Today’s Topic: Where Does Michigan Turn Without RB Chris Evans?
On Sunday, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters that senior running back Chris Evans had been suspended for the 2019 season for academic reasons.
Evans’ future was already cloudy before the suspension, but Harbaugh confirmed the rumors and now his leading returning rusher won’t be available this year.
In his career, Evans has rushed for 1,722 yards, averaging at least 5 yards per carry per season. His best season came in 2017, where he rushed for 685 yards. He was also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, which would have helped in UM’s new offense this year.
While this is a significant loss for Michigan, Evans has only ever been a complementary back to the Wolverines’ leading rusher. The same would have likely held true this season as well.
Still, they will miss his versatility, experience, and explosiveness. While he was never going to be the Wolverines’ workhorse, somebody will now have to pick up his customary 600-yard slack.
The problem with that, however, is that they still don’t know who the workhorse is going to be, let alone his sidekick.
Karan Higdon and his 2,100+ yards from the last two seasons are now gone and somebody else has to emerge to power the Michigan ground game.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, there are really only a few options, and none of them are ideal.
Former defensive back walk-on Tru Wilson is now the team’s leading returning rusher, having carried the ball 62 times for 364 yards last year. He would probably fit best in a complementary role. If a No. 1 runner doesn’t emerge, however, then Wilson may be called upon to carry more of he load.
Second-year tailback Christian Turner is a former 3-star prospect who rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries last season. Good words have been said about him over the past year, but how much of that is hope rather than reality? Missing much of the spring due to injury didn’t help answer questions on his behalf either.
Fellow 2018 classmates Hassan Haskins and Ben VanSumeran both had to be moved to running back. Haskins moved from linebacker, while VanSumeran moved from fullback. At this point, neither is expected to be The Guy in 2019.
Most of the eggs in Michigan’s running back basket belong to true freshman Zach Charbonnet, who missed the spring due to surgery.
Charbonnet was the top offensive signee in Jim Harbaugh’s 2019 recruiting class. Ranked the No. 4 running back in the nation and the No. 46 player overall, Charbonnet walks into a dream scenario for a lot of freshmen running backs — the competition isn’t as stiff as it has been in the past, and the team desperately needs him to be productive.
At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Charbonnet certainly has the look of an every-down back, and freshmen tailbacks performing well is an every-year occurrence in college football.
He could very well be the next Maize and Blue superstar, but even if he is, the Wolverines are still going to need somebody running alongside of him.
Expect the quarterbacks to perhaps run a bit more, which will help.
A pair and a spare is the desired rotation. In an ideal world, that’s exactly what Michigan has in Charbonnet, Wilson, and Turner.
If all goes perfectly, those three could very well be enough to get the job done.
Things going perfectly, however, isn’t necessarily the norm in college football.