2016 Michigan Spring Football Preview: Running Back

Spring practice officially kicks off on Monday, February 29th. To get you ready for the fun, I’ll be previewing each position group, including the depth chart going in, the name to watch closest, the player not to forget and who I believe will break out during the practices.


In 2015, DeVeon Smith broke onto the scene and solidified himself as Michigan’s top running back option. However, the depth behind him was inconsistent at best and it showed when Smith was dinged up throughout the year. So, the main thing to find this offseason is reliable depth.

Drake Johnson looked to finally get back from his ACL injury in the Citrus Bowl while Ty Isaac is trying to dig himself out of the dog house, Karan Higdon needs more reps and experience, Wyatt Shallman is a complete toss up and the freshmen early enrollees are looking to force their way onto the field. It should be one of the most interesting position groups to watch this spring.

Pre-Spring Expected Depth Chart 

-Not enrolled yet

  1. #4 DeVeon Smith, SR
  2. #20 Drake Johnson, 5th
  3. #32 Ty Isaac, SR*
  4. #22 Karan Higdon, SO
  5. #33 Wyatt Shallman, SR* 
  6. #6 Kareem Walker, FR
  7. #23 Kingston Davis, FR
  8. #12 Chris Evans, FR

Name to Watch Closest 

Walker. The former #1 overall running back in the 2016 class and early enrollee is coming into Michigan with a lot to prove. He took several hits on his game and ranking throughout his senior season and is out to prove the analysts who doubted him wrong. With the opening there for the taking, the extra motivation and his natural talent, I’ll be keep a close eye on him throughout the spring.

Don’t Forget About Me

Isaac. The other former five star running back may be the most naturally talented back on the roster but has only shown it in small portions. Add the inconsistency to some off the field/effort issues and he has reportedly been in the dog house for quite awhile. But he may have seen the light. According to multiple reports, including The Wolverine’s Chris Balas, Isaac may have turned the corner ($). If he has indeed figured it out and is willing to put in the work all spring and season long, he could be a real weapon for the offense.

Breakout Prediction 

Higdon. Going into his freshmen year, I thought he could be a breakout star for Michigan thanks his speed and elusiveness that the running back stable was missing. Well, it’s still missing that and Higdon has a year of learning under his belt. If he can keep his feet underneath him and find a role as a 3rd down back or receiver out of the backfield, I believe he could really become a threat for the Wolverines.

Other Spring Positional Previews 

Who do you believe will leave spring ball as the starter? Backup? Breakout candidate? Add your predictions in the comment section below! 

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports