The Michigan Wolverines entered the 2021 season with a clear plan at running back: thunder and lightning. In theory, the duo of Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum could give defenses nightmares, but the inexperience of the latter left plenty of question marks for an offense that looked very average in 2020.
The sophomore Corum quickly put those concerns to bed, however. He served as the perfect compliment to the bulldozer Haskins and now returns as the RB1 for his third season in Ann Arbor with Donovan Edwards stepping into the thunder role. While Corum will never be an every-down back, he proved that he does not need 20 carries a game to make a huge impact.
The story so far
Corum finished as a top-130 prospect per the 247 Composite, RB12 of the 2020 recruiting class. While his talent was apparent right away, Zach Charbonnet and Haskins started the 2020 season well ahead of him on the depth chart, as both had put up over 600 rushing yards the year prior.
It was a freshman season to forget for Corum (and the rest of his teammates), as the young rusher tallied just 77 total yards on the ground. It looked like the year might start well after a pair of equalizing touchdowns against Michigan State, but just as that game turned sour, so did the rest of Corum’s season.
2020 was soon put behind him, as Corum found the end zone seven (!!) times in the first three games of 2021, including scores of 67 yards against Washington and 51 yards against Northern Illinois. Though Haskins essentially doubled him in carries (270 vs. 144) and rushing touchdowns (20 vs. 11) last season, Corum still nearly reached 1,000 yards on the ground thanks to an insane 6.6 yards per carry.
Three big plays stand out from Corum’s season, aside from that opener against Washington. After blowing a 12-point lead in Lincoln, Michigan jumped back in front in the early fourth quarter as the sophomore raced through the Nebraska defense and viciously celebrated in style:
Corum would get a little banged up near the end of the season, missing the Maryland game completely before being fairly limited for the Ohio State battle. That did not stop him from potentially changing The Game, as two big runs to open up the second half led to a key touchdown that gave the Wolverines the cushion they needed to stay in front:
Healthy the next week, Corum juked his way through an Iowa defense known for not allowing any big plays. His 67-yard first quarter touchdown put Michigan ahead in the Big Ten Championship Game and again highlighted how the electric runner can take over with just one touch:
Outlook moving forward
Haskins is off to the NFL, leaving Corum as the veteran in the running back room. While his role might increase slightly, expect Edwards to get many of the carries between the tackles and continue the tradition of splitting touches to keep both players fresh. There has been plenty of talk of both weapons seeing the field at the same time, and given the versatility of each, there could be some creative play calls ahead.
After the top two rushers, the rest of the position group is very unproven. Though Harbaugh has always liked to rotate — and should be able to early on given the weaker opening to the schedule — in crunch time it will come down to Corum and Edwards.
Perhaps the biggest aspect in Corum’s favor is that he works well with either quarterback. Cade McNamara is not much of a threat on the ground, meaning Corum will be the one to attack the edge and race past defenders. He also is a big asset in the screen game and on wheel routes.
However, his true potential would be best unlocked from J.J. McCarthy. That opener against Iowa showed what happens when the defense has to look out for both the quarterback and running back, and a McCarthy-Corum duo would cause headaches for opponents all season long. Either way, Corum is going to get plenty of focus in 2022 and should be one of Michigan’s biggest playmakers.