There is a dilemma in the Michigan Wolverines’ backfield this season, as multiple guys will fight for carries in a crowded room under new leadership. Josh Gattis proved last season he is going to use a variety of guys at running back, and that is likely to stay consistent in 2021.
Blake Corum was one of four players to get carries consistently last season. While Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet brought the thunder a year ago, Corum brought the lightning. However, he’ll need to have shown development in several areas if he is going to get more action this season.
The story so far
We are approaching the two-year anniversary of Corum committing to Michigan back in June 2019. The Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year in high school was one of the most sought-after running backs in his class. Corum chose the Wolverines over the likes of Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, North Carolina, Baylor and more.
A COVID-fueled year stunted the growth of all freshmen around the country, so we didn’t get the chance to see much from Corum. He made the rotation out of the backfield Week 1, where he had his most productive game of his freshman campaign. The Wolverines scorched Minnesota’s defense on the ground, running for 256 yards in the blowout win. Corum accounted for 24 of those yards on five carries and had a 24-yard reception to boot.
Corum at his best may be Michigan’s most explosive offensive weapon. He has impressive speed and acceleration, and has a savvy way of making defenders miss. The biggest issues he had last season were not reading holes correctly and not having the patience to let plays develop. Often, he got caught moving north-to-south rather than east-west, relying too heavily on his game-changing speed to make things happen. He averaged only three yards per carry last season, but when he broke through to the second level, he was capable of making some big plays.
That is what Jim Harbaugh is hoping to see more of this season. The Wolverines have an all-purpose back with Corum. He is a huge receiving threat out of the backfield and has shown some power to go along with his athleticism and tempo.
Corum tallied two touchdowns against Michigan State, both on carries inside the 10-yard line. He even punched one in from the goal line. It may have been puzzling at the time with bigger backs like Haskins and Charbonnet on the sideline, but it proved Harbaugh has confidence in him.
Corum finished the year with 26 carries for 76 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and five catches for 73 receiving yards. Corum’s progression was rather linear in his first season, but hopes are high for him this season.
Outlook moving forward
Haskins should be the No. 1 running back on the team, but Corum very well could be No. 2. The sophomore fits Gattis’ ‘Speed in Space’ mold perfectly and should be rewarded for that with plenty of touches both from the air and the ground.
Michigan will likely feature several backs, just like a season ago, and Corum will definitely take a significant portion of the workload. The question is how much will Corum get? He had at most seven touches in a game last season. You’d have to think that will go up as Chris Evans went pro and Charbonnet transferred to UCLA.
Donovan Edwards and Tavierre Dunlap are a couple true freshmen who impressed this spring. It appears the next quartet of Michigan running backs is taking shape, as long as Gattis keeps a similar mindset of keeping guys fresh off the bench.
We may have seen more growth out of Corum in 2020 had he been given more carries, but the fact he got any in the first place in a competitive room should have been a confidence-booster. He’s surely risen up the depth chart over the offseason and fits perfectly into what the offense is trying to accomplish. He has the potential to be a breakout player in 2021.