Michigan freshman running back Donovan Edwards had a game earlier this year versus Northern Illinois where he rushed for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns — besides that game, Edwards has been waiting his turn behind Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum.
With Corum sidelined on Saturday against Maryland, Edwards stepped up in a major way. The former four-star prospect hauled in 10 catches for 170 yards and 1 touchdown — the 170 receiving yards are the most by a Michigan running back in program history.
“I feel like it was a good moment for me to showcase my talent,” Edwards said. “I believe every week I just attack the week like it was my first game of the season. Eventually, it was going to happen.”
And it happened just in time, with 10-1 Michigan playing for the Big East title against 10-1 Ohio State on Saturday. For head coach Jim Harbaugh, he knows Edwards’ performance against the Terrapins won’t be his one shining moment.
“I’ll make this statement, and I don’t like to make a lot of big, hyperbolic statements or whatever — It was a record, it was a great performance, all-time record. But, as I told you earlier, this will be a blip on the radar of the career of Donovan Edwards,” Harbaugh said. “He’s destined for great things.”
As good as Haskins and Corum have been running the rock, Edwards reliability in the passing game became evident against Maryland, as did his big play ability on a 77-yard touchdown catch. Edwards has steady hands, great speed, with a good balance of power to go along with his quickness.
Edwards’ pass-catching prowess is something that his coaches and teammates have been aware of for some time.
“That’s something we’ve seen in practice since he got here,” quarterback Cade McNamara said after the 59-18 win. “His elusiveness, his ability to catch the ball, it’s really at a high level for a running back. I’m just so fired up that he was a big part of this game plan and that I was able to get the ball to him.”
With a record-setting performance it’s fair to wonder if Edwards bursting onto the scene in the fashion he did will lead to important snaps against the Buckeyes — a game that will be all hands on deck, win at all costs, take no prisoners. Whatever advantage Michigan can find they must capitalize upon, and Edwards may be a difference maker.
Even if Blake Corum is healthy enough for action against OSU Edwards will still get some snaps. Although Corum has been great at times this year, it looks like Edwards is ahead of Corum in terms of reliability and sure-handedness as a pass-catcher at this point. It remains to be seen how many snaps Edwards will get against Michigan’s biggest rival, but he earned a role in the most pivotal of matchups.
“All season, we’ve known about his ability to catch the ball and run routes. It started back in spring practice after he came off of his surgery on his thumb. He was in a cast for the first three weeks. He was catching, averaging seven catches a day, to the point where he was an example even for everybody,” Harbaugh said. “This guy is catching, he doesn’t drop anything, and he’s wearing a hard cast on his hand. And the work he’s put in, he’s got so many built-up reps. I understand he and J.J. (McCarthy) are throwing and catching all the time.”
Welcome to the scene, Donovan — now go build a legacy against them Buckeyes.