The Wolverine

February 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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28 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2019 OVERALL GRADE Higdon's big games carried the of- fense, but nobody really stepped up as a true No. 2. Junior Chris Evans remained inconsistent, and though he did aver- age 5.2 yards per carry, much of his damage this year came against lesser teams on the schedule. He rushed for 86 yards against Western Michi- gan, 85 versus SMU and 75 at Rutgers to account for more than half of his 423 total yards. Former walk-on and junior Tru Wilson became the team's best blocker and con- tributed 364 yards — he was a nice sur- prise in averaging 5.9 yards per carry, best among regular rushers, while sophomore fullback Ben Mason was very good in short-yardage situations. Freshman Christian Turner's perfor- mances against Nebraska (55 yards on 10 carries) and Florida (32 on seven, plus a 16-yard catch) showed promise. NUMBERS TO KNOW Michigan will have some massive shoes to fill in 2019 with the departure of Higdon, who solidified himself as one of the best running backs in the Big Ten this past season. The senior's 1,178 yards were the third most in the league and actually made him U-M's first 1,000-yard running back since Fitzgerald Toussaint accumulated 1,041 yards in 2011. In addition, Higdon's 224 carries were the fourth most in the conference, while his 10 rushing scores tied for fourth. MVP SENIOR KARAN HIGDON The captain's deci- sion to sit out the Peach Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft didn't go over particularly well with a portion of the fan base, but it didn't overshadow what was a great regular season. Higdon was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top back and a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection after running for 1,178 yards, averaging 107.1 yards per game and 5.3 per carry. Higdon also dramatically improved his pass blocking, a weakness in his first few years, and became solid in that area. He rushed for more than 100 yards in seven straight games from Sept. 8 against Western Michigan to Nov. 3 against Penn State, and he became a big-play threat in the process. He finished the season with 10 touchdowns and had a carry of 30 yards or more in five of 11 games played. Running Backs status Of schOlaRship playeRs GRADUATED: TB Karan Higdon FB Jared Wangler TRANSFERRED: TB Kurt Taylor (Iowa Central CC) DISMISSED: TB O'maury Samuels ELIGIBILITY REMAINING (YEARS): TB Chris Evans (1) TB Tru Wilson (1) FB Ben Mason (2) TB Christian Turner (4) FB Ben VanSumeren (4) PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN B 2019 PLAYER TO WATCH CHRISTIAN TURNER He redshirted as a freshman in 2018 while play- ing in three games, but still displayed plenty of potential by averaging 5.0 yards on 20 carries. Turner best showed off his blazing speed on a play that wound up being nullified from the re- cord books — a 46-yard touchdown run against Florida in the Peach Bowl Dec. 29 that was origi- nally called good on the field, but was overturned once a replay determined he had stepped out of bounds. With senior Karan Higdon graduating and no clear successor at run- ning back, the Georgia native will have every opportunity to win the starting job in 2019. Karan Higdon

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