The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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94 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW RB he knows it. Is he afraid? No, but he's not going to go out there like Mike Hart and try to knock your head off." Johnson, though, just might, and that was part of the reason he started No. 2 on the depth chart behind Toussaint last year. He carried only twice before tearing his ACL on special teams in the opener, a bad break for a kid who had worked extremely hard. "He did everything you asked him to do," Jackson said. "He's go- ing to have his shot. What I like about him number one is his tough- ness, then his speed and his knowledge. He is a smart kid. All that stuff with the defense, he picks it up. All those guys sit in the same room and hear the same thing, but he picks it up faster than anybody." Johnson's back to 100 percent and insisted he could have played this spring had trainers cleared him. He's also got "wide receiver hands," Jackson said and is anxious to prove himself. "He's going to be a good football player," Jackson said. "We're going to make them battle and fight and see who comes out, and he'll be there." Douglas (5-10, 186), a high school running back and defensive back, spent his time in the secondary during his redshirt year but also showed flashes in the spring. "He made some good running plays and can do some things with speed — he's just learning to be a running back," Jackson said. "He's a willing participant and he seems to have good vision, but when you're 180 pounds and trying to play power football, it's tough." Like Hayes, he'll have to prove he can catch the ball and pass protect in order to see the field. So will a fifth back, walk-on Antonio Whitfield (5-4, 156), who saw only 20 plays or so in the spring but impressed Jackson with his attitude and willingness to compete, and possibly USC transfer Ty Isaac, who will join the team this fall. Whether or not he's able to play immediately will depend on an ap- peal filed with the NCAA, but he'll have three years of eligibility remaining whether he's eligible this year or next. "We're excited that Ty has decided to join the Michigan Football family," Hoke said. "I know it was important for him to get back to the Midwest to be closer to his mom and family, so I think it's a great fit for everyone. "Ty's a big back with really good speed and catches the ball extremely well out of the backfield. He certainly adds depth and competition to a position we feel very confident about." Isaac appeared in all 14 games for the Trojans as a freshman in 2013, rushing for 236 yards on 40 carries with two touchdowns and hauling in four receptions for 57 yards and also played a number of snaps on special teams. He finished his high school career at Joliet, Ill., Catholic Academy with a school-record 5,305 rushing yards and QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Fred Jackson (23rd season). Returning Starter: FB Joe Kerridge (8 career starts). Departing Starter: TB Fitzgerald Toussaint (32 career starts). Projected New Starter: TB De'Veon Smith. Top Reserves: TB Derrick Green (1), TB Justice Hayes (1), TB Drake Johnson, TB Ty Isaac and FB Sione Houma. Newcomer: TB Ty Isaac (transfer from USC). Moved In: FB Wyatt Shallman (from TE) and TB Ross Douglas (from DB). Moved Out: None. Rookie Impact: None. Most Improved Player: Smith. Best Pro Prospect: Green. FYI: Johnson was a prep All-American in the 110-meter high hurdles and won two state titles in the event … Johnson's mother, Pamela St. John, is Michigan's cheerlead- ing coach … Michigan has had one 1,000-yard rushing running back since Mike Hart in 2007 — Toussaint in 2011 (1,041) … Hayes' cousin, Daelin Hayes of Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's, is a 2016 linebacker with a Michigan offer … U-M fullbacks have one carry in the last two years, a three-yard run by Kerridge in 2012 … Smith carried only 26 times last year, but his 38-yard run against Ohio State was the long by a running back in 2013 … Toussaint's 3.5 yards per carry was the lowest for a Michigan back who led the team in carries in the modern era. BIG TEN RANKINGS PLAYERS 1. Melvin Gordon, Jr., Wisconsin — Led the Football Bowl Subdivision in runs of 60 yards or longer (four) and 70 yards or longer (three) last year in rushing for 1,609 yards. Paced the nation with 7.81 yards per carry. 2. Ameer Abdullah, Sr., Nebraska — The 2013 third-team Associated Press All- American enters his senior campaign with 2,977 career rushing yards, third-most among active FBS players. 3. Jeremy Langford, Sr., Michigan State — Came out of nowhere last year to rush for 1,445 yards on 301 carries (4.8-yard average) with 18 touchdowns for the Rose Bowl champions. 4. David Cobb, Sr., Minnesota — Led the Gophers in rushing with 1,202 yards on 237 carries and became the first Minnesota back to run for more than 1,000 yards since Amir Pinnix in 2006. 5. Venric Mark, 5th-Sr., Northwestern — Played in only three games in 2013 because of injury, but rushed for 1,366 yards in 2012. Was also an All-American punt returner in 2012. 6. Tevin Coleman, Jr., Indiana — Rushed for 958 yards on 131 carries (7.3 yards per attempt) with 12 touchdowns and averaged 106.4 rushing yards per game. 7. Mark Weisman, Sr., Iowa — Led Iowa in rushing with 227 attempts for 975 yards and eight touchdowns last year. 8. Zach Zwinak, Sr., Penn State — Hard-nosed back rushed for 1,000 yards in 2012, and another 989 while scoring 12 touchdowns last season. 9. Corey Clement, So., Wisconsin — The Badgers always seem to have two backs, and Clement is the No. 2 guy this year. He averaged 8.2 yards per carry last season and scored seven touchdowns in a reserve role. 10. Paul James, Jr., Rutgers — Ran for 881 yards and was an All-AAC first-team selec- tion despite playing only nine games due to injury. UNITS 1. Wisconsin — Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement all but assure the Badgers will have the most solid one-two punch in the league. 2. Nebraska — Ameer Abdullah is the headliner, but Imani Cross averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns in 2013. 3. Iowa — The Hawkeyes don't have star power, but they do have three returning backs that eclipsed 450 yards, led by 975-yard rusher Mark Weisman. Each averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry. 4. Penn State — Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton combined for 1,792 yards and 17 touch- downs in 2013. 5. Northwestern — Venric Mark's return from injury and senior Treyvon Green's pres- ence give the Wildcats two very good backs. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah earned third-team All-America honors last season after rushing for 1,690 yards and nine touchdowns. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 91-97.RBs.indd 94 6/19/14 12:11 PM

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