Position battles to watch this spring: No. 4

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
12:30
PM ET
Spring football starts Tuesday for the Wolverines, so the competition for positions officially begins under the watchful eyes of Brady Hoke and his staff. This week, we’re counting down the five position battles you should also keep an eye on during the next month.

No. 4: Running back

Who’s in the mix: Derrick Green, De'Veon Smith

[+] EnlargeDerrick Green
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioDerrick Green could provide Michigan the big, powerful runner Fitzgerald Toussaint could not because of his size.
What to watch: Green has kind of overshadowed Smith since the two arrived on campus together. Green came in as the highest-rated recruit in Michigan's 2013 class, but when he got to campus, he wasn’t in shape. So he was that much further behind Fitzgerald Toussaint. Now, Toussaint is gone and the running back spot is open. The Wolverines only recorded 65 rushing yards in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but Smith received the most chances and carried the ball four times (for 7 yards) while Green only carried it once (for 5 yards). On the season, Green averaged 3.3 yards per carry (270 yards and two TDs on 83 carries) and Smith averaged 4.5 yards per carry (117 yards and zero TDs on 26 carries).

Obviously, last season is only going to play into this spring so much. The offensive line should start to jell this spring as it finds its starting five (which the Wolverines didn’t do last season until November), and the faster the offensive line is figured out, the faster the Michigan run game can get going. Smith showed bursts and Green displayed the ability to barrel over people and fall forward on nearly every carry (something Toussaint was just never able to do because of his size). With Green and Smith, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will really have a chance to decide who will be the better featured back in the Michigan offense. And even though Green was the front-runner early, Smith definitely has played himself into the equation.

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Chantel Jennings | email

Oregon/Pac-12 reporter

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