Fitzgerald Toussaint

Michigan’s struggles overshadow rising star in Derrick Green

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All is not pretty in Ann Arbor, Michigan these days, but it should be noted running back Derrick Green is offering a glimmer of hope for the Michigan Wolverines. At a time when Michigan is looking to establish a winning identity, Green appears to be taking the lead on offense. Head coach Brady Hoke may be fending off criticisms, but he has nothing but positive things to say about his emerging running back.

“When you look at carries over the course of the year, I think Derrick is averaging 6.1 yards per carry, which tells you a little something, but [De’Veon Smith] is averaging 6.9,” Hoke said, according to MLive.com. “I mean, we have two very capable backs. But has Derrick been the guy who is featured? Well, he has most snaps, so I’d say so.”

According to CFBStats.com, Hoke is pretty much spot on with his rushing averages. Green is averaging 6.11 yards per attempt compared to Smith’s 6.93 yards per attempt. But Green has been carrying more of the offensive load for the Wolverines through the first few weeks of the season with 64 carries to Smith’s 28 attempts. Quarterback Devin Gardner is second on the team behind Green with 32 rushing attempts. Green has rushed for 391 yards to lead the team, which puts him easily on pace to surpass last season’s team high of 648 rushing yards from Fitzgerald Toussaint.

The escalation of Green’s role is not to be taken as a surprise of course. The highly rated recruit has moved his way up the depth chart at Michigan over the course of the year, from spring practices to fall camp to the start of the season.

Maybe Michigan should start letting Green be the focus of the offense.

USC-transfer RB Ty Isaac could give Michigan potential three-headed monster

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USC’s loss will likely be Michigan’s gain. Running back Ty Isaac  is expected to transfer to Michigan after leaving USC last month.

Isaac reportedly committed to join Michigan on a visit this week, according to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com. His status for the 2014 season remains unknown. Due to standard transfer rules, Isaac will have to sit out the 2014 season in Ann Arbor before being eligible to play again in 2015. All indications to this point have suggested Isaac will hope the NCAA approves an application for a hardship waiver, due to his desire to be playing closer to home with his mother ill. The only problem is the hardship waiver typically is for when a player transfers to a school within 100 miles from home, which is not the case for Isaac and Ann Arbor. However, there are exceptions to the rule, which is more of a guideline. The NCAA will have to make the decision.

If he does receive permission to play this season, Isaac should immediately become a contributor in Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines lose last season’s leading rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint and look to take the pressure off quarterback Devin Gardner, second on the team in rushing in 2013. This fall the Wolverines hope to get the most out of Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, both sophomores in 2014. Adding Isaac to the mix would only add tremendous depth to the running back position for the Wolverines, giving Michigan a bit of a potential three-headed monster in the Big Ten.

USC confirmed Isaac was leaving the program to play closer to home and his family in mid-May. Soon after that confirmation came reports Isaac was seeking to land at a Big Ten school, which made sense given his talent and the location. The two schools emerging as Big Ten favorites for Isaac became Michigan and Illinois. According to a previous report, these two schools were the first to reach out to Isaac once word broke he was leaving USC behind and visits to both schools were scheduled. A visit to Michigan was reportedly set for this week, which came after a trip to Illinois.

Isaac rushed for 236 yards and two touchdowns for USC in 2013.

Michigan grants scholarship release to three players

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Michigan has granted a full scholarship release to three players who will look to play football elsewhere in 2014. Running back Thomas Rawls, safety Josh Furman and defensive tackle Richard Ash have all been removed from Michigan’s scholarship totals for 2014.

According to the MLive.com, Rawls has plans to enroll in classes at Central Michigan. He appeared in just one game for the Wolverines in 2013, and he rushed for 12 yards and a touchdown for a Michigan team that struggled at times to establish a running game. Michigan’s running back depth is not exactly a huge concern heading in to 2014. Despite losing Fitzgerald Toussaint to graduation, Michigan welcomes back Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, both freshmen in 2013. Rawls was buried on the team’s final depth chart of the season for the bowl game against Kansas State, sitting behind both Green and Smith in addition to Justice Hayes.

Furman and Ash are both fifth year seniors. Where they go from here at this time is unknown.

Standard NCAA transfer rules will require Rawls to sit out a season before being eligible to play for Central Michigan. He will have one year of eligibility remaining.

Sneak Peek: 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

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WHO: 7-5 Michigan (Big Ten) vs. 7-5 Kansas State (Big 12)

WHAT: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (25th year)

WHERE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.

WHEN: Dec. 28 at 10:15 p.m. ET

WHY: It seems like these two teams are headed in opposite directions. Kansas State won five of its last six and rebounded from a 2-4 start to finish up as one of the Big 12’s hottest teams. Michigan started 5-0 and then lost five of its last seven.

The Wildcats are looking for their first bowl win since 2002. They’ll rely on the two quarterbacks to get them there: Jake Waters is an adept passer (2,198 yards, 15 touchdowns) who has decent mobility while Daniel Sams is a powerful runner (784 yards, 11 touchdowns) who throws it on occasion. Add in diminutive running back John Hubert’s 968 rushing yards and wide out Tyler Lockett’s 71 catches for 1,146 receiving and this is an offense that can put up points in a hurry (it scored at least 31 in its last six games).

Michigan’s offense is less settled due to the loss of quarterback Devin Gardner to a turf toe injury. Freshman Shane Morris, who has thrown just nine passes this year, will make his first career start in his place. With such a young signal caller, you’ll probably see the Wolverines try to grind this one out on the ground. They’ve got a solid stable of backs to do that, including Fitzgerald Toussaint (646 yards, 12 touchdowns) and freshman power back Derrick Green, but they’ll miss Gardner’s mobility and moxie.

You have to give K-State the edge going in, at least until Morris proves he is up to the task of running the Wolverine offense. If Michigan’s defense can keep Waters and Sams in check, his first start might be a successful one. But the Wildcats are probably hungrier for the bowl win and they should take care of business.

PREDICTION: Kansas State 35, Michigan 17

Is Arizona State’s Grice college football’s top red zone running back?

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The sport of college has evolved to the point where offenses tend to favor the passing game more than the running game, but once a team penetrates the red zone there are some dependable options carrying the football. Perhaps none are better right now than Arizona State running back Marion Grice.

Arizona State has been inside the red zone 43 times this season. The Sun Devils still get pass-happy inside the 20-yard line but Grice has carried the football 31 times through seven games and has scored a touchdown a little more than a third of the time. That is a pretty good ratio, and among the best in the country.

Here is a list of the top ten running backs with red zone touchdowns, according to CFBStats.com (as of October 23, 2013). No running back in the country has more red zone touchdowns than Grice, but Boise State’s Jay Ajayi is right in the conversation.

Red Zone Rushing Touchdowns

  1. Marion Grice (Arizona State) – 11
  2. Jay Ajayi (Boise State) – 10
    Keenan Reynolds (Navy) – 10
  3. Antonio Andrews (Western Kentucky) – 9
    Tyler Gaffney (Stanford) – 9
    Dallas Crawford (Miami) – 9
    Fitzgerald Toussaint (Michigan) – 9
  4. Jahwan Edwards (Ball State) – 8
    Ben Malena (Texas A&M) – 8
    Zach Zwinak (Penn State) – 8

Ajayi and Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews have really been carrying the load for their teams inside the red zone. Of the players listed above, only Ajayi, Andrews and Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds have carried the football more than 31 times inside the red zone.