005 Mike Hart 150 662 4 2004 Mike Hart 282 1,455 9 Redshirt junior Justice Hayes is U-M's only returning back to have caught a pass, having notched six receptions for 40 yards last season. PHOTO BY TIM NELSON 91-97.RBs.indd 93 6/19/14 12:11 PM

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