There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Chris Evans, redshirt SR
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (APB 9, Overall 338)
2018 Stats: 81 rush, 423 yards, 4 TD; 18 rec, 148 yards, 1 TD
A versatile athlete with impressive speed, Chris Evans was not locked into a position upon enrolling at Michigan. He wound up at running back and quickly made a name for himself, despite competing with a handful of other names in the position group. Just as he was preparing to take the lead role in 2019, he was shockingly removed from the team.
One year later, Evans will get a chance to complete his fourth season, but the running back room now looks much different. Both Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins proved that they are capable of leading the charge, and as a result, Evans will be more of a specialty tool than the feature piece. But given his skill set and the Josh Gattis offense, this sort of role could be the perfect way for the fifth-year senior to close out his career.
Will Evans be able to seamlessly return into the new offense?
Unlike the two players ahead of him on the presumed depth chart, Evans is not a power, between-the-tackles type of back. He has terrific speed and good shiftiness, which has led to a 5.7 yards per carry average in his career. He also is a bit more of a pass catcher than some of his peers and is able to line up in the slot, and he might be a candidate for some end arounds and jet sweeps. While he is able to be a traditional running back, his game is a better fit for something more dynamic.
This seems like a clear match to Gattis and his “speed in space” mantra. Regardless of how it played out in 2019, the coaching staff wants to quickly get the ball in playmakers’ hands and let them go to work. Evans fits the bill here, and that alone should get him on the field this season, even if that starts out as a third down role or in multiple running back formations. The Wolverines will rotate their rushers, and it would be a surprise for him to not see some looks each game.
That being said, he is at a disadvantage in terms of familiarity, both with the playbook and with the new coordinator. Sitting out a year is difficult, and it only becomes even more tricky during a coaching shake-up. Who knows how easily Evans will be able to put the distractions of his suspension behind him, and with a non-traditional offseason he will have even less time than normal to introduce his abilities to Gattis. The talent is surely still there, but Michigan is by no means forced to rely on him given the other options at the position.
I think it will be hard to not use Evans based on how he brings something different to the table. His breakaway speed is something that Charbonnet and Haskins just cannot match, and his potential as a receiving option is another big mark in his favor. All throughout his career, Evans has worked between other talented backs, and 2020 is unlikely to be any different. If he can just find a way onto the field, the Wolverines will be able to add another dimension to their attack that was missing last season.