Notebook: Green established as No. 2 back; Hoke and Ross discuss Kovacs

Terra Molengraff/Daily
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By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 4, 2013

In the span of about a week, freshman Derrick Green has gone from being a question mark to the No. 2 ball carrier behind fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.

On Wednesday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke didn’t hesitate to name Green the No. 2 running back for Saturday’s game against Notre Dame in the wake of redshirt freshman Drake Johnson’s season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury.

“He’s a pretty intelligent kid, he picked it up really well,” Hoke said, praising not just Green’s running ability, but pass protection as well.

There were some concerns with Green’s weight heading into the season opener, but it evidently didn’t pose a problem in the season opener against Central Michigan. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said that running backs coach Fred Jackson is directly monitoring Green’s weight for the remainder of the season.

Five different running backs saw playing time against the Chippewas, but Green’s 58 yards and touchdown made him the strongest candidate to back up Toussaint.

“He carried the ball and didn’t fumble it, number one, that’s huge,” Borges said. “Didn’t fumble it, didn’t make a lot of bad running decisions. Ran the ball pretty much where we wanted him to. He grew a little bit with those carries.

“He’s a pounding-type back. He’s a big strong kid that, I’m sure they feel him when they tackle him.”

Even with Johnson out, Michigan still has enough depth in the backfield — enough so that Borges is considering the idea of having the backs take on specialty positions as the season progresses. It would only be situational, though.

“We’ll feature different backs in different situations based on what they do best (but) it could change week to week,” Borges said. “I like a feature back, a guy that’s going to carry the ball more than the rest of the guys. You’ll see, they’re interchangeable in certain situations.”

THE CAMPUS THAT ROSS BUILT: Hoke met with Stephen M. Ross on Wednesday morning as part of an event honoring Ross for his $200-million donation to the University, half of which will go to the Athletic Department.

The money for the Athletic Department will be geared toward student-athlete programs, resources for the athletic academic center and construction projects. Last fall, the Athletic Department announced a renovation of South Campus that is now expected to reach $341 million. It will take seven to 10 years to complete.

As a thank you to Ross, the Athletic Department will rename it the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus.

“I think it means a whole lot to the University as a whole when you look at the $100 million for the academics and $100 million for athletics,” Hoke said. “It’s pretty significant.”

But when the two met, there was little discussion about how the money would benefit the football program. Hoke said the only thing that Ross wanted to talk about was former Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs, a practice-squad player for the Miami Dolphins — the NFL team Ross owns.

A LATE DINNER: Despite the hype surrounding the night game, an 8 p.m. kickoff has never been Hoke’s preference — he’d rather get the game over with earlier in the day.

But he sees more night games as an inevitable part of college football’s future due to television programming.

“I don’t know if it’s the best thing for student-athletes because they are students,” Hoke said. “Especially when you’re the away team and you get home at 3:30 or 4 in the morning, there’s a lot of stress on the guys who physically, and mentally, they’ve got to perform.”

Another less-than-ideal side effect of playing in prime time? The players will spend most of their day playing the waiting game.

Hokes tries to organize some structured activities to alleviate time spent just sitting around.

“We’ll let them sleep in a little bit,” he said. “We’ll have two walk-throughs during the course of the day and a film session. Let them rest, let them watch football. Once you get past 1 o’clock, it moves pretty quick.”

NOTES: Senior safety Courtney Avery has recovered from his knee surgery last week and worked out with trainers this week. Hoke said he expects him to be available to play Saturday, and that he’ll probably split time with sophomore Jarrod Wilson. … Hoke said the fact that the Wolverines have never lost a home game under his tenure has never been a point of discussion. … Hoke confirmed that senior wide receiver Joe Reynolds will play against Notre Dame. Reynolds was injured last Saturday against Central Michigan. … Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said that he doesn’t anticipate the increased noise in Michigan Stadium on Saturday night will cause communication problems for the Wolverines.