NCAA Football

How Michigan's Run Game Can Survive Without Derrick Green for Rest of 2014

Derrick Green was finally showing the Wolverines what he could do for them. Now they’ll have to find out what they can do without him.

The sophomore was having one of his best games for Michigan on Saturday—74 yards on just 12 carries—before breaking his clavicle during the late stages of the 26-24 loss to Rutgers.

Coach Brady Hoke said it best Monday: The season-ending injury, especially its timing, is “unfortunate” for Green, who just recently got around to showing everyone why he was so heavily recruited. He ran hard in Piscataway, New Jersey, and helped the offense string together what was arguably its best overall outing of 2014.

“We’re going to miss him, but it’s De’Veon [Smith] and Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson…” said Hoke, who’ll count on Green to become a pseudo coach while the backfield adjusts to his absence.

At this point, there's no sense in completely altering the game plan. Michigan has to roll with what it has, and it's as simple as that. De'Veon Smith is capable of shouldering the heavy duties, while Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson—and who knows, maybe even Dennis Norfleet?—will be tasked with the rest. 

 

De’Veon Has to Lead

Despite just 31 yards on 10 carries, Smith, a 5’11”, 223-pound sophomore, moved the ball with great force on Saturday.

His totals don’t stand out or jump off the page, but he certainly held his own within the red zone, evidenced by his hard-fought one-yard touchdown that gave the Wolverines a 16-12 lead with 1:43 to play in the second quarter.

Like Green, he’s been a slow starter. That has to change, and fast, if the Wolverines want to advance their power-running technique, which popped up every now and then this past weekend.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said that Smith is similar to Green, which has been known for some time. However, “without giving away strategic things that we would want to do,” he said that Smith wouldn’t be pigeonholed as another Green, adding that Hayes and Johnson won’t be limited due to their smaller statures.

“We’re going to do some different things with each one of them,” Nussmeier said.

Sure, try different things. But make sure that Smith, who's been shelved early in games to make way for Green, gets somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 attempts per game. He can't be left to cool off on the sidelines, which is one of the reasons why it takes a few series to set the wheels in motion. 

 

It’s Not Over

As this tweet from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press indicates, Michigan players have recently felt good about running the ball. Jack Miller, the team's center, said so during Monday's player presser. 

Nussmeier and Hoke agree, Team 135 will be different without Green, who was one of the top recruits of the 2013 class.

But Smith wasn’t a throw-in for Michigan; he was the No. 21-ranked running back, per 247Sports. Neither was Hayes, who was one of the nation’s top 100 prospects in 2011, per Rivals. Once committed to Notre Dame, Hayes ultimately flipped the script because Michigan felt more comfortable than South Bend.

With 19 carries, one more than his previous career high of 18 set in 2012, the former Grand Blanc superstar is in position to get comfortable in Nussmeier's backfield. The 5'10", 194-pound junior has waited years for this chance, and due to a deficiency within the offense, he could be the perfect remedy for the situation.

The Wolverines are No. 10 in the Big Ten when it comes to converting third downs, touting an unhealthy success rate of 41.6 percent. But Hayes’ shiftiness, along with his experience, ability to catch the ball and read defenses, should pay dividends.

Hoke said that Hayes has “primarily been a very good third-down back.” So there you go. Problem solved.

OK, so it’s not that cut and dried. But Nussmeier isn’t calling it a day just yet. He’s confident in his reinforcements. 

“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose Derrick. [Saturday] was one of his better games,” said Nussmeier. “I felt like he was really dialed in, focused, ran extremely hard. So, you know, we got great expectations for the other guys.

“De’Veon’s done an outstanding job all season, as has Justice. You know, and then…some other guys have got to step up. Drake’s got to step up, and we’ll continue to move forward and feel good about those guys moving forward.”

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references to were obtained firsthand by the writer

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s attempt to get back on top of the college football world will begin in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Crimson Tide are on the road for the second straight week to face the Arkansas Razorbacks a week after losing their first game of the season 23-17 to Ole Miss.

This week is more of a return to old-school, smashmouth football, as Arkansas has bucked the trend of wide-open, hurry-up offense in the SEC and instead prefers a mauling, physical rushing attack to wear teams out.

Arkansas is No. 1 in the SEC and the country in rushing touchdowns and first and sixth in rushing yards.

The Razorbacks are looking for their first SEC win in two years, and Alabama wants to bounce back after slipping up last week.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, October 11

Time: 5:00 p.m. CT

Place: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, IMG Razorback Sports Network

Spread: Alabama by 9.5 to 10, according to OddsShark.com.

Begin Slideshow

8 College Football Recruits Who Had an Explosive Week

October arrived with a flurry of phenomenal high school football performances. We've reached the stage of the season when postseason fortunes begin to hang in the balance with every showdown. 

College prospects picked up their intensity to kick off a crucial stretch of the 2014 campaign, commanding attention with game-changing plays. Each week at Bleacher Report, we highlight several of these dominant displays that helped carry programs.

Here's our latest breakdown of big-time efforts from college football's stars of tomorrow.

 

5-star 2016 defensive tackle Rashan Gary, Paramus Catholic High School (Paramus, New Jersey)

We were in attendance to watch Gary and company continue an in-state rivalry with Bergen Catholic. Instead of a dogfight, we witnessed total domination by the junior defender and Paramus Catholic. 

Gary, rated fifth overall nationally in the 2016 class, collected six sacks, according to the team's statistician. He led the charge for a squad that finished the game with a school-record 12 total sacks. 

The 6'4" lineman, who shared he's now up to 295 pounds and certainly looks the part, was unstoppable, whether he penetrated the offensive backfield through the edge or interior.

Gary effectively neutralized the efforts of Bergen Catholic quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, a 4-star 2016 prospect whose top four collegiate options are Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson and Ohio State. 

Guarantano was pummeled throughout the matchup and routinely rushed by Gary. He completed just 11 of 28 pass attempts for 115 yards and two interceptions. Here is Guarantano getting chased:

Gary said he feels at home following his offseason transfer from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. Paramus Catholic featured 5-star athlete and current Michigan freshman Jabrill Peppers last season and hasn't suffered much of a fall-off thanks in large part to its prized newcomer.

"I'm very comfortable here, and it feels great to battle with my brothers for wins like this," he told me. "This is probably the best game I've had."

Gary added a third-quarter punt block before scooping the ball up and taking it to the end zone. His all-around performance confirms he belongs in the discussion as the nation's No. 1 defensive prospect, regardless of age.

He headed up to Rutgers after the game to watch the Scarlet Knights defeat Michigan. Gary mentioned Florida State, Miami and Alabama among several schools he'd like to visit at some point during the recruitment process.

 

5-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield, Fort Bend Marshall High School (Missouri City, Texas)

The 6'0", 181-pound playmaker impressed on both sides of the ball in a victory over Texas City High School. Sheffield helped his team snap a two-game losing streak by starring at receiver and in the secondary, where he is expected to spend his collegiate career.

He started off the scoring with a 27-yard touchdown reception, flashing quickness that also shines on the track. Sheffield is a state champion hurdler who clocked some of the country's quickest times as a junior.

Sheffield finished the contest with three catches for 58 yards.

A pick-six helped put the game away, as Sheffield returned an interception 48 yards for a score in the 27-14 victory, per Wes Swift of The Galveston County Daily News. He secured six interceptions during the past two seasons and continues to be a ball hawk this fall.

Sheffield followed up the performance with an official visit to USC. His recent campus trips include Ohio State, Texas A&M and Alabama, while a journey to Florida State is expected later this month. 

 

Unranked wide receiver Ellex Davis, Monarch High School (Pompano Beach, Florida)

Many wondered, for obvious reasons, how the Monarch offensive attack would fare without 5-star Alabama commit Calvin Ridley in the lineup. As it turns out, the nation's No. 1 receiver had quite an understudy ready to step up.

Davis, a 5'10", 170-pound playmaker, rose to the occasion and did his best Ridley impression during a 70-31 victory over Coral Springs. He pulled in 12 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns, per Scott Salomon of the Miami Herald.

He also made an impact on defense, returning a second-quarter interception 34 yards for another score. Though his collegiate offer sheet remains a work in progress, perhaps the player they call "Pooh" will emerge as another premier Pompano Beach prospect.

“I knew that once Calvin wasn't coming back, I would have to be more productive in games,” Davis told Salomon. “I am looking to take his place as the main part of our offense and show the guys that they can count on me to get the job done. I just want to do what is best for the team and play to the best of my ability.”

He's on the right track so far.

 

3-star 2016 running back Da'Leon Ward, Skyline High School (Dallas, Texas)

Ward helped Skyline wallop district opponent Jesuit High School 56-30 Friday night, running wild throughout the onslaught. He gained 224 rushing yards and contributed as a receiver in the victory, per Tommy Cummings of The Dallas Morning News.

His 75-yard touchdown run fueled a huge first half for Skyline, which scored 35 points prior to intermission. Ward, a 5'11", 180-pound junior, added two more scores on the ground.

ESPN Big 12 recruiting analyst Damon Sayles was impressed with Ward:

He flashed dual-threat skills by also making an impact in the passing game. Ward turned a relatively short reception into a 38-yard scoring play, pushing his touchdown total to four for the day.

His offer list includes Louisville, TCU and UNLV. Ward has also warranted interest from multiple in-state schools as he continues to state his case as a respected Texas offensive weapon.

 

4-star wide receiver Juwan Johnson, Glassboro High School (Glassboro, New Jersey)

The Penn State commit kept his team unbeaten with a monstrous downfield performance Friday night. Johnson, the younger brother of Detroit Lions defensive end George Johnson, flashed the big-play skills that make him a coveted prospect throughout a 45-6 win over Gloucester High School.

He scored three first-half touchdowns, setting the tone for a route. Johnson snared in scoring receptions of 20, 29 and 48 yards before intermission, per Joseph Santoliquito of NJ.com.

The 6'4", 200-pound prospect spent much of the second half sidelined as the game got out of hand. He finished the contest with four catches for 105 yards and three scores.

"I think I'm a guy who can come down with the tough catches close to the line of scrimmage, but I'm more than just a possession receiver," Johnson told me this summer. "I can make plays in space and use my quickness to run away from defenders."

He chose the Nittany Lions over offers from Alabama, Michigan State, Rutgers and Ohio State.  

 

5-star quarterback Josh Rosen, St. John Bosco High School (Bellflower, California) 

The country's top-rated 2015 quarterback didn't waste any time proving his team was ready to move forward after its first defeat since 2012. Rosen, who committed to UCLA this spring, tossed five touchdowns before halftime Friday in a 65-7 win over Crenshaw.

He carved up the Crenshaw defense with a level of precision that has come to largely define his approach. Rosen completed 12 of 16 pass attempts for 264 yards and five scores, per MaxPreps.

UnderTheRadar provided highlights of Friday night's game:

The 6'4", 205-pound passer has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,260 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one interception through five games this season. He's added 169 yards and three scores on the ground.

Rosen, who committed to UCLA this spring over Michigan and Cal, intends to compete for the Bruins starting job as a true freshman if current quarterback Brett Hundley elects to leave for the NFL draft.

"I'd love to take snaps on opening day," he told me this summer. "I'm going to work as hard as I can to make that happen."

 

2-star wide receiver Emmanuel Moore, Northwest High School (Justin, Texas)

The late-rising recruit didn't land his first FBS offer until this summer, but he could be on the verge of blowing up based on his performance as a senior.

Moore, a 6'0", 185-pound prospect, provided a major spark for his squad in a near-upset of perennial Lone Star State powerhouse Denton Guyer. 

Though Northwest suffered a 43-33 defeat, Moore starred and was largely unstoppable throughout the showdown. He tallied a game-high 13 receptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns, per MaxPreps.

Moore has accumulated at least 100 receiving yards in three of five games this season, including double-digit reception totals in each of the past two contests.

His breakout season features 45 catches for 648 yards and 11 touchdowns, placing him among state leaders in all three categories. 

He announced his commitment to North Texas in September, citing the program's belief in him as a motivating factor. 

“North Texas is the only team that showed that they really wanted me and offered me a scholarship,” Moore told Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Moore is bound to attract increased attention, and his recruitment could ultimately mirror that of 2014 DeSoto High School recruit Desmon White, who pledged to North Texas when his first offer arrived but is now a freshman at TCU.

 

4-star quarterback Zach Gentry, Eldorado High School (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

The Texas commit continues to come up big in the clutch, leading his team to thrilling victories. Eldorado claimed its second straight one-point win Friday night when Gentry collected nearly 500 yards of total offense in a 57-56 affair.

The 6'7", 230-pound prospect completed two touchdown passes, compiling 327 yards through the air. He added another 120 yards and three scores on the ground, per James Yodice of the Albuquerque Journal.

Gentry vaulted his team ahead with a two-point conversion run with just 32 seconds remaining in regulation. A two-yard touchdown pass put him in position to push Eldorado ahead.

Through six victories this season, Gentry is completing 75 percent of his pass attempts for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. The past pair of contests have required gutsy performances during late stages.

“Two wild games,” Gentry told the Albuquerque Journal. “I can’t believe it.”

Longhorns fans should feel ecstatic about his latest achievements.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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College Football Picks: Louisville Cardinals vs. Clemson Tigers Odds

The Louisville Cardinals continue their initial run through the ACC with a huge matchup this Saturday afternoon against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium. The game is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be available nationally on ESPN3.

The Cardinals ran their current straight-up winning streak to three games with this past Friday's 28-6 romp over Syracuse as 1.5-point favorites on the road. They are now 5-1 SU on the year with a healthy 4-2 record against the spread. The total has stayed under in five of their first six games this year.

After Clemson lost that 23-17 heartbreaker to Florida State in overtime on Sept. 20 as a 9.5-point road underdog, it rolled over North Carolina and North Carolina State by a combined score of 91-35 while covering as a 14-point home favorite in each contest. The total stayed under the closing 64-point line in last Saturday's 41-0 shutout over the Wolfpack, and it has now stayed under in two of the Tigers' last three games.

 

Louisville at Clemson Betting Storylines

Louisville came over from the American Athletic Conference this season with high expectations in its new conference despite the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. So far, it has held its own in the ACC with the exception of a 23-21 loss to Virginia on Sept. 13 as four-point road favorites. Last Saturday's win over the Orange left the Cardinals 3-1 SU in conference play.

The offense has definitely lost some of its punch with a passing game that is averaging only 231.8 yards a game, but the ground game has helped to pick up the slack behind Brandon Radcliff and Dominique Brown, who have each rushed for over 300 yards so far.

The biggest strength of this team has been on the other side of the ball with a defense that is ranked sixth in the nation in points allowed. This unit is giving up an average of just 12.7 points a game, and the Cavaliers were the only team to score more than 21 points against it this year. It is ranked seventh in the country in total yards allowed and third against the run.

The Tigers also had a pretty big hole to fill at quarterback, but so far, the duo of Deshaun Watson and Cole Stoudt has done a great job in an offense that is averaging 335.8 passing yards a game. Mike Williams has been the biggest target on the team with 21 receptions for 520 yards and four touchdowns. Clemson's run offense has been a whole different story, averaging just 155 yards a game and ranking 78th in the FBS.

The defense rose to the occasion last week by shutting out NC State, but this unit has been shaky at times this season. It gave up 45 points in an opening weekend loss to Georgia and even in a fairly one-sided affair against North Carolina, it was tagged for 35 points. Overall, the defense is allowing an average of 22 points a game.

 

Louisville at Clemson Betting Odds and Trends by Doc's Sports

Point spread: Clemson -13

Total Line: OFF

Covers betting trends have the Cardinals listed at 21-8 ATS in their last 29 road games, and they are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games overall. The total has stayed under in seven of their last eight road games.

The Tigers are 5-0 ATS in their last five home games and 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a SU win. The total has gone over in seven of their last 10 games played at home.

This will be the first meeting between these two teams in recent memory.

 

College Football Picks: Louisville at Clemson Betting Predictions

Louisville should be able to use the lack of familiarity between the two teams to its favor in this matchup. While the Cardinals offense will really need to step things up to have any chance of getting the SU win on the road, I am confident that their defense will be able to keep things close enough to cover with the 13 points.

 

Take: # 173 Louisville (+13) over Clemson, 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 11

 

Odds and point spread information courtesy of Covers unless otherwise noted.

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After Wild Weekend, Can 2 SEC Teams Make the College Football Playoff?

The SEC is loaded with possible College Football Playoff candidates. This past weekend just made the playoff picture extremely more ambiguous with top teams seemingly dropping like flies.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate whether this power conference can get two teams into the College Football Playoff.

How many teams from the SEC will be in the Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

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