In his first semester at Michigan, Blake Corum had a 4.0 GPA and ran a high 4.4 40-yard dash in the Wolverines’ spring tests.
With stats like that, it’s no surprise the hype is only building for the four-star freshman running back. Corum joins Michigan’s most crowded running backs room in years — and though the Wolverines return four backs with significant playing experience, it’s clear the coaches also prioritize getting Corum on the field.
“Blake Corum is as fast as advertised,” offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said in a teleconference May 14. “… Just an exciting kid, just a tough, physical kid. I’ve known Blake since his ninth-grade year in high school. Just excited about that kid and his maturity, leadership he already brings. He brings a toughness, mentality. He’s got a great skillset, he’s a physical runner. People look at him as an undersized guy because of his height, but the heart, the strength and the speed that he brings, he packs a punch. So we’re really excited about him from that standpoint.”
As an early enrollee, Corum was one of the players hurt most by the lack of spring practice, robbing him of a chance to grow acclimated to the competitiveness of college football. If he hopes to see the field in 2020, he’ll have to do so without the extra semester of training he thought he’d gotten.
That’s not to say it can’t be done. Sophomore Zach Charbonnet missed all of spring ball in 2019 with an injury and still took hold of Michigan’s starting job in the fall, and though this is a different situation, the Wolverines’ coaches are confident. Running backs coach Jay Harbaugh described Corum as someone who went all-out at everything. Despite only being able to meet with the rest of the team over Zoom, Corum has made the best of the situation without making excuses, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. And though he didn’t get to participate in spring ball, Corum did get a taste of campus life and participated in winter workouts with the team before the COVID-19 shutdown.
“(Corum) did practice with us, so he’s done it a little bit at least and even though he missed spring, he’s a guy who will walk through things on his own,” Harbaugh said in a teleconference Friday. “He played against great competition in high school, so I would expect him to transition well in terms of the speed of the game and everything”
When Michigan takes the field again, Gattis sees in Corum a skillset that will allow him to play all over the field, taking handoffs, running routes out of the backfield and making plays in space. His strengths are similar to those of fifth-year senior Chris Evans, giving Corum another running back to learn from once he comes back.
Corum still faces an uphill battle for significant playing time, both because of the pandemic and because the Wolverines’ top two running backs last year — Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins — still have three years of eligibility left (though Haskins will be draft eligible next year and Charbonnet in 2022). But if the coaches are to be believed, Corum will make the most of his stiff competition.
“Blake is awesome, you know,” Harbaugh said. “ … He just goes hard at every single thing he’s presented with. I think he got a 4.0 or close to it his first semester. He’s on time for everything virtually, he turns everything in, he takes tremendous notes, he asks questions, he’s just a junkie for football, but also for everything. He’s very binary. It’s like, all in or he’s not into it. So I think that that will serve him really good in terms of getting through this without it being a setback for him.”
There’s no way to know how Corum will look when he steps onto the field for the first time. But the coaches believe he can force their hands into playing time right away, even at a crowded position. For Michigan, it’s a good problem to have.