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Spring Ball Running Back Preview: The lightning-lightning duo returns

The top two guys are already known, but who’s coming after them?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Michigan at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As we entered spring ball in 2022, the question of how Michigan’s rushing game would shape up was largely answered — Blake Corum as the premier back, Donovan Edwards as the gadget man.

Heading into 2023...not much has changed, actually.

Though incoming freshman Cole Cabana is an intriguing wrinkle in the room’s dynamic and Donovan Edwards is in line to receive an expanded share of the snaps, don’t expect much (if anything) to change for the Wolverines beyond that.

Here’s a look at Michigan’s running backs room headed into spring ball.

Blake Corum

Perhaps the biggest what-if in college football last season, Blake Corum looked poised not only to earn an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony last season, but be crowned as the best player in college football. Prior to his ultimately season-ending injury against Illinois, Corum racked up 1457 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on 245 attempts, while catching 11 passes for 80 yards and another touchdown. While he attempted to play following the injury against Ohio State, his day was cut short after just two rushes, effectively ending his hopes at the Heisman.

In 2023, Corum looks to finish the story, and undoubtedly will be the Wolverines RB1 barring any injury setbacks.

Donovan Edwards

Had Corum played a full season last year, it’s possible we would be talking about Donovan Edwards as RB1 in 2023. He’s certainly got the pedigree to be a starting guy, not only gaining 991 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, but also 200 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

With Corum returning for his senior season however, Edwards is still sitting pat at RB2 entering the year. That being said, don’t be surprised if he sees the field almost as much as Corum does, whether in the backfield or out wide due to his receiving acumen.

Cole Cabana

The biggest question mark for the running backs room is how many, if any, snaps newcomer Cole Cabana gets in the 2023 season. A four-star recruit in the 247 Sports Composite, Cabana did it all for the Dexter Dreadnaughts, smashing school records for career, season, and single game yards and touchdowns among others.

Given the sheer amount of snaps Corum and Edwards will command this season, Cabana is likely to take a redshirt in his true freshman season. But obviously, nothing is for sure until the fall.

CJ Stokes

Of the spot rushers last season, CJ Stokes was probably the one you could most confidently call RB3. Stokes rushed 55 times for 273 yards and a touchdown last season, appearing in 11 games. It’ll be interesting to see whether he retains this role headed into 2023, but there’s currently nothing that says he doesn’t enter spring ball in that spot on the depth chart.

Isaiah Gash

Jim Harbaugh’s favorite boxer, in the limited snaps he received last season Gash showed flashes of skill and made the most of plays that looked dead on arrival. His role in 2023 is precluded by the aforementioned question of Cabana however, and likely won’t be substantial regardless.

Honorable Mentions

  • Tavierre Dunlap: It’s hard to make heads or tales of what exactly Tavierre Dunlap’s role will be in 2023. In his limited time following Corum’s injury last season, Dunlap was used interchangeably with Kalel Mullings as a powerback. Whether or not that remains true, or if Dunlap ultimately slips between the cracks with the amount of talent in the room, is anyone’s guess.
  • Kalel Mullings: With the linebacker depth crisis in theory settled, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Kalel Mullings move permanently to the offensive side of the ball in 2023. If he does, he’d likely be used in more of a fullback role given the snaps he saw at the end of last season.


With the exception of Cole Cabana, the situation surrounding Michigan’s running back group headed into spring ball is almost a 1:1 copy of where this group was headed in 2022. With Mike Hart still at the helm as running backs coach, the rushing attack is as strong as ever for the Wolverines.