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Michigan football returns most backfield production in a decade

In 2023, Michigan football will retain more backfield talent than it has in over a decade with JJ McCarthy, Donovan Edwards, and Blake Corum all returning this fall.



© Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK | Caption: Michigan running back Blake Corum runs for a touchdown as quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to block against Iowa during the first half of the Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

Last week, Michigan football fans were thrilled to hear that rising senior running back Blake Corum will be returning for one more season in Ann Arbor after his stellar junior campaign. Last season, Corum’s incredible year was cut short due to a knee injury suffered vs. Illinois.

With Corum’s return — as well as rising juniors JJ McCarthy and Donovan Edwards — Michigan has created one of the most dynamic trios in all of college football. There hasn’t been this much hype surrounding the Wolverines’ backfield in what seems like forever.

In fairness, there hasn’t been this much returning production by a backfield trio in over a decade, either.

2022 Michigan football backfield

Last season quarterback JJ McCarthy threw for 2,719 and 22 touchdowns, while adding 306 rushing yards and another five touchdowns with his feet. Blake Corum finished third in the Big Ten with 1,463 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, while Donovan Edwards added another 991 rushing yards and seven touchdowns of his own.

All together, the trio moved the ball 4,488 yards and found the endzone 52 total times.

Now, all three will be returning for a shot at their third straight Big Ten title and college football appearance. Both the yards and touchdowns are the most by a returning backfield trio (quarterback and two running backs) since 2012, when Michigan brought back Denard Robinson, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Vincent Smith.

2011-12 backfield

Michigan’s 2011 trio combined for 4,802 total yards and 58 touchdowns, and helped the Wolverines finish 11-2 and win the 2012 Sugar Bowl. While it is a very impressive stat line, it should be noted that Denard Robinson (QB) accounted for most of the yards and touchdowns alone; he combined for 3,349 total yards and 36 touchdowns.

Vincent Smith only managed 298 rushing yards, which is very similar to CJ Stokes’ numbers as the third running back on the Wolverines’ depth chart this past season.

For all the talent and production that returned in 2012, the results were dissatisfying as the Wolverines fell from 11-2 to 8-5, losing games at Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State and the Outback Bowl to South Carolina.

Michigan has much higher hopes for the 2023 season, returning not only the aforementioned trio but also a majority of the starters and contributors from the repeat Big Ten Championship squad this past season. It was also the Wolverines’ first-ever 13-win season.

2023 will be different

Mostly, the difference between 2012 and 2023 is that next year’s team will once again have one of the best offensive lines and defenses in the nation, as well as an excellent and experienced coaching staff. None of these things could be said about the Brady Hoke-coached Wolverines a decade ago, and the end results on the field will prove it.

The top producing returning trios of the past 40 years:

  1. Robinson, Toussaint, Smith: 2011 stats- 4,802 yards/ 58 touchdowns. 2012 results: 8-5
  2. McCarthy, Corum, Edwards: 2022 stats- 4,488 yards/ 52 touchdowns. 2023 results: ?
  3. Henne, Hart, Underwood: 2004 stats- 4,327 yards/ 29 touchdowns. 2005 results: 7-5
  4. Henne, Hart, Minor: 2006 stats- 4,308 yards/ 38 touchdowns. 2007 results: 8-5
  5. Navarre, Perry, Underwood: 2002 stats- 4,120 yards/ 36 touchdowns. 2003 results: 10-3 (Big Ten Champions)
  6. Grbac, Powers, Johnson: 1991 stats- 3,916 yards/ 40 touchdowns. 1992 results: 9-0-3 (Big Ten Champions)

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