Tavierre Dunlap joins a Michigan running back room that this year will comprise Hassan Haskins, Blake Corum, and Donovan Edwards. All things considered, that is a solid stable of backs. Since the arrival of Josh Gattis, the Wolverines have preached the “Speed in Space” mantra. However, Dunlap is more of a traditional, third-down running back. Only time will tell how Dunlap’s role will evolve as he competes with an established starter (Haskins), an electrifying speedster (Corum), and a heralded five-star (Edwards) entering the fold.
The story so far
Dunlap comes to Ann Arbor from Del Valle High School in Del Valle, Texas, a southeastern suburb of Austin. Del Valle is not necessarily a powerhouse football program but they play some solid competition. In his junior year, Tavierre rushed 128 times for 1,328 yards with 20 touchdowns along with 20 receptions for 203 yards and three receiving touchdowns. This was all over the course of 10 games.
247Sports ranked Dunlap just outside the top 400 in the class of 2021. They had him pegged as the number 20 running back and the 58th ranked prospect from the state of Texas. For context, Dunlap’s incoming backfield mate Donovan Edwards is ranked as the number 41 overall prospect and the third-best running back. Both have the potential to carve out a role in Ann Arbor.
Michigan earned his commitment by beating out Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State. Dunlap had a lengthy offer sheet featuring several Big 12 schools, several Pac-12 schools including USC and UCLA, and a handful of Big 10 teams such as Nebraska, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Purdue. He also held an offer from Notre Dame.
Officially listed at 6’0” and 196 pounds, Tavierre is expected to put on some pounds and become more of a power back at Michigan. Gabe Brooks from 247Sports evaluated his high school play as the following:
Good size for a back with frame to play in the 220 neighborhood. Terrific north-south hole puncher with requisite long speed to hit the home run. Verified 4.63 40 as a sophomore. Adequate PR in the 100 meters at 11.23 as a sophomore. Plays as fast or faster on the field. Run finisher who uses size and top-end speed to his advantage. Dangerous if he gets loose at the second level. Good production with improved yards per carry and pass-catching as a junior. Gears down at times when changing directions. Can improve short-area lateral fluidity to maximize elusiveness. Not the type to string moves together in the open field. Power Five running back at his best getting north-south or in one-cut situations with juice to hit the long ball. Projects to the high-major level with multi-year starter potential and ceiling beyond college.
Outlook moving forward
While it’s easy to overlook Dunlap because of the commitment of Donovan Edwards, you would be making a mistake if you think he’s purely a depth play. Dunlap packs some punch and has a role waiting for him as the power back once Hassan Haskins departs. Josh Gattis has used the ‘thunder and lightning’ approach of late by mixing in power and speed backs. Dunlap appears to be the ideal power back as he is a strong, decisive runner with a good burst through the line.
Jim Harbaugh has made a living by spreading the wealth at running back with regards to playing time. Some have argued that this brings negative results as no one back can get in a rhythm. This may have even been a cause for the Zach Charbonnet transfer. With that being said, there is certainly reason for optimism for Tavierre Dunlap. I don’t expect him to see the field more than an occasional snap in his freshmen year. However, once Haskins departs and Dunlap becomes an upperclassman, he seems to be exactly the type of back that can get third-down and goalline type carries.