Derrick Green wins Michigan RB job with ‘overall body of work’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor – Depth charts are never concrete, but for the most part they offer a fairly solid outline of how the offensive and defensive lineups will look.

Michigan released its depth chart on Monday for its season opener against Appalachian State on Saturday, and based on everything Michigan coach Brady Hoke discussed during the preseason, there aren’t any glaring surprises.

Most of the starting jobs have been settled – for this week, at least – but right guard still remains a bit foggy. Kyle Kalis started nine games last season as a redshirt freshman, but he is listed third on the depth chart behind senior Joey Burzynski and sophomore Kyle Bosch.

Kalis dealt with a back injury during preseason camp, but Hoke said he has rested and is practicing. On Monday, Hoke left open the possibility Kalis could still get the start based on practices this week.

There has been a strong competition at running back, and Derrick Green, a chiseled 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, is listed as the starter with fellow sophomore De’Veon Smith as his backup. Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson are vying for the third-string job, and last week Hoke said they will be used in third-down situations.

Doug Nussmeier, in his first season as Michigan’s offensive coordinator, said every player was told each position would be won based on evidence from film and what they did daily.

Green arrived for camp as a freshman last season 20 pounds overweight and was slowed by an ankle injury. He and Smith became more of a factor in the running game the final quarter of last season.

“It’s been the overall body of work through camp,” Nussmeier said when asked how Green won the job. “Derrick continually progressed and continues to progress. We’re nowhere near where we need to be or where want to be. As far as when you look at the process of getting better each day, and how you approach the day, he’s continued to improve each and every day. (We) talked a lot about his weight, and that’s one of the biggest things – he looks like a different back.”

Throughout camp, it seemed like a different back had moved into a slim lead in the position battle week by week. Early in the month during media day, Hoke indicated Johnson, back from a season-ending knee injury, had edged to the lead along with Smith, with Green just behind. Then that all flip-flopped.

But Green and Smith have earned their positions at the top of the position depth chart.

“There is no default; that’s not how we operate,” Hoke said. “I think what both of those guys have done has been really productive.”