Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Can Derrick Green Deliver The Goods For Michigan in 2014?

When Derrick Green committed to Michigan in January of 2013 and stepped onto campus last summer, Michigan fans had massive expectations for the massive running back.  The hype came as a result of Green’s five-star status and hours of juicy highlights from his high school games. Unfortunately, Green was a bit too massive, in a literal sense, and struggled to find any explosive movement with his 240 pound body. Green averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, surpassed 50 rushing yards in just two games and scored just twice. So, a year later, can things changed?

Green came to spring ball slimmed down to 220 pounds, closer to his more optimal high school weight.  He’s still a big, imposing runner, but with the extra weight shed, he should be able to utilize his strength better by pairing it with quicker movement. And this shift has been noticed by Michigan’s new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who told Bruce Feldman, “He’s lost weight, he looks really good, has had a really good spring, I thought, and really has stepped his game up going into the summer here and just looks great.”

“He’s been running very really well with our strength staff. I’m really excited to see him take a next step in his development”, Michigan’s OC added.

The compliments from Green’s new coach should obviously be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s in Nussmeier’s interest to give adulation to Green when asked about him by the media, if for no other reason than to stroke the young back’s ego. But any praise for Green is telling, especially in the context of his lost weight, as that was a simple, obvious change for Green to have made over the offseason to improve. And we’ve all seen what a slim Green can do on the field, albeit against high school competition.

So, the obvious next step is for Green to show real improvement in real games. Unfortunately, that’s a step that can’t be taken until August 30th, when Appalachian State makes their dramatic return to the Big House. For now, all the positivity surrounding Green is just offseason buzz, but if his growth (by shrinking?) is legitimate, then Green could finally deliver what Michigan football has been waiting for: a big, dynamic runner that can be depended on. That would be huge for this team, as they haven’t had a legitimate, dependable running back since Mike Hart (maybe Fitz Toussaint, though his consistency was questionable).

The signs look good, but only time will tell with Green.

You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter @alexdalecfb

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