Running back CJ Stokes received playing time for Michigan during his true freshman campaign last season. While Michigan’s depth at RB is strong, Stokes will be looking to make an impact when he gets a chance to be on the field.
The story so far
Stokes was a three-star prospect in the class of 2022. A Columbia, South Carolina native, Stokes rushed for more than 1,000 yards in all three years he was on varsity in high school.
While Stokes received offers from programs such as Penn State, Minnesota, Wake Forest, Louisville, and others, he hit it off with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and he knew he belonged in Ann Arbor.
“In the recruiting process he treated me like I was a five-star,” Stokes said. “He didn’t really treat me like I was a three-star, and I loved that from him. They showed me love and brought me down here and on my visit. I don’t know if people know this, but I committed halfway through my official. I didn’t want to go anywhere else and they didn’t want me to go anywhere else. It’s kind of a perfect fit.”
Stokes received playing time right away last year and scored his first collegiate touchdown against Hawaii in Week 2. While Stokes rushed for 273 yards last season, there were highs and lows during his freshman campaign. Stokes fumbled his first Big Ten carry against Maryland and received just 11 carries the following three games. Stokes used that time to overcome any fumbling woes.
“The fumble is the best thing that happened to me this season, as far as locking me in on everything,” Stokes said. “It was everything.”
Stokes’ most productive game came versus Nebraska, where he rushed for 68 yards on eight carries. He followed that performance up with his highest carry total of the season, 11 for 36 yards in a 19-17 win against Illinois in which Blake Corum suffered a knee injury.
Stokes would go on to receive two carries for five yards versus Ohio State and receive zero carries in the Big Ten Championship Game or Fiesta Bowl.
Outlook moving forward
Michigan has Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards on top of the depth chart at running back, and they’ll receive most of the carries. However, there are many names behind those two vying for playing time including Kalel Mullings, Cole Cabana, Benjamin Hall, Isaiah Gash, Tavierre Dunlap, and Leon Franklin. And where Stokes resides in the RB pecking order is anyone’s guess.
The best-case scenario for Stokes is he has a stellar showing during Michigan’s non-conference schedule to show the coaching staff he can be relied upon. Stokes could ultimately be RB for the Wolverines this fall, or he could be RB5 or 6. Things are fluid, and with good competition, it will all sort itself out.