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Resetting Michigan football’s new-look running back rotation in spring football

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A little less depth, which could be a blessing in disguise.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 Michigan at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Spring practice continues to move forward for the Michigan Wolverines coming off of an offseason that brought about a massive reboot. Jim Harbaugh shuffled his coaching staff and the roster has been shaken up. The position group we look at today has been affected by it, as well.

Mike Hart was brought in to coach the group after Jay Harbaugh held the post for the last few seasons. Hart will be working with a room that includes a player that pulled away as RB1 in the last two years and a promising crop of young rushers with versatile skillsets.

Here is what the Wolverines will be working with this offseason.

Hassan Haskins, senior

The story so far

Haskins is a former three-star recruit and was once a forgotten name in the Michigan backfield. He has emerged as Michigan’s most consistent back over the last two seasons, rushing for 997 yards and ten touchdowns on 182 carries. This past season, he averaged 6.1 yards per carry and 62.5 yards per game. The Wolverines were never able to run the ball as consistently as they would have liked, but the stat sheet backed up the idea that Haskins was the hot hand more often than he wasn’t.

Analysis

Haskins is a tough runner who has done a nice job rounding out his game over the last few years. He comes into 2021 as the most experienced back on the roster and a player who you can rely on to get tough yards. Haskins does not possess the highest upside of the backs on the roster and is not necessarily a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Despite that, there is not much to suggest that he will not start camp out as the No. 1 back on the roster.

Blake Corum, sophomore

The story so far

Corum was a four-star recruit coming out of St. Frances Academy in Laurel, Maryland and made an impact as a true freshman with the Wolverines in 2020. Corum finished the season with 77 yards on 26 carries with two rushing touchdowns and five catches for 73 yards.

Analysis

Some people say that Corum would have been a five-star recruit had he been a few inches taller. We did not see a ton of him last season in the brief six-game slate, but that he was able to crack a rotation that already featured Haskins, Zach Charbonnet and Chris Evans says what you need to know about his skill-set. Corum has some juice to his game and should be a factor for this team as a third-down back, at the very least.

Donovan Edwards, freshman

The story so far

Edwards, an early enrollee, was arguably the biggest non-J.J. McCarthy recruiting win for Michigan in 2021. The four-star freshman out of West Bloomfield had a “who’s who” list of schools that were interested in him, which included Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State. The pandemic cutting into the visit circuit and work put in by Harbaugh’s staff helped secure a multi-faceted offensive weapon that ranked as the No. 41 player in the nation. He ran for over 2,400 yards and 42 touchdowns in his final two high school seasons and won a lot of games with Ron Bellamy, who is now on Harbaugh’s staff, as his head coach.

Analysis

Edwards came to Michigan over leaving the state for other elite programs because the Wolverines could promise him touches and a role early on. He is primed for that and has the makings of a superstar, but fans are always justified in taking that with a grain of salt. The Wolverines have had trouble converting recruiting accolades into results on the field, especially at this position. But Edwards is a player that can do it all and looks the part of a high-impact player. It should be a lot of fun to track his progress and development under Hart.

Tavierre Dunlap, freshman

The story so far

Dunlap, a three-star prospect coming out of high school, committed to Michigan in September 2020. He doesn’t have the fanfare that Edwards does, but was a two-sport athlete in high school. He is also enrolled early and is currently on campus for spring ball.

Analysis

Dunlap, who stands at 6-feet and a shade under 200 pounds, looks like he might have a chance to be a nice piece to the rushing attack. He is a little more like Haskins compared to his peers. His track background makes him a really interesting player to track and he could crack the rotation if he picks up the playbook quickly.

The rest: Danny Hughes (junior), Gaige Garcia (sophomore), Lucas Andrighetto (senior), Leon Franklin (junior), Nico Tiberia (sophomore), Isaiah Gash (sophomore)

Overview

Michigan has not lacked talent in the running back department over the last few seasons, but it has been a tough go of it in trying to find consistency. A true lead back has not emerged and success game-to-game has typically depended on who the opponent is.

Hopefully, Hart can come in and reinvigorate the running game after being Michigan’s last true star at the position. There is nothing wrong with having depth and wanting to flex it, but someone has to emerge as a player you can go to in one of those “got to have it” situations. Michigan’s lack of success there of late might have a lot to do with trying to keep everyone fed and engaged as opposed to rewarding the hot hand.

Haskins is a steady veteran presence at the top of the depth chart. Corum provides nice value as a rusher and pass-catcher. Edwards has the traits of both players and could be a star if everything clicks. Dunlap could be a pleasant surprise given his ranking. There are a lot of other factors in play that will affect how successful this group can be, but the pieces are there to put together a more than functional running game.