The Wolverine

August 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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AUGUST 2021 THE WOLVERINE 73 M ichigan redshirt sopho- more running back Has- san Haskins is used to being overlooked. Haskins was overlooked in high school when he was a low three-star recruit with a scholar- ship offer from only other Power Five school (Purdue). He was overlooked as a true freshman when he was asked to compete on the other side of the line of scrimmage at linebacker. He was overlooked as a redshirt freshman in 2019 when former top- 50 prospect Zach Charbonnet got the week-one start at tailback as a true freshman. And he was over- looked in 2020 when Charbonnet again was named the Wolverines' starting running back to open the year notwithstanding that Haskins had been the school's most effi- cient rusher the prior season. So it should not be a surprise that Haskins is being overlooked again. This time around, though, he is not being overlooked by the Michigan coaching staff. The U-M coaches finally realized what they had in Haskins during the second half of last season. The 6-1, 220-pounder had demonstrated bursts of brilliance previously. In 2019, he broke out with 125 rush- ing yards on 12 carries (10.4 yards per carry) at Illinois when the rest of Michigan's backfield had injury or fumbling issues. Two weeks later versus Notre Dame, Haskins de- moralized the ranked Fighting Irish with 149 yards on 20 runs (7.5 yards per attempt) in a blowout win. In the 2020 opener at Minnesota, Haskins notched 82 rushing yards and two scores on just six carries (13.7 yards per carry), and through the first four games of last season he was averaging an astounding 7.8 rushing yards per scamper. The problem, though, was that the Michigan coaches were not feeding Haskins the ball. Through the first four weeks of last season, Haskins had only 21 total carries and did not have more than eight in any single contest. The Wolverines needed to incorporate Haskins in the game plan more. Michigan finally did that in the final two games of the abbreviated season last year. Haskins was given nearly double the carries in the final two weeks (40) than he had in the first four (21), and he proved that he could handle the load. Haskins exceeded 100 yards in each of those contests and recorded 5.3 yards per carry with three total rushing scores. He was one of the few bright spots in what had become a very dark and disappoint- ing season for the Maize and Blue. Haskins also stood out in how he generated those yards for the Michi- gan offense. He is not a running back that always benefited from paved running lanes right in front of him. He is patient and keeps his balance as he surveys the landscape and searches for the best path to take. He is able to exercise his agility with sudden jump cuts that slides defend- ers out of position. When a gap ap- pears, he attacks that space, and the next defender in his way, with vicious- ness. And Haskins relishes that im- pending contact, lowering his shoul- der and shedding the tackle attempt. As a result, Haskins has some of the best stats among returning running backs in the Big Ten. Of the 16 returning Big Ten running backs who played at least 20 percent of their team's snaps last season, Haskins is first in Pro Football Focus' (PFF) rushing grade (84.0), yards per carry (6.1) and yards af- ter contact per attempt (4.3). In fact, in that last metric, Haskins was far and away the best. No other such Big Ten run- ning back averaged at least four yards after contact per carry, and only two others averaged at least 3.5. Haskins is the most efficient and the best bruiser. Yet other college football me- dia outlets are, you guessed it, overlooking this. Haskins is not at the top of many, if any, preseason All-Big Ten teams at his position. He is on Athlon Sports' third team behind Minnesota's Mohamed Ibrahim, Iowa's Tyler Goodson, Wiscon- sin's Jalen Berger, Ohio State's Master Teague, Northwestern's Cam Porter and Penn State's Noah Cain. He was omitted from College Football News' preseason All-Big Ten list. Even PFF, which handed Haskins the best rushing grade among qualified returning Big Ten running backs, only has him on its third team when each unit has two running back spots open. It is hard to argue that Haskins should be ahead of Ibrahim, who surpassed 1,000 yards in just seven contests last season (1,076 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 15 touchdowns) and has two 1,000-plus-yard seasons. But for Haskins to be ranked out- side the top five at his position in the conference is quite a slight. Even with heralded freshmen Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards in Michigan's running backs room, it should be Haskins' show this season. He has exhibited that he is one of the best backs in the conference. The Michigan coaches believe it. Now it is time for everyone else, too. ❏ INSIDE THE NUMBERS   DREW HALLETT Hyping Hassan Haskins Staff writer Drew Hallett has covered Michigan athletics since 2013. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @DrewCHallett. Of the 16 returning Big Ten running backs who played at least 20 percent of their team's snaps last season, Haskins is first in Pro Football Focus' rushing grade (84.0), yards per carry (6.1) and yards after contact per attempt (4.3). PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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