The Michigan Wolverines offense is going to look a lot different whenever they take the field again with a new quarterback, an almost-entirely new offensive line and a bevy of young skill players. But one familiar face is one of the pieces that offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is most excited about working into the mix.
Chris Evans is returning for his final season of eligibility after sitting out 2019 with an academic issue — and with 1,722 career rushing yards — re-joins a backfield that is one of the youngest and deepest in the Big Ten. While the majority of the carries are likely to go to the likes of Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins, Evans very much has a role in the rotation.
“We’re excited about Chris. Chris is a veteran player, the man’s played a lot of football. I remember being in this conference, seeing Chris play as a freshman and seeing the impact he was able to make early on,” Gattis told reporters via a Zoom call on Thursday. “He’s got a unique skill set because of his versatility, not just as a runner, but his ball skills, which are pretty elite for his position. So it’s our job to maximize as much out of players that we can, and I think his role is one that provides versatility. A number of different ways and opportunities that you can get him out in space and get the ball in his hands. I think that’s where it’s gonna be exciting is all the different ways that we can use him. It fits right into what we do.
“We did a lot of things like that similar last year with Giles Jackson. I would see all the different alignments that he aligned on the field and you’ve got a guy like Chris Evans, who has the ability to take those as actual handoffs and not just be in the backfield catching routes coming out of the backfield. Now you’ve got a guy that can do both. I think it’s exciting.
“I think (true freshman Blake Corum) brings that same skill set, then add those guys to the mix of what we already have. I just think when you look at the depth at the running back position. I think we’ve got some good choices, obviously, it’s always tough to balance all the time, all the touches, and you know, there’s a level of having depth that you love, but then there’s a level of having depth that creates problems. The problem there is the balance of finding how to fit all the different pieces together. But we’ve got a lot of good pieces, what’s going to be our job and it’s gonna be a challenge to make all the pieces work together.”
Gattis revealed to the media that Evans, who officially rejoined the university ahead of the winter term in January, was able to get some work in with the team during Citrus Bowl preparations and the tail end of last season.
“Chris was able to practice with us leading up before our bowl game, which I was able to kind of see a little bit of his skill set but now we got to catch him back up with football,” Gattis said. “When you’ve been a year away from football, that’s a long time. The conditioning, physicality, of it, that’s what he’s missing right now. He’s missing the training but once we get them back and once we get all the kids back, we’re going to do a good job preparing guys for Saturdays.”