The Michigan Wolverines' running back room is loaded with talent. At the top will be one of the best duos in the country; Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. After that, there are some carries to be had from a list of big-bodied backs who will gain you a yard or two on short down situations. Leading that list will be Tavierre Dunlap, Leon Franklin and Kalel Mullings.
But after that, there is little to be known about the future of the position. Mike Hart has a tall task of finding the right fits to keep this rushing attack strong for the future. In his first year in the recruiting cycle, Hart landed just one recruit: three-star CJ Stokes. But don’t let that deteriorate what the program thinks of this kid. Let’s take a look at his recruitment to Ann Arbor and what his role will be this season.
The story so far
Stokes was the No. 801 player in the country and a consensus three-star recruit. Despite his former high school coach being on the South Carolina staff, he never received an offer from the Gamecocks, his home school.
Instead, Hart followed him on Twitter, DM’d him and had a conversation over the phone with the 5-foot-11, 190-pound back. The call, however, didn’t finish with an offer because Hart said he was the first back in the cycle he had reached out to and needed to consolidate his thoughts. The ending still came with an inkling of what was to come as Hart told him, “I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you if you weren’t capable of playing for the University of Michigan.”
Eventually, Stokes received the offer and came up to Ann Arbor for a visit where he passed all the tests with flying colors. According to reports, Hart has been using his locker room and especially the running back room to help evaluate the traits that are going to fit inside Schembechler Hall. Steve Lorenz from The Michigan Insider reported Stokes got “‘two thumbs up’, ‘five stars’ (he) got everything that the coaching staff was hoping to hear as far as that goes.”
After National Signing Day, Jim Harbaugh gave a tease as to what he likes about his newest running back: “He is a big, physical back with shoulders that look like volleyball. (He’s) really well trained, and really genetically gifted. He’s got muscles everywhere. I think he’s going to be a real physical guy between the tackles, pass protection, everything you want him to do.”
Outlook moving forward
Stokes is one to keep in the back of your mind. He likely won’t see the field much, if at all, this season due to the sheer athletic and experienced talent in front of him. But Harbaugh has turned lesser recruited backs into studs in the past. Karan Higdon was a three-star and barely a top-500 recruit. Hassan Haskins was the No. 975 player in his class. Producing top-tier talent from the depths of classes at the position has been what Michigan has done exceptionally well, especially for this style of back.
Reports are Hart is really picky with who he is recruiting. He’s looking for specific kinds of players and people that will mesh well together. My thought is if multiple people are going to be sharing carries, they are going to need a groupthink mentality instead of an individual one. The hope is Stokes can and will be one of those guys. Maybe not this year, or even the next, but down the road Michigan would love to see Stokes taking the ball and mashing over some defenders.