Michigan’s biggest recruiting win of the cycle finally happened on signing day when four-star running back Donovan Edwards announced his commitment. The top-50 prospect out of West Bloomfield was coveted by Michigan and several other of the top schools in the country since he was a sophomore.
Edwards has the profile of a modern running back. His 5-foot-11, 190-pound frame is strong and muscular, fitting the standard of what a running back should look like. He has a well-rounded game, able to run between and outside the tackles and puts great attention on his pass catching ability.
For this scouting report, I watched West Bloomfield’s most recent game before the season was cancelled, a 63-6 drubbing of Sterling Heights Stevenson. This game was great to watch for a few reasons.
The first is that Edwards went off. He ran for 146 yards on 16 carries for five touchdowns and caught an 11-yard pass for a touchdown. In the first half. He didn’t play at all in the second half after West Bloomfield ran the score up to 56-6 by halftime.
I also got the chance to watch fellow top-100 commit Giovanni El-Hadi in action for the opposing offense. As the only commit in the class I haven’t written up a scouting report for since he committed so early, I’ll throw in some notes for him at the end.
Back to Edwards, it was clear he was the best player on the field. He got a lot of carries as a wildcat quarterback, and whenever he had a read to make, he was keeping the ball regardless. That was usually the right decision though, as evidenced by his best run of the day, a 39-yard jaunt to the end zone.
Edwards’ acceleration allows him to burst through the line untouched by a crashing defensive end or defensive lineman getting pushed in his direction. He reads the butt of his blocker, staying inside, and fights off an arm tackle while beating everyone else to the end zone.
His vision and patience were another positive trait that stood out to me. While he is able to burst through the line at top speed, if a lane hasn’t presented itself yet, Edwards will wait until one develops it or bounce it out to more open space.
This run at the goal line shows Edwards patience. Instead of just burrowing in from three yards out, he makes a decisive cut to the hole on the right side and walks in untouched.
When Edwards doesn’t like the designed hole for the play, he can bounce the play outside and beat players to the edge with his speed, like he does below.
Finally, Edwards’ ability to catch passes out of the backfield or in the slot is something he prides in himself. His sixth touchdown of the half came on a pass where he was lined up in the slot. He gets a little space beating his guy off the ball, then wins a jump ball over two defenders to come down with the score.
His body control on this play is excellent. He twists his body and high points the ball at just the right moment to win the contested catch.
My one issue watching Edwards was with his balance. It can look like he’s running out of control sometimes and little contact from defenders can throw him off. On this run, Edwards braces for contact at the line of scrimmage and leans forward. But when the hit isn’t as hard as he thought, he gets out in front of his pads and two ankle grabs disrupt him enough to spiral him down.
Edwards has to run behind his pads and stay more in control so he doesn’t let weak hits bring him down.
Edwards’ versatility will allow him to see the field early at Michigan. I expect him to be a part of the rotation as soon as he gets to campus. Hassan Haskins had established him as a bonafide bell cow later on in the season with Blake Corum as a good change-up and 3rd down back. But Edwards could eat away at Zach Charbonnet’s carries and also be used on passing downs.
Bonus Giovanni El-Hadi thoughts
I also watched Stevenson’s offense to see how El-Hadi did. In short, I don’t think he looked like a top-100 prospect. He has all the tools, but doesn’t put them together on most plays. He would rarely finish his blocks, instead engaging his guy for a second or two if he got a piece at all.
I understand losing motivation after getting down by 40 points in the first half of what’s going to be your last high school game, but these issues were present from the start of the game. I wish he played with more of a mean streak.