The Wolverine

October 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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36 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2022 M ichigan fans that were nervous about running back recruiting in 2022 aren't anymore, thanks to the emer- gence of freshman C.J. Stokes. Not the highest rated prospect in his class — the 5-foot-10, 196-pounder was a consen- sus three-star in the rankings — Stokes has emerged as one of the nation's better freshman backs in the early going. Through three games, Stokes had car- ried 22 times for 114 yards and a touch- down, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He showed burst, vision, and patience in pro- viding a glimpse of the future. None of it came as a surprise to head coach Jim Harbaugh. "I really thought he was going to have a big game," Harbaugh said before Stokes ran for 35 yards on 6 carries in a 51-7 open- ing day win over Colorado State. "I told him in the days leading up to the game, 'I don't know if it will be this game or the next, but you'll be one of those freshmen that everybody's talking about.' He's just good. "It's super important to him. He is a studier and a very, very focused player, and he's really talented, too. It's fun to see his first run be a 13-, 14-yard pick-up and a first down." Stokes played at a high speed from the moment he arrived on campus, special teams coach Jay Harbaugh said, and that opened some eyes. Running backs coach Mike Hart was similar when he arrived on the Michi- gan campus in 2004. Like Hart back then, Stokes wasn't one of those recruits who loved attention. Rather than field calls every day and get "the love" that comes in the process, Stokes would rather spend his time working. "He's a kid who knew who he was. Just that self-motivation," Hart recalled. "Those are the kids — the [Michigan backs] Blake Corums, Donovan Edwards — that show up to work every day. You don't have to worry about it. They're go- ing to go to class … going to take care of those things. "Those things are more important to me as a coach than kids who are ranked five stars because they go to a big school. They may not be that good. That's just kind of my recruiting philosophy, person- ally. If you recruit a high maintenance kid, when they get here, they're going to be high maintenance." That's not to say some of them don't turn out great, Hart added. But Michi- gan's list of successful three-star backs is longer than the one featuring five-star success stories, and they all have one thing in common. "I want kids who want to be here and that love ball," Hart added. "You don't have to force them to come work out or go to class. There are enough kids out there to do that. "I always tell guys this — at the end of the day, I don't recruit stars. I recruit, or try to recruit, good players. "'C.J.'s a kid that was under-recruited, has great film, was fast … had track times. He ran the ball hard and ran through peo- ple. He showed he could catch the ball." Hart appreciated him as a person, too. "Talk about a kid who has a strong mind and is confident in himself," he said. "He's not afraid of competition. He's a kid you know is going to have success in the long run and wants to be great. You have to have kids who want to be great … He's smart, he works hard and he runs hard. He has great burst. "I'm excited about him and still excited about [sophomore] Tavi [Dunlap]. I think they'll both be battling throughout these first couple weeks of who's going to get more carries as that No. 3 guy." — Chris Balas EYABI OKIE ADDS WEAPON TO EDGE ROTATION Michigan brought in a new face to its pass rush rotation 15 days before the sea- son opener in the form of Eyabi Okie (for- merly Eyabi Anoma). The former five-star recruit and grad transfer from UT Martin did not have much time to get up to speed, but he made his presence known quickly. MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Freshman Running Back C.J. Stokes Is Standing Out Through the first three games, Stokes had carried 22 times for 114 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 2022 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Sept. 3 Colorado State W, 51-7 Sept. 10 Hawai'i W, 56-10 Sept. 17 Connecticut W, 59-0 Sept. 24 Maryland 12 p.m. (FOX) Oct. 1 at Iowa 12 p.m. (FOX) Oct. 8 at Indiana 12 p.m. (TBA) Oct. 15 Penn State TBA Oct. 22 Bye — Oct. 29 Michigan State TBA Nov. 5 at Rutgers TBA Nov. 12 Nebraska TBA Nov. 19 Illinois TBA Nov. 26 at Ohio State 12 p.m. (FOX) Dec. 3 Big Ten Championship 8 p.m. (FOX)

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