Michigan’s depth chart took a hit on Tuesday when news came out that running back Chris Evans is not with the team at this time due to academic issues.
I am going through some academic issues right now. I’m working through it now. I will still continue my career at the University of Michigan ! #GoBlue— Chris Evans (@Kidnplay_abc123) February 5, 2019
It remains to be seen if or when Evans will rejoin the program. Because of that uncertainty, there’s a void that needs to be filled at running back in 2019.
Evans averaged over 5 yards per carry in 2018, totalling 423 yards in all and 4 touchdowns. Where he really came in handy was in the passing game, where he hauled in 18 receptions. And with new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis promising speed in space, it’s likely he would have been used more in the passing game next season.
Maybe Evans will get his academic issues sorted out before training camp rolls around, but at the moment it looks like he’s poised to miss valuable reps in spring practices and miss the team trip to South Africa as well.
That leads us to speculating as to who will be the starting running back in 2019 if Evans doesn’t return.
The two returning players who had carries for Michigan last season are Tru Wilson and Christian Turner. Wilson had 364 yards on 62 carries in 2018, while the redshirt-freshman Turner carried the ball 20 times for 95 yards.
Turner and Wilson fared well during their time on the field, Wilson is a former walk-on and Turner was a three-star recruit. While I don’t definitively subscribe to “star rankings matter”, in most cases, they kind of do.
That leads me to 4-star incoming freshman Zach Charbonnet, who looks absolutely electric. Charbonnet already has the body of an NFL player, standing at 6-2 222 pounds.
A Southern California native, Charbonnet was named the Los Angeles Times Running Back of the Year. On his way to receiving that award, he rushed for 1,770 yards and 13 TD’s.
The accolades are nice, the stats are great, but what about the attributes? See for yourself:
Charbonnet looks like the type of running back Michigan hasn’t had for quite some time. He has excellent cutting ability, can shed and break tackles regularly, along with good field vision and patience. Charbonnet is in the Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley school of running back (both 6-1), running backs who don’t look the fastest because of their long strides but somehow leave a bevy of defenders in the dust anyway.
Questions still loom about Charbonnet, such as can he adjust to the college level? Can he pass-protect? Will he be durable? But when you just look at the film of Charbonnet running the football I don’t see how he won’t have a steady college career.
Charbonnet was the No. 46 overall recruit in the nation, and the No. 4 running back. Michigan was already lucky to land his services, but now even moreso with Evans out of the picture.
Another element that Charbonnet has going for him is he’s already on campus, as he was an early-enrolee. Charbonnet will be able to participate in spring practices and get valuable reps to help him shorten the learning curve.
While Michigan’s running back depth chart isn’t deep, the fact Charbonnet’s in the fold is very good news for the program. If Evans doesn’t end up rejoining the team, and if Michigan doesn’t add a grad-transfer RB, the starting running back job is likely Charbonnet’s to lose.