The Michigan Wolverines have a rich and storied history across several positions, but the running back position seems to be the most synonymous with the maize and blue. Dating back to the turn of the 20th century all the way through last season, Michigan ball carriers have always been at the heart of the offense.
When reflecting upon some of the greats who have passed through Ann Arbor, it is a challenge to remember all of them. Simply constructing a Mount Rushmore of Michigan running backs is a difficult task that only invites overwhelming pushback.
Names such as Tyrone Wheatley, Mike Hart, Chris Perry, Anthony Thomas, Tim Biakabutka Jamie Morris and Hassan Haskins will inevitably be raised. But some could also argue Billy Taylor, Ron Johnson, Butch Woolfork or Rob Lytle are deserving of a seat at the table as well. But what about Blake Corum? Donovan Edwards?
With so many names already in the mix, where do Michigan’s two current running backs stack up historically? As it stands, I see the Michigan historical running back hierarchy in three tiers:
Tier one: Tyrone Wheatley, Anthony Thomas, Chris Perry, Mike Hart
Tier two: Jamie Morris, Tim Biakabatuka, Hassan Haskins, Rob Lytle, Butch Woolfork
Tier three: Billy Taylor, Gordon Bell, Ron Johnson, Blake Corum
Corum has the strongest case of the two. Entering his third season as a featured back, he currently ranks No. 16 all-time in running back rushing yards (2,546) and is less than 1,000 away from the top-eight.
Corum’s rushing touchdowns are his strongest case for tier two consideration. With 31 career rushing touchdowns, he is only 10 away from Mike Hart’s third-place ranking among running backs.
But this isn’t solely based on numbers. The eye test and each player’s importance to the team have to be factored into all of this (i.e. Hassan Haskins), which could bolster Corum’s positioning.
Corum is securely already in the third tier with a more than attainable opportunity to move into the second tier. A Heisman, national championship and/or record-breaking single-season would be required to make the final tier, but I am not discounting him.
Edwards doesn’t come close to the numbers necessary in this argument simply because he has only received RB1 carries in one season. However, his 7.08 rushing average per carry is second all-time at U-M with a minimum of 75 attempts, and he has a 200-yard performance against Ohio State beneath his belt.
The rising junior is currently just outside of tier three in my estimation. He just doesn’t have enough snaps to break into the three-tiered hierarchy yet. Despite the current lack of career volume, Edwards is in an honorable mention tier with players such as Karan Higdon, Lawrence Ricks and Harlan Huckleby. Players who are admittedly and currently much more accomplished than Edwards. However, the eye test justifies Edwards can be no lower.
With a split of carries this season, Edwards will have an opportunity to reach the third tier, and he could possibly even reach the second tier. While that would require volume, an injury-free, semi-historic season, and a rushing performance reminiscent of 2022 Ohio State, none of these are out of his reach.
Corum and Edwards will both leave Michigan as names mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats before them. And this season, they have a chance to limit how many names will be mentioned before them.
Where do Corum and Edwards stack up for you historically? Do you think either has what it takes to reach tier-one status?