Donovan Edwards stayed close to home and now has a chance to provide some star power for the Michigan Wolverines’ running back rotation. It was not always a slam dunk the West Bloomfield product would end up in Ann Arbor, but a match materialized nonetheless.
The Wolverines have had some good running backs under head coach Jim Harbaugh, but never quite a star who had the ability to break a game open. Edwards has the potential to be that, but will have to earn his keep to crack Michigan’s rotation his true freshman season.
Let us take a look at the road that allowed him to get to Ann Arbor, and his outlook for this season.
The Story So Far
Edwards, who stands at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, was the No. 41 player in the nation and third-ranked running back in the country behind TreVeyon Henderson (Ohio State) and Camar Wheaton (Alabama), per the 247Sports composite rankings. The composite has him right on the fringe of five-star status, while 247’s personal rankings have him hitting that mark.
Edwards was a star at West Bloomfield High School under former head coach Ron Bellamy, who is now an assistant on Harbaugh’s staff. The pair won four district titles together and made several deep runs through the state playoff circuit. Edwards rushed for nearly 2,500 yards and had 45 total touchdowns in his final two high school seasons. His final game saw him run for 257 yards en route to West Bloomfield’s first state championship in program history.
“He did everything you could ask from a back,” 247Sports Allen Trieu wrote. “When the tough yards were needed and he had to go through someone, he did it. When he needed to find a crease and outrun defenses, he did it. He was the catalyst for his team’s first state championship in school history. This was a team that was well-coached with some other nice pieces, but with a young offensive line and a first-year starting quarterback.”
Trieu also compares him to Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints:
Has looked college-ready since his sophomore season. Physically, he will enter college able to compete at the high-major level. Complete back who has shown he can run between the tackles and grind out tough yardage as well as hit the home run. Runs with violence when he has to. Does not shy away from contact and initiates the blow much of the time. Excellent lateral agility. Has great burst and acceleration as well. Generally a one cut and go guy. Not truly an elusive runner, but can make a defender miss when he has to. Burst and acceleration allow him to break the long runs and has good, but not elite top end speed. Great pass-catcher. Good pass blocker because of strength and willingness to be physical but still needs to polish technique there. Has intangibles and willed his way to some runs and also came up big in big moments for his team. Must secure the ball more consistently although he did not haveissues with that in high school. Complete prospect who can be a lead back at a high-major program and be an early round draft choice.
Edwards’ offer sheet was filled with interest from the top college football programs, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Penn State. Michigan was able to hold them off and keep one of the best prospects in the state close to home, as he announced his commitment in favor of the Wolverines during the early signing day. His recruitment may have been impacted by the pandemic, which prevented prospects from taking on-campus visits. Nobody inside the football building will apologize for that.
Outlook moving forward
Edwards enrolled early at Michigan and took part in spring practices this year, so the work has already begun in getting him ready to make an impact in 2021. The media and public were unable to get an up-close look at him, but all accounts from those in the know say he performed at a high level and has put himself into the mix for early playing time.
Nothing is ever guaranteed at Michigan given we have seen high-profile recruits struggle to find their footing. The good news is Edwards is not being rushed along. Harbaugh is on the record saying Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum are expected to lead the way, with Edwards next in line. He and fellow freshman Tavierre Dunlap have both impressed in limited action in spring football.
Given Michigan’s propensity to rotate running backs, along with the hire of Mike Hart to oversee the position, there should be ample opportunity for Edwards to make a splash the second he hits the field. Running back might be the hardest position to project given the number of factors that determine success. The only thing that can be guaranteed is the chance to play meaningful snaps will be there.
Edwards looks the part of a future star and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield could make him one of the Big Ten’s most well-rounded offensive players in time. Michigan is desperate for star power and playmaking ability on both sides of the ball. Edwards might have as good a chance as any at quenching that thirst.