Michigan head coach Brady Hoke announced Monday running back Derrick Green has suffered a broken clavicle. The injury will keep him out of action for the remainder of the 2014 season and explains why he was left off the depth chart for this weekend’s game against Penn State.
Without Green, a player who had been showing promise this season, Michigan will need to find ways to run the football that do not necessarily revolve around quarterback Devin Gardner. Gardner has returned to the starting job under center after the injury to Shane Morris, and Hoke is ready to continue having Gardner lead the offense as long as he is healthy. If the Wolverines are going to turn things around this season and make a run to a postseason bowl game, the running game needs to improve.
Michigan will start this week ranked seventh in the Big Ten in rushing offense with an average of 180.83 yards per game and an average of 5.05 yards per rushing attempt. Green ends his season having led the Wolverines with 471 yards and three touchdowns. He was taking nearly double the number of rushing attempts per game than Michigan’s second-leading rusher, De’Veon Smith. The Wolverines will move forward with Smith trying to carry the bulk of the running game, but there will be times when Gardner runs the football as well. This should frustrate Michigan fans, because Gardner running the football has not exactly panned out for Michigan in terms of wins. Sure, Gardner may rack up some big numbers, but in the end this looks as though the Wolverines continue to try pushing a square peg through a round hole.
Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson are listed as Michigan’s back-up running backs behind Smith this week. The two have combined for 129 yards 22 combined rushing attempts so far this season. The depth at running back has become an issue that may not have been expected at the start of the season.