It probably wasn’t in the game plan for Donovan Edwards to be a career backup when he signed his NLI to play for the Michigan Wolverines in Dec. 2020. But with Heisman-hopeful Blake Corum returning to Ann Arbor for his senior season and Edwards potentially heading to the NFL Draft at the end of his junior year, he may never be the true bell cow in the maize and blue.
By no means does that mean Edwards’ career has not been a success, though. He has had some marquee moments and memorable plays and performances. And by the time his time in Ann Arbor is up, he may be the second-best back Harbaugh has had here.
The story so far
Edwards was coached by Ron Bellamy at West Bloomfield High School where he won four district titles. With more than 1,000 rushing yards his senior year, Edwards was considered a highly regarded recruit.
Even with a crowded backfield with Hassan Haskins and Corum, Edwards earned playing time as a true freshman and racked up four total touchdowns. The highlight of his first year was a record-breaking 10-reception, 170-receiving yard performance in a blowout win over Maryland. At that moment, the program knew it had another budding star.
He continued his impressive play his sophomore season where he was the lightning-and-lightning with Corum. He averaged a staggering 7.1 yards per carry, the third-highest mark in the history of the program. Edwards ended the year with 1,191 all purpose yards in likely the best backup season in the history of Michigan football.
Once Corum went down with a knee injury the week before the annual matchup with Ohio State, there were serious questions if Michigan could repeat and head to the College Football Playoff without him. Edwards silenced those doubters with a 216-yard performance, where he broke out for 70+ yard touchdowns on consecutive drives.
"They didn't need Blake Corum today. They had Donovan Edwards."— Anthony Broome (@anthonytbroome) December 16, 2022
: HailHailToMichigan (YouTube) pic.twitter.com/j9a8RbDP05
He followed that up 100+ yard performances in the Big Ten Championship win over Purdue and the College Football Playoff loss to TCU. Oh, and he did it all with a broken hand.
Outlook moving forward
It’s going to be a 1A/1B situation in the backfield this year. Harbaugh and the offensive coaches should find unique ways to have both on the field at the same time. The two are by far and away the team’s best offensive playmakers. With a lack of consistency at wide receiver, and the gadget-back role needing to be filled without A.J. Henning, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Edwards out of the slot more often in 2023.
I also believe we are going to see a more even split of carries between Corum and Edwards, especially because Corum received 30+ carries per game and was injured right before they really needed him.
If both stay healthy for the whole season, they are going to be the best running back tandem in the country, and this team will compete for a national title. It’s also nice to know that even if one is slightly banged up, the other can carry the load. That fluidity of dominance in the backfield is going to give teams headaches throughout the 2023 season.