In Ann Arbor, the running back position is sacred. Dating back over 50 years to the early days of Bo with players like Glenn “Shake and Bake” Doughty and Billy Taylor, through Butch Woolfork in the ‘70s and Jamie Morris in the ‘80s, the position at Michigan was elevated to a higher standard.
Succeeding those backs was a run of players who took the position to such heights they are only remembered by one name: Wheatley, Biakabatuka, Thomas, Perry, and Hart. Names that carry such reverence, Wolverine fans need a moment to collect themselves before continuing.
More recently, Hassan Haskins reached immortal Michigan status with his five-touchdown performance against Ohio State in 2021, and entering next season, the Wolverines feature the best 1-2 punch in the history of the program.
However, after 2023, who is the heir-apparent behind Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards to take over?
This week, 247Sports released an article discussing the most impactful freshmen from spring practices. The Michigan Wolverines were represented by the unlikely former three-star running back Benjamin Hall.
Hall came to Michigan as an afterthought, as “the other guy.” The freshman from Kennesaw, Georgia was one of the lowest-rated recruits in Michigan’s 2023 recruiting class and, to further stack the deck against himself, Michigan’s second-highest rated recruit was four-star running back and local legend Cole Cabana, who played high school football 10 minutes from the Big House.
Hall didn’t care. Despite a crowded running back room and positional competition in his own class, he committed to Michigan and enrolled just in time for bowl game practices. After a few months of learning the ropes, the buzz around Hall remained quiet; until the spring game.
That game presented a unique opportunity for Hall. With no Corum, Edwards, presumptive RB-3 CJ Stokes or class-rival Cabana participating, Hall had an extended opportunity to flash his potential.
Hall finished the spring game with 96 yards, while averaging 7.4 yards per carry and scoring one touchdown. More impressively, he flashed vision, balance, awareness and patience rarely seen from freshmen running backs in the fall, let alone from those who have only had a few weeks of practice under their belt.
Running backs coach Mike Hart was jovial when asked about Hall after the game.
“Well, I told him today he should have had two touchdowns but he fell twice,” said Hart. “He stepped out of bounds once and tripped on the other one, but I just think that his maturity is it’s pretty — it’s amazing. I mean, you wouldn’t guess he’s 18 years old, just turned 18 a few weeks ago. Yeah, it’s like he’s been here a long time. He works hard, he studies, he understands the offense. He’s just getting better and better every day. He’s just built like a grown man. I mean, he’s 225 pounds. And you know, his legs are huge. He runs hard. So excited about his future here.”
Hart continued, “He’s Hassan-like, he’s hard to tackle. He’s hard to bring down. But his legs are just so thick. I mean, you look at him waist down. I mean, he’s a big guy. So you know, I would probably compare him to the guys we’ve had here to Hassan. Go back to Kevin Grady, if you want to back in the day. It’s how Grady was built that way back in 2005, 2006 for those young reporters out there.”
One practice performance doesn’t guarantee Hall anything come September. The competition for running back No. 3 is log jammed with Hall, Stokes, Kalel Mullings, Cabana, Leon Franklin, Isaiah Gash and Tavierre Dunlap. However, Hart’s words are almost more powerful than what Hall displayed on the field.
Hart believes in the potential of Hall, and that is a big reason why he recruited him despite Hall primarily receiving attention from mid-majors during his prep career. Only time will tell if he will be in Michigan’s running back rotation this fall, or if he will be a featured option in the future.
If one or both are true, fans can point back to this spring performance before speaking Hall’s name with reverence, too.