Zach Charbonnet has been one of the most hyped freshman running backs in recent memory for Michigan football and he backed it up on Saturday night in the 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee State. He finished the evening with eight rushes for 90 yards, one of which was an impressive 41-yard run.
However, it was the aspect of a running back’s game that often gets overlooked that drew the most praise from head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“The running backs had a perfect game in protection,” Harbaugh said during his weekly press conference. “The pickups — every back was 100 percent on their pickups. Zach Charbonnet had nine pickups in protection, which, I don’t think we’ve had a back pickup nine pickups in protection since we’ve been here from one single back. He was 100 percent, nine out of nine. It’s like wow, that’s really good. There were some sophisticated protections going on and there were some changes to the protections at the line of scrimmage. There were protections changed right before the ball was snapped.
”It was just easy for him. He just handled it. Not even a misstep. It’s rare. That’s rare. I’ve been around pro backs that don’t understand the protections as well as the freshman back in this game. That was a real positive.”
Tight end Sean McKeon sees the a veteran mindset in the young player, as well, and says Charbonnet does not seem like a freshman to him.
“No, not really to me,” McKeon said. “Him and (former fullback and defensive lineman) Ben Mason kind of remind me of each other. They’re both pretty similar and hang out a lot. Really focused on football...football guys, if you will...always looking to get better on that. He’s locked in and he’s really impressive for a freshman.”
Charbonnet and Christian Turner, another young back that drew praise from Harbaugh, will look to keep up their good work on Saturday when Army comes to town for a noon kickoff at the Big House.