I’m not gonna beat around the bush here — we know the first two running backs the Michigan Wolverines will put on the field against Notre Dame.
What the more interesting questions this season for Michigan’s running backs are “who is the third-string? And who comes after that?”
With the graduation of Ty Isaac and transfer of Kareem Walker, it’s kind of a mystery. When Chris Evans was asked last week about it, he pretty much said everyone is working out as the third-string running back. Quite the unhelpful tidbit of information.
Instead, I’m just going to just go on the record with who I think will win that job. Let’s start off with the first two, though.
Starter: Karan Higdon, SR
I have loved this dude since getting his first playing time in 2016. Back then, I was sitting in my apartment at Central Michigan University watching him pummel opposing defenses. I remember telling myself “man, I love the way he runs.” That still holds true today.
Two years later, he is the clear-cut No. 1 running back on the team, and I was in no way surprised of his emergence last year.
After nearly running for 1,000 yards in 2017, Higdon is back to try and accomplish what he couldn’t do a season ago. He told reporters he’d have declared for the NFL had he reached the 1,000-yard plateau, but luckily for us he wasn’t able to get there.
But he has a real chance to get there now. He was the third-stringer for the beginning of last year, but emerged after Evans’ struggles and Isaac’s injury. Expect greatness from Higdon in 2018, especially now that he is even more jacked than he previously was.
Backup: Chris Evans, JR
The 1B to Higdon’s 1A is Evans — the shifty speed-back who made a Florida State defender look like a ballerina during his true freshman year.
(Skip to 2:59 for all the elusiveness)
Evans had his share of ups and downs last year, but still put up 685 rushing yards and six touchdowns. His best game was, without question, against Minnesota where he ran for two scores and 191 yards. Other than that, he only put up 50 rushing yards or more in four other games.
Despite those inconsistencies, Evans is still as capable as any Michigan running back to succeed, especially with the changes on offense. Give Evans the ball in space, like I expect Michigan to do more of this season, and he can make anyone miss tackling him.
Third-string: Christian Turner, FR
You heard it here...well, probably not first, but you heard it here.
We haven’t heard much of the other running backs this offseason, but we have heard a few things about true freshman Christian Turner.
Here is what offensive tackle Jon Runyan Jr. had to say about him and how he has been the most impressive true freshman on offense this offseason:
“I’d say from watching film, probably Christian Turner. Small guy, but he’s explosive. He runs really hard. That’s what we need from a back in the Big Ten. He’s been really impressive out there.”
It’s great news to hear this from a veteran player, and I did like what I saw on film during his high school days. Unfortunately, we don’t have any up-to-date film. Even more unfortunate news — the below video only shows two plays. It’ll have to do for now, I suppose.
Sophomore O’Maury Samuels looks to get more playing time in 2018 after only getting a handful of snaps during garbage time last season. He put on more muscle — he was already just as muscular as Higdon — so I expect to see a bit more of Samuels this year.
Another true freshman who could sneak in some playing time, at least on special teams, is Hassan Haskins. He was a low-rated recruit out of Missouri, but has big size (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) for a freshman running back. He had more than 2,000 yards and 31 (!) touchdowns as a senior in high school, so yeah, he could be a factor in Michigan’s ground attack.
Walk-on running backs Tru Wilson and Joe Hewlett were mainly talked about in the spring as guys who could see extended playing time this year, but not much has been said of these guys since then. I wouldn’t doubt they get snaps, but I don’t expect them to be a huge factor in grabbing significant playing time.
Is Kurt Taylor still alive? I, quite literally, have not heard a single thing from him at all.
Michigan is set at running backs as long as Higdon and Evans stay healthy. If one or both get banged up, things could get dicey at the position. With so many question marks surrounding the unit, let’s hope 1A and 1B maintain their health.