At this point, it’s no secret that junior running back Blake Corum is special: Five touchdown games, 243-yard rushing performances and stats that make the PA announcer clamor back six decades to find a player with comparable numbers.
Whatever it is that a running back needs, he’s got it.
“There’s an old saying in football that a running back who can miss somebody by the narrowest of margins is an unbelievable talent,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “Now Blake can get so close to a defender, a would-be tackler, within inches, and then make the slight move where somebody that close doesn’t even touch him.
“Some backs will make the cut a yard away or two yards away. Blake Corum gets to the point where he can smell their breath and then make the slight six-inch cut, missed by the narrowest of margins. It’s incredible.”
Hyperbole or not, opposing defenders might want to invest in some breath mints, because Corum has proven this season just how lethal he can be. The back appears to bounce the ball outside or accelerate through the inside with ease, and he rarely falls victim to a one-on-one in open space.
If the defender doesn’t miss all together, Corum welcomes contact. “That’s why we lift weights,” Corum said after the season opener; as a speedster, or a power back, Corum welcomes the load of both on his shoulders.
In the offseason, Corum added upwards of ten pounds with those weights, but doesn’t seem to have lost a step. He continues to burn past defenders, make sharp cuts and burst through the holes in front of him — he’s only added a greater element of physicality.
“His work ethic in the offseason has just been insane,” junior edge rusher Kris Jenkins said Monday. “Like we’ve seen it since the offseason, going into the season, so we already knew he was going to light it up this year again, but really just seeing that coming to fruition is awesome.”
That work has also provided Corum the ability to be a bellcow running back for the No. 4 Michigan football team. Last season, he was paired with running back Hassan Haskins, who acted as the bruiser in a fairly balanced “thunder and lightning” combo that leaned toward feeding Haskins.
This season, Corum has sophomore running back Donovan Edwards to take some of the carries. But with Edwards hurt and Maryland daring Michigan to run the ball, Corum was asked to be the hero. And with 30 carries for 243 yards and two touchdowns, the shoe fit.
Sufficed to say, his teammates were impressed.
“I actually didn’t know it was 30 (carries),” junior offensive lineman Zak Zinter said. “I saw it after the game, but I didn’t see one ounce of him showing like he was tired, not even on the field while we were huddled or even on the sideline. I didn’t see it at all from him.”
Corum won’t be expected to shoulder that type of load all season — Edwards will come back, other backs will get more touches, sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy and the passing game will have better days — but he’s proven his prowess. Whatever the Wolverines ask Corum to do, he will, and it’s up to the opposition to try and stop the stampede.
“I think the really good running backs, the great running backs,” Harbuagh said, “I mean, a running back like Blake, … I think they crawl out of the crib with it.”
It’s a talent only seen in a select few; Corum’s work ethic and drive might be the reason for his dazzling skill, or maybe he’s just born with it.
It’s probably a bit of both.