High School: West Bloomfield (MI)
Measurables: 5-foot-11, 200 pounds
Ranking: Four-star (.9793 composite), No. 44 overall, No. 4 RB
Other finalists: Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama
Accolades: Under Armour All-American, 2x Michigan Dream Team, 2x 1st-Team All-State
Recruits in the 2021 class had to deal with unprecedented circumstances while trying to decide where they’ll play their college ball. The dead period in place since March meant they couldn’t have teams pay for official visits, tour a school’s facilities and stadium, and meet with coaches in person.
This made it difficult for Michigan to show off some of the best aspects of their program and hindered their chances with several top prospects across the country. But it did end up helping them secure their top overall target in the 2021 class, Donovan Edwards.
After years of consternation about in-state recruiting, Michigan needed to land the top-50 player in the backyard who was playing for a high school whose coach was a Wolverine himself. It wasn’t going to be easy, though, with the best schools in the country desperate to pry him away.
In late winter before the dead period, Edwards was able to take visits to Georgia and Ohio State. The trip to Columbus went well enough for several crystal balls to come in for the Buckeyes, sending the fan base into a tizzy. But Edwards always knew he was going to take his recruitment until signing day and didn’t appreciate being pressured into committing. Ohio State landed their two top-100 backs and moved on.
Then the waiting game started. Throughout the spring and summer, Edwards was adamant that he couldn’t make a decision before visiting all of his finalists. Mainly, this meant Oklahoma, who was coming on strong. He considered taking a self-guided visit to Norman, but after a while it became clear he wouldn’t be able to visit before signing day and the Sooners zeroed in on a five-star back anyway.
With the Georgia visit a faint memory at this point, it was clear Michigan had to be the choice. That does not mean Edwards was looking to go anywhere else but Ann Arbor and just couldn’t find the opportunity. In fact, after he announced his decision, Edwards revealed he had made up his mind weeks ago. He had extensive talks with Josh Gattis about his role in the offense, and it seems like the Wolverines called their first offensive play of the year against Minnesota as a nod to him.
In the 21st century, Michigan has had a rough history with running backs ranked similarly to Edwards. But from comments made by Edwards since he committed, it seems the young man understands the program’s history in his lifetime and is ready to put in the work to change the tide. Eventually Michigan is going to have a signature running back again, and Edwards is a great bet.
Junior (12 games): 161 carries, 1,326 yards, 8.2 YPC, 16 TDs, 33 rec, 419 yards, 5 TDs
Senior (9 games): 81 carries, 621 yards, 7.7 YPC, 17 TDs, 15 rec, 149 yards, 3 TDs
- Prototypical size for a running back with a strong build
- Excellent combination of speed and acceleration
- Asset in the passing game who can line up in the slot
- Can run upright instead of behind his pads causing him to lose balance
- Bounces outside often, which may not work at the next level
One of the main selling points for Edwards is his versatility. With the ideal frame for a running back at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Edwards has the athleticism to run inside the tackles, on the perimeter, and catch passes lined up outside.
Edwards is an explosive player with good acceleration and long speed that make him a big play threat whenever he gets the ball. But he also displays great patience and vision that allow him to read his blockers and find the hole to pick up more yards.
He does have to improve on his balance. Sometimes he can run a bit out of control, getting his weight out in front and allowing slight hits to knock him off schedule. He will also have to learn how to adjust when he’s not the best player on the field every game. Edwards has a tendency to bounce his runs to the outside when his hole is clogged, but against faster defenders it won’t work as much.
In addition to his duties as a rusher, Edwards also puts a lot of time into pass-catching skills. He has excellent body control and tracking skills that allow him to operate out of the slot. His vision and shiftiness will also make him an asset in the screen game. He will be a great 3rd down back early in his career at Michigan.