Michigan Football will not name a starting running back before Saturday night’s opener against Middle Tennessee and they seem pretty content with a by-committee approach, at least to start the year. True freshman Zach Charbonnet may be adjusting that plan on his own, as he has consistently been named one of the standout players of fall camp for the Wolverines to this point.
That hype continued to snowball on Wednesday when running backs coach Jay Harbaugh spoke to the media at Schembechler Hall, where he raved about what makes Charbonnet special early on and what they have seen out of him so far.
“He is just really relentlessly consistent with his approach,” Harbaugh said. “Every single day he’s really eager to do well. He’s coachable. He likes to practice. He wants reps. He wants to play special teams. Very rarely does he make a mistake and not correct it. It’s very rare for him to repeat mistakes. When you do that, and you’re between 220 to 275 team reps in a camp, you’re gonna get pretty good if every time you screw something up it gets improved. That’s really been his hallmark so far.
“He’s very special in a lot of ways. Not just running back ability, but in terms of intangibles and everything, he’s more mature than most incoming freshmen at any position.”
Charbonnet was an early enrollee, but did not take part in spring practices while dealing with an injury. That ailment is totally behind him, Harbaugh said, but he notes the mental notes in the spring and inquisitive nature helped him along as much as any player.
“He took great notes, he asked a ton of questions,” Harbaugh said. “Even from April, May, he hadn’t been in this system very long and he was at the same level knowledge-wise as everybody, which speaks a lot to how much he loves the game and how engaged he was able to stay even though he wasn’t physically out there on the field.”
In terms of skills or a particular running style, Harbaugh says the Josh Gattis offense emphasizes its backs just making plays. The Wolverines believe that going more up-tempo and throwing the ball more frequently will empty the box and give the running backs more space to work with.
He also noted that being tough to tackle is going to be what might be most important, which at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds is something that Charbonnet has going for him according to multiple Michigan players and coaches we have talked to over the course of the last few weeks.
Tru Wilson and Christian Turner remain in the mix for snaps, as well as Hassan Haskins and Ben VanSumeren, but Charbonnet has been the most frequent name spoken about in August and the writing seems to be on the wall for him to play often. They may roll with the committee in the backfield, but all of the practice hype and comments seem to suggest that a freshman may get the bulk of the carries for the Wolverines this season.
Here is more from Jay Harbaugh’s media session:
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