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Michigan football: ranking running backs from the Jim Harbaugh era

Under Jim Harbaugh, elite running back play has come to be expected.



Oct 20, 2018; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Karan Higdon (22) runs though the tackle of Michigan State Spartans linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle (26) during the second half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Since Jim Harbaugh took over as head football coach with the University of Michigan football team in 2015, the Wolverines have been known for playing old-school, hard-nosed, pound-the-rock football. They’ve mostly stuck with that philosophy outside a short foray in an attempt to modernize (“speed in space”). It’s clearly worked as per excellent results the past two seasons when paired with the good quarterback play, great offensive lines, and elite defenses.

It’s helped that Michigan has had some great running backs to carry the load. Here’s a look at the best Michigan running backs under Jim Harbaugh*.

Minimum of 100 carries for Harbaugh coached teams*

Tier 1 – Unstoppable

1. Blake Corum

(457 touches, 2783 yards, 6.1 average, 33 touchdowns, 30 games played)

“Blake the Great” is just that and deserves to be in a tier of his own. The best term I can use to describe Corum is “unstoppable”- because when healthy, no team has been able to do that. Corum’s worst yards per carry average in 2022 was 4.6 against a top-5 rush defense on the road at Iowa- but he still had 29 carries for 133 yards and one touchdown.

So did the Hawkeyes stop him? I’d say no.

Teams can only hope to slow Corum, but they seldom succeed. There are just not enough good things to say about how good Corum is.

-12 career 100+ yard rushing games (five 150+ rushing yard games).

-Within full seasons, in 12 out of 14 games (85 percent) in which Corum had 15+ carries, he’s rushed for more than 100 yards.

-Tied a school record in 2022 for eight straight games of 100+ rushing yards before his injury.

-One of four running backs in school history with a career average of 6.0 yards per carry or higher, with at least 250 carries. (Rob Lytle, Tim Biakabutuka, Tyrone Wheatley)

-One of two running backs in school history with both a 200+ rushing yard game and a five-touchdown game. (Ron Johnson)

I could keep going too, but let’s just say the Wolverines are lucky to have Corum in Ann Arbor for one more season.

Tier 2 – Between “great” and “elite”

1. Hassan Haskins

(476 touches, 2495 yards, 5.2 average, 30 touchdowns, 32 games played)

Hassan Haskins will always be one of my favorite Michigan football players, and he deserves so much praise for being a vital piece of the Wolverines’ turnaround. An unheralded recruit out of Missouri, Haskins barely snuck inside the top 1000 recruits per 247Sports. After bouncing back and forth from running back to linebacker and back again, Haskins finally broke out at Illinois in 2019 when he had his first 100-yard game.

Then he showed how special he could truly be on a rainy night under the lights against the Fighting Irish. That night he had 20 carries for 149 rushing yards and one spectacular hurdle – a specialty that Haskins became known for thereafter, and the fans loved it.

Then Haskins stuck through it during the worst of times in the 2020 season and came back ready to work in 2021, enjoying the best of times. Fans will always hold Haskins in high regard for being a part of the senior class (Harbaugh’s lowest-ranked while at Michigan) that finally brought home a Big Ten title for the first time in seventeen years.

The only thing holding Haskins back from tier 1 was consistency. While Corum had zero games of under 4.5 yards per carry in 2022, Haskins had six in 2021, including three games under 3.5.

-10 career 100+ yard rushing games (four 150+ rushing games).

– Haskins’ 20 touchdowns in 2021 were the most by a Michigan running back since Willie Heston’s 21 in 1904.

– One of three running backs in modern school history to have a five-rushing touchdown game.

2. Donovan Edwards

(213 touches, 1630 yards, 7.7 average, 13 touchdowns, 22 games played)

While Donovan doesn’t have the career numbers as some of the other guys (he is only going into his junior season, after all), his placement in these rankings is based on skill set and potential. Plus, his numbers are still awe-inspiring in their own right and could easily double before his time in the winged helmet is up.

In his two seasons with Michigan football, Edwards has shown an elite level of play-making in the backfield that the Wolverines haven’t seen in a long time. The only things holding Edwards back from more so far have been needing to split carries with the two guys ranked ahead of him on this list and unfortunate injuries. Still, Edwards has the potential to be the best of them all. This rings especially true considering how great he is at catching the ball, whether out of the backfield or spread out wide.

– Five career 100+ rush yards games (three 150+ rush yard games).

-First true sophomore with a 200+ rush-yard game since Denard Robinson and the first running back since Mike Hart.

-First running back with a 100+ receiving yard game since Chris Perry in 2003.

-Edwards’ career 6.7 yards per carry is the highest in school history (minimum 60 carries).

Edwards’ game at Ohio State (22 carries, 216 rush yards, 9.8 average, two touchdowns) will go down in rivalry history as an all-time performance, and his two long touchdown runs of 75 and 85 yards on back-to-back drives will be in highlight reels for decades to come.

3. Karan Higdon

(487 touches, 2793 yards, 5.7 average, 27 touchdowns, 39 games played)

Compared to Haskins and Corum, Karan Higdon’s career rushing stats are very similar, even if he’s not quite remembered in the same light. The main reason for this is due to the fact that the teams he played on had a different level of success. Higdon was a great running back for two seasons in 2017-18, but those teams went a combined 18-8 and didn’t beat Ohio State or win the Big Ten.

But Higdon was a workhorse with big-play potential, and his ranking here reflects it.

-13 career games of 100+ rushing yards (four of 150+ rushing yards).

-The only running back with multiple 200+ yard rushing games since Mike Hart.

-Seven straight games of 100+ rushing yards in 2018.

Tier 3 – varying levels of “good”

1. De’Veon Smith

(533 touches, 2486 yards, 4.7 average, 27 touchdowns, 41 games played)

De’Veon Smith was a great running back who carried the ball a boatload. He was a power back with solid speed who ran between the tackles and wasn’t afraid to lower his shoulder. While Smith had an excellent career in the Maize and Blue, he, unfortunately, didn’t have the best timing.

First, he played for mediocre teams with head coach Brady Hoke as a Freshman and Sophomore in 2013-14. Those teams went a combined 12-13. Then, when he was on good teams under Jim Harbaugh in 2015-16 (20-8 record), they didn’t have the dominating offensive lines we’ve grown accustomed to recently. Regardless, Smith was still a solid all-around running back but ended up in the third tier for two main reasons. One, Smith never rushed for over 1000 yards in a season, and two, he never had a season in which he averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry. He would be the only player in tier 2 without one of those stat points, let alone both.

-Eight career games of 100+ rushing yards (one of 150+ rush yards).

-Led the team in rushing twice, 2015-16.

2. Chris Evans

(369 touches, 2274 yards, 6.2 average, 17 touchdowns, 42 games played)

Chris Evans was one of the most talented guys on this list and has flashed that potential in his short time with the Cincinnati Bengals. While with Michigan football, however, he never entirely broke out. Maybe he never really got his chance, but regardless, he was never the number 1 back on the team. He was always seemingly behind the guys ahead of him on this list. Evans still had some great games, like in 2017 at Minnesota when he went off for 191 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries.

Unfortunately, academic issues nearly derailed his career, as they caused him to miss the 2019 season. Still, Evans deserves significant praise for not giving up and making a return to the team in 2020. It’s unfortunate because that 2019 team really could have used him. Evans was a big-time threat in the open field but, unfortunately, needed to be utilized more, catching the ball out of the backfield or from the slot.

-Three career games of 100+ rushing yards (two of 150+ rush yards).

-Evans’ 479 career receiving yards is 11th all-time in program history for a running back.

3. Zach Charbonnet

(182 touches, 921 yards, 5.1 average, 12 touchdowns, 18 games played)

Like Evans, Zach Charbonnet is another “what-if” of Michigan football running backs under Harbaugh, this time due to the transfer portal. While things have turned out great for both parties, it still stings some to see Charbonnet running wild at UCLA. We all saw his potential as a true freshman in 2019 when he led the team in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns.

Then the unfortunate debacle that was the 2020 season happened, when Charbonnet touched the ball just 25 times in five games, and that was it for his time in the winged helmet.

-Two career games of 100+ rushing yards (15 such with UCLA).

-Set freshman school record with 11 rushing touchdowns in 2019.

4. Ty Isaac

(199 touches, 1240 yards, 6.2 average, eight touchdowns, 26 games played)

Ty Isaac, a big-bodied (6-3, 228 lbs) transfer from USC, somewhat quietly had an excellent career as a Michigan Wolverine as one of just 55 players in school history to rush for 1000+ career yards. That may not sound stellar until you consider how many players Michigan has had in the previous 140-plus years. Like some of the others ahead of him on this list, Isaac never seemed to get his chance, as he ranked third in carries in his junior (74) and senior seasons (88), with most of it seemingly coming after the game was essentially over.

-Four career games of 100+ rushing yards

-One of seven running backs in Michigan football history to average 6.0+ yards per carry for their career (minimum of 70 carries).

5. Tru Wilson

(115 touches, 634 yards, 5.5 average, two touchdowns, 22 games played)

A former walk-on, Tru Wilson became a fan favorite as the third running back in the 2018-19 season. Chants of “TRUUU” would boom from the stadium whenever he touched the ball, and he would run hard in return. While not the biggest or fastest back, Wilson had good vision and was very crafty. He had some nice runs, albeit usually against backups late in the games, and even found the endzone several times. Most notably, a 27-yard touchdown rush against Notre Dame in 2019 to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 31.

-One of 15 running backs in Michigan football history to average 5.5+ yards per carry (minimum of 100 carries).

Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebookand Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Managing Editor at Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and all other steaming platforms.


Four-star Michigan football target expected to commit soon

This four-star Michigan football target is about to announce his commitment.



Michigan football, recruiting, 2024 recruiting class, Brian Robinson
Dec 4, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolverines are one of the five remaining teams for Brian Robinson, a blue-chip edge rusher from Ohio, who is reportedly close to making a college decision. Robinson, who was once a prominent four-star Michigan football target in the 2024 recruiting class, was initially strongly leaning towards Michigan, but now it appears to be more uncertain. His commitment would be a significant and unexpected acquisition for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines.

Four-star Michigan football target Brian Robinson close to a final call

According to recent reports, Brian Robinson is nearing a decision and aims to conclude his recruitment within the next week or so. Robinson is currently ranked as the No. 131 recruit in the 2024 recruiting class. Given that the Wolverines have recently lost a substantial amount of talent on the defensive side of the football, especially at edge rusher, Robinson could be a major addition for Jim Harbaugh.

It doesn’t appear that Robinson is favoring the Wolverines right now, although Michigan football recruiting has seen significant changes recently, so anything is possible. At one point this year, it seemed highly likely that Ann Arbor would be Robinson’s eventual destination; however, his recruitment has become much more complicated in recent months.

If Jim Harbaugh can land Robinson, it would be huge for the 2024 recruiting class

The remaining schools in contention, aside from Michigan football, are Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Penn State. According to the RPM, Robinson’s preferred landing spot right now is the Kentucky Wildcats, with the Maize and Blue firmly in contention at the No. 2 spot.

As per the On3 industry rankings, Robinson is a highly sought-after four-star Michigan football target, ranking as the No. 131 player nationally, the No. 9 edge rusher in the 2024 recruiting class, and the No. 5 player in the state of Ohio.

Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics and Big Ten content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Publisher at Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other streaming platforms. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest-growing and most influential Michigan media outlets there is!

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Latest buzz on impressive Michigan football freshman wide receivers

Here is the latest buzz from Schembechler Hall regarding a few rising stars — these Michigan football freshman wideouts are impressive!



Michigan football, wide receivers, Ron Bellamy, Big Ten

The Wolverines’ wide receiver corps is led by Roman Wilson — the NCAA’s leader in touchdown catches (6) — and Cornelius Johnson. That said, below these two talented veterans are a number of impressive Michigan football freshman wideouts, who recently earned some high praise from wide receivers coach Ron Bellamy ahead of this weekend’s Big Ten conference opener against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-0).

Michigan football freshman wide receivers continue to impress

Unlike the previous two seasons, the Michigan football offense is really starting to air the ball out often this fall. Aside from an unimpressive game against Bowling Green, junior quarterback JJ McCarthy has been dominant this year, which is a trend he hopes to keep up during this week’s matchup against Rutgers.

Ron Bellamy gives the latest ahead of this week’s Big Ten opener

Among this year’s wide receiver corps are a number of Michigan football freshman standouts, who have been turning heads throughout fall camp and even into the first few games of the season. Yesterday, Ron Bellamy — Michigan’s WR coach — gave the latest on these rising star Wolverines.

“They’re doing well,” Ron Bellamy said of the Michigan football freshman wide receivers. “They’re doing well — you can’t treat them like freshmen. I tell them all the time, ‘Whoever we play, they’re not going to look across and say, ‘Oh, this is an 18-year-old freshman here; take it easy on him.’ No, they are going to be attacking like they would any other player.’ That has to be the mindset, and we don’t treat them like freshmen. Those guys are diligent about their craft. That’s the thing I like about them. And that’s why they’re getting opportunities. Those guys are constantly wanting to learn and making sure that they’re dialed in and detailed in everything that we do.”

Keep an eye out for these freshmen when Michigan football takes the field

Ideally, Michigan football won’t need to rely on these freshman wideouts just yet; however, if you start to see names like Semaj Morgan, Fredrick Moore, and others getting some notable in-game reps, don’t be too surprised. From the sound of things, it seems that the Wolverines are confident in many of these rising stars, and are looking to continue developing them into the next generation of elite offensive skill players to wear the Maize and Blue.

Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics and Big Ten content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Publisher at Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other streaming platforms. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest-growing and most influential Michigan media outlets there is!

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Top analyst has an interesting message for Michigan football fans

Top analyst Joel Klatt has some interesting thoughts about Michigan football heading into the Wolverines’ Big Ten opener this weekend.



Michigan football fans, Joel Klatt, Big Ten conference, Penn State, Ohio State
Sep 9, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Roman Wilson (1) celebrates his touchdown against the UNLV Rebels with teammates during the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend, the Maize and Blue won their third-straight game of the 2023 season, downing the Bowling Green State Falcons by 25 points at home. While JJ McCarthy and the offense struggled, the Wolverines are still undefeated heading into Big Ten conference play this weekend. Still, with Penn State and Ohio State playing great football right now, top college football analyst Joel Klatt has an interesting message for Michigan football fans — he thinks that folks in Ann Arbor should be “antsy” right now.

Joel Klatt has an interesting take for Michigan football fans

Sure, last weekend’s victory over Bowling Green wasn’t pretty; however, Ohio State and Penn State have both seen their fair share of struggles so far this year. In fact, even outside of the Big Ten conference, schools like Texas, Alabama, and even Georgia have not been looking like their usual selves lately. Still, Joel Klatt says that there should be some tension among the Michigan football fanbase due to recent lackluster play during the non-conference slate.

“With what’s going on in the Big Ten East, namely Penn State and Ohio State? I would feel antsy if I were you, Michigan fans,” Joel Klatt explained on his show, ‘The Joel Klatt Show.’ “The one thing that will derail your season faster than anything else is if JJ McCarthy starts to turn the ball over. That’s why I would be antsy.”

“I know you’re going to run the football fine, I really do. I’m pretty confident that the defense is going to play really well. The one unknown is how efficient can JJ (McCarthy) play? Now, he was really good a year ago until late. Obviously, the TCU game (last year’s College Football Playoff semi-final), it got a little bit loose, and guess what? They (Michigan football) lost.”

Thoughts on what Klatt said about the Wolverines heading into Big Ten conference play

Now, I am going to disagree with Joel Klatt a bit here in a few aspects. First off, Michigan football has not proven that it can run the football consistently yet, and the offensive line is yet to mesh. This idea that the rushing attack will be elite this year because it was last year is simply not true — it’s a hard thing to admit, but fans are yet to see the same bruising Wolverines that they did over the past two seasons. Not that it won’t develop, but so far, Michigan is not nearly as dominant on the ground as it was in 2021 and 2022.

Additionally, Klatt said that JJ McCarthy was good in 2022 until late in the season, which is really not that accurate. JJ McCarthy was not seen as a great quarterback until the Ohio State game hit — not to say that fans didn’t see the talent, but he struggled to really get things going consistently until the final three games of the year, including the Wolverines’ CFP loss.

Right now, Michigan football fans should not be too concerned, if you ask me. That said, as the weeks go by and the Penn State and Ohio State matchups get closer, we need to see more from the Wolverines. The fact of the matter is that, with Michigan’s schedule this year, the Maize and Blue can have many shortcomings and still begin the year 9-0 — it’s the final three games that will truly define the 2023 team, so long as they can avoid upset beforehand.

Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics and Big Ten content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Publisher at Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other streaming platforms. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest-growing and most influential Michigan media outlets there is!

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