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Donovan Edwards could see unique role on Michigan’s 2023 roster

After a stellar sophomore campaign in 2022, Michigan running back Donovan Edwards could see a unique role this fall.



Dec 3, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Donovan Edwards (7) runs the ball toward the end zone during the second half of the Big Ten Championship against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the 2022 Michigan football season, the Wolverines found that they had the nation’s best running back duo on their hands. Sophomore Donovan Edwards and Blake Corum accounted for the majority of Michigan’s offensive production — an offense that finished the year top-6 in total and scoring offense.

As we shift from 2022 to 2023, rising junior Donovan Edwards and rising senior Blake Corum are again looking at a monster campaign ahead of them. With Corum seeking a Heisman Trophy again, Edwards could find himself in a unique role this fall.

Edwards has a role as a pass-catcher

Out of high school, Donovan Edwards was rated as a 5-star prospect, the No. 42 player nationally, the No. 4 running back, and the No. 2 player in Michigan (247 Sports). We knew Edwards was talented, but the athletic ability that he has flashed over the past two seasons has been something incredible.

As we head into his junior season, Edwards may again find himself behind Blake Corum on the running back depth chart. Still, he totes other skills that could make him a valuable asset on offense. One of Edwards’ most prominent skill sets is his ability as a receiver.

As I have stated many times in previous pieces, Edwards may be a top-3 pass-catcher on Michigan’s roster. With fellow rising junior JJ McCarthy under center, Michigan football fans could see Edwards become a dual threat as we have never seen in the Maize and Blue.

Pro Football Focus graded Edwards among the nation’s top receiving backs in 2022; time and time again, we saw Edwards climb the ladder and come down with a jump ball. One of those moments was against Rutgers when Edwards hauled a 50/50 ball from McCarthy to give the Wolverines the lead. (See below)

Throughout the Wolverines’ 2021 and 2022 seasons, Michigan’s 6-1, 204 lbs running back hauled in 38 passes for 465 yards and three touchdowns en route to back-to-back Big Ten titles and wins over Ohio State.

Edwards’ ability as a receiver makes him even more dangerous to opposing defenses and gives him an edge over other running backs, such as Blake Corum, who is a less-impactful receiver.

Donovan Edwards might be Michigan’s best ball-carrier

The scary reality of Donovan Edwards is that he might be Michigan’s best true running back besides being an incredible receiving back. In fact, he might have been in 2022 as well.

Last season, Donovan Edwards repeatedly proved that he is the future of Michigan football. In many of the Wolverines’ biggest games against top-ranked opponents, Edwards shinned his brightest.

Against No. 10 Penn State — who went on to finish 11-2 and ranked No. 7 after winning the Rose Bowl — Edwards carried the ball 16 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore also hauled in one pass for 21 yards.

After Blake Corum was injured against Illinois — a game that Edwards was also hurt for and did not play — the sophomore took over as RB1 against the 2nd-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Alongside JJ McCarthy’s incredible performance, Donovan Edwards helped carry Michigan football to its first win in Columbus since 2000 — the Wolverines walked out with a 45-23 victory. Despite having a broken thumb, Edwards carried the ball 22 times for 216 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State’s top-10 defense.

The following weekend, during Michigan’s 21-point win in the Big Ten Championship game, Edwards won Player of the Game as he carried the ball 25 times for 185 yards and one touchdown.

Despite being a backup and missing some time due to injury, all said and done, Edwards carried the football 140 times for 991 yards (7.10 yards-per-carry) and seven touchdowns during the Wolverines’ 13-1 campaign in 2022. The incredible reality is that Donovan Edwards is likely a better runner and pass catcher than Michigan legend Blake Corum. Not to take away from Corum — he is also an elite back — but Edwards is shaping up to be a freak of nature on Michigan’s roster.

With Corum and Edwards sharing reps yet again in 2022, Donovan Edwards might find a more versatile role than he has been used to over the past two seasons. The good news for Michigan football? You can’t go wrong with Edwards on the field — he is an elite receiver and running back, a great blocker, and even threw a perfect 75-yard touchdown pass in Michigan’s 42-3 Big Ten Championship game victory in 2021.

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CJ has covered college athletics in paid roles for around five years, including numerous sports and beats. His most recent work revolves largely around Penn State and Michigan football and basketball. Right now, CJ is the publisher of Blue by Ninety, where he also serves as the site's credentialed football reporter. Previously, CJ has made stops with Fansided, The Michigan Daily, and more.