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.
Christian Turner, redshirt SO
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (RB 22, Overall 508)
2019 Stats: 44 rush, 171 yards, 1 TD; 4 rec, 13 yards
For a brief moment it seemed like Christian Turner would be entering the 2019 offseason with all arrows pointing up. Just two minutes into the Peach Bowl, the true freshman (whose redshirt was preserved under the new rule) took an end around 46 yards to the house to open the scoring. Replay showed that he stepped out of bounds, though, turning the play into just a memory; he ended the game with seven carries for 32 yards.
He still did enter the subsequent fall with some optimism, mostly due to the somewhat open depth chart ahead of him. Unfortunately, he was unable to impress, relegating him to the bottom of the group with Tru Wilson. The breakout of Hassan Haskins and the reintroduction of Chris Evans will keep him near the end of the bunch to start this season, but as Haskins showed, it is never out of the question to see a young player completely surprise out of nowhere. That could be Turner this season.
Can Turner make the most of his limited opportunities this fall?
Turner was not a no-name prospect, and the coaching staff has surely not forgotten about him even if he is not on the minds of many fans. He was solid, though not impressive, in his game action last season, and he is a more than viable option for the back-end of a running back rotation. While the stats are not quite there for him yet, do not underestimate what some time can do for him in terms of development.
His lone touchdown last year was a good demonstration of what his game entails. Yes, it was a second half score against Rutgers, but the way that Turner stayed quick on his feet and drove the pile forward is a reminder of what Jim Harbaugh saw in him as a recruit. How he uses his power and tackle-breaking to gain yardage is a little different than the other Michigan running backs, and that should work in his favor. He is not a like-for-like backup of Haskins or Zach Charbonnet, meaning he can give the offense a different flavor out of the backfield.
Under Harbaugh, Michigan has let multiple backs rack up significant touches, and that has pretty much been determined by performance. Aside from yardage and touchdowns, Turner can make a case for himself by hanging onto the ball and being a good pass blocker. He clearly will be working from behind to start the year, but just as Haskins shot up the depth chart last season, some solid outings can quickly lead to an improved role.
Turner should see more carries than he did last season, but how many more is completely up to what he can do with those first opportunities. There are simply too many talented players in the running backs room to waste touches on undeserving options, so the onus is really on the redshirt sophomore to prove his worth. Turner is a good player and can certainly play an important role in 2020, but he absolutely needs to bring something new to the table to warrant an increased workload. He could definitely nudge his way into the platoon, but he is also a candidate to fade away if nothing changes this season.