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Quick Analysis: What Christian Turner Brings To Michigan Football

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Strengths: Tremendous balance, good speed, pure quickness, compact frame, the ability to take a hit and deliver it

Weaknesses: Not a traditional power back, under-the-radar skill, probably will remain overlooked throughout the recruiting cycle.


Michigan fans have long trusted when Jim Harbaugh zigs rather than zags, as he’s long since proven that he knows what he’s talking about. That helped casual fans get on board an empty hype train when Harbaugh stuck with three-star running back Kurt Taylor in the last cycle - Taylor was an overlooked, but well-rounded, prospect out of Covington, Georgia, and Michigan fans loved his enthusiasm but ... well, they finished their sentence there.

Well, Harbaugh is at it again, and that could be encouraging or disappointing depending on how you look at it. Najee Harris, this kid is not. A bigger, more speedy version of Taylor (who was 5’9”, 200) - well, that’s on the money.

At this point I think it’s worth considering what Harbaugh is imagining these players to turn into. Running backs have trended smaller in recent years - think Ameer Abdullah at Nebraska and Justin Jackson at Northwestern - and their job has been to avoid physical punishment rather than dole it back in equal measure. Sure, they still need to absorb contact - and keep the ball in their hands consistently - but they need to blend the right kind of muscle to handle the job with the speed and slight frame to avoid, dodge, dance, samba, tango, and otherwise woo and serenade visiting fans.

Both Taylor and Turner check off a lot of boxes. They specialize in quickness around the line of scrimmage, thanks to their speed and balance and footwork. That’s an underrated quality that I think will be what gets them far - you could presume that any athletic runner can go through an opening at the line of scrimmage, but bursting through it more quickly, making unblocked linebackers in the flat miss, and being able to turn to a Plan B more quickly if the line’s blocked will give a runner the most success.

They also have pass catching, pass pro abilities and more, making them well-rounded prospects. Turner is a little more easy to envision as a star player, because he’s got the open field speed to take it to the house (thanks to his length and weight). But in the meantime, get used to a new kind of running back - no flaws, overlooked and motivated, and ready to get any kind of job done with deceptive speed.

Player that he could turn into: A speedier Kurt Taylor, as I’ve said above.

Rather than include Taylor’s highlights, though, I’ve gone back to Justin Jackson’s old Hudl footage. Here it is:

You could argue Jackson looks a little more athletic, but their game is very similar. A Kool-Aid stat of the day for this kind of back: Jackson and Abdullah combined for 5.22 yards per carry in college, 8,717 rushing yards and 11,897 total. Abdullah was not expected to succeed in the NFL, but he’s now the starter for the Detroit Lions. So again, Harbaugh may be on the cutting edge of something.