Entering the season, there were a plethora of storylines surrounding the Michigan Football team’s offense. While the quarterback competition was the most notable, much was also made about the depth of the wide receiver room or how the offensive line would follow up their Joe Moore Award-winning performance last season.
The position group that was pushed to the backburner, somewhat, was the running back group.
The running game was steadfast for the Wolverines last season, but their bellcow — Hassan Haskins — graduated and moved on to the NFL. What’s left in his wake are junior Blake Corum and sophomore Donovan Edwards.
Unlike what’s transpiring under center for Michigan, how the running backs will split carries is not viewed as a competition, but rather a collaboration. And in the Wolverines’ Week One drubbing of Colorado State, it worked swimmingly.
“I think it was a solid day, but there’s always room to improve,” Corum said. “I think we did some really good things. I think the running backs ran well, I think the offensive line blocked well. Personally, I think we can take another step. I know this offense has more juice.”
Corum, always competitive, may have desired more from his position group, but the statline was pretty telling. Corum rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts while Edwards didn’t lag far behind, accumulating 64 yards and a score on 12 carries.
Midway through the second quarter, with Michigan only ahead 13-0 and lacking an offensive gusto that would be expected against an inferior opponent, the Wolverines play calling switched to exclusively feature the running game to jumpstart the offense.
Starting from the Rams’ 48-yard line, Michigan dialed up seven consecutive run plays. It began with a rush up the middle from Edwards and capped off with a 10-yard scamper from Corum, beating the Colorado State defense to the edge and taking it into the end zone up the right side line.
The running backs were the old reliable, consistently gashing the defense, churning out positive yardage and keeping the offense on schedule. The synergy between Corum and Edwards was evident — and it quickly quelled concerns about Haskins’ departure.
“It comes from offseason work,” Corum said. “Obviously, missing a guy like (Haskins) is going to be tough, but football still goes on. Just for me, bringing my running back room together, we worked our tails off this offseason. We had a great camp. It’s really a mindset at the end of the day.”
The running back duo, which Corum dubbed “lightning and lightning” during fall camp, showed they were up to the task against the Rams. The pair showed flashes last year, and proved they can create a full blown storm this season.
Corum, in what turned out to be his final snap of the contest, showed the athleticism that’s earning him some All-American buzz. With nine and a half minutes left in the third, Corum, after bursting to the outside, found himself one-on-one with a Colorado State defender. Rather than opting for a juke or using his speed, Corum showed his strength, hurdling the defender and landing it before being tackled — an instant homage to his former running mate Haskins.
“People were like, ‘Dang, who’s going to be the short yardage back?’ ” Corum said. “That’s why we lift weights. That’s why we put all that weight on the rack.”
Both Corum and Edwards showed efficiency with their runs, averaging over five yards a carry even without playing the final few series of the game. As time winded down in the fourth quarter, Corum and Edwards stood next to each other on the sideline, helmets off, soaking in the Week One victory.
One didn’t need to outshine the other. Together, they had proven the running unit wasn’t in danger of a drop off.
“We’ve been playing football for a long time,” Corum said. “So it’s nothing new. So just go out there and ball out, be confident and everything else will handle itself.”