Michigan Football Preview 2019

Digital Edition

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link: https://comanpub.uberflip.com/i/1133482

Contents of this Issue


Page 63 of 179

62 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW RUNNING BACKS BY JOHN BORTON M ichigan knew it was losing a 1,000- yard rusher in Karan Higdon, a de- parting senior. It didn't know other backs would start dropping like fainting goats amid a surprise scare. Would-be senior Chris Evans was sus- pended by the University in February, for what he described to The Detroit News as an "academic mistake," not involving grades. Three of the presumed next top four backs — redshirt freshmen Christian Turner and Hassan Haskins, along with true freshman Zach Charbonnet — missed all or part of spring practice with injuries. That left one-time walk-on senior Tru Wil- son as Michigan's No. 1 back in the latter part of spring ball. Capable as he proved to be last season rushing, the truth about the Wolverines' eventual situation at running back has yet to be told. "The guys that were the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh guys before, they've gotten a lot bet- ter," running backs coach Jay Harbaugh said at one point in the spring. "Those guys have shown competitiveness and a willingness to put themselves in with the ones and the twos, and do some pretty good stuff." Now it's a waiting (and healing) game, to see where everything shakes out. Wilson proved dependable last fall, fin- ishing third on the team in rushing behind Higdon and Evans. He notched 364 yards and one touchdown, averaging a healthy 5.9 yards per carry, which was the best clip among all U-M backs. He wasn't used to carrying the load and didn't need to be. That changed for a stretch in the spring, when teammates went on the shelf. "He's handled it well," Harbaugh noted. "It's more of a role than he's ever had. Grad- ually, he's eased into it. He's getting used to that every-play type of deal with five, six, seven plays in a row. He only did that a couple of times last year. "It's a little bit different, in terms of the sustained focus and the cardio that it takes. But he's doing a pretty good job." Wilson also grew in several ways during the offseason, Harbaugh observed. Target- ing specific areas in workouts, he became a more explosive runner. "He's playing a lot faster," Harbaugh said. "He's a guy who did a lot of work this off- season, just cleaning up his nutrition and doing a lot of extra speed work. It's really showing up in his perimeter runs, being able to put his foot in the ground and get vertical. "A lot of times, a run that might have been a four- or six-yard run last year, now he's running through that arm tackle and it's 10, 12, 15. It's been fun to watch. He's had a few big plays this spring." He certainly had the opportunity. Turner had his sights set on the No. 1 spot in the spring, only to injure a hamstring early in the workouts and miss substantial time. Turner came off a solid showing against Florida in the Peach Bowl, carrying seven times for 32 yards, catching a 16-yard pass, scooping up a teammate's fumble and seeing a long touchdown run called back when he barely stepped out of bounds. That capped off a true freshman year in which he gained 99 yards on 20 tries (4.9 average). He'll go into the summer looking to get fully back up to speed. Harbaugh noted that all of Michigan's injured backs will be ready to go when the seasons rolls around. That includes Charbonnet, the heralded true frosh who rushed for 4,741 yards and 62 touchdowns in his prep ca- reer at Oaks Christian High School in Camarillo, Calif. He enrolled early at Michigan but required a routine knee surgery and elected to have it done in Ann Arbor. "It was the kind of thing we knew for quite some time," Harbaugh said. "Based on the QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Jay Harbaugh (fifth year, third with running backs). Returning Starter: FB Ben Mason (2). Departing Starters: RB Karan Higdon (19 career starts), RB Chris Evans (5). Projected New Starter: RB Christian Turner. Top Reserves: RB Tru Wilson, RB Zach Charbonnet. Wait Until 2020: RB Hassan Haskins. Newcomers: Charbonnet. Moved In: RB Ben VanSumeren (from LB/FB), RB Hassan Haskins (from LB). Moved Out: Evans (suspended). Rookie Impact: Charbonnet. Most Improved Player: Wilson. Best Pro Prospects: Turner, Charbonnet. Spring Audible Defections and Injuries Leave A Scramble At Running Back YEAR-BY-YEAR RUSHING LEADER Year Player Carries Yards TD 2018 Karan Higdon 224 1,178 10 2017 Karan Higdon 164 994 11 2016 De'Veon Smith 181 846 10 2015 De'Veon Smith 180 753 6 2014 De'Veon Smith 108 519 6 2013 Fitzgerald Toussaint 185 648 13 2012 Denard Robinson 177 1,266 7 2011 Denard Robinson 221 1,176 16 2010 Denard Robinson 256 1,702 14 2009 Brandon Minor 96 502 8 Redshirt freshman Christian Turner ran for what appeared to be a 46-yard touchdown in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, but it was called back after a review ruled he had stepped out of bounds after gaining eight yards. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

view archives of Michigan Football Preview 2019 - Digital Edition