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Michigan Football 2023 Position Preview: Running Backs

Michigan Football Running Back Preview: Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards to return as one of college football's best tandems.

Michigan enters 2023 trying to defend its back-to-back Big Ten Championship titles and get back to the College Football Playoff for the third consecutive season. The Wolverines are well known for their dominant rushing attack led by Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards, and a back-to-back Joe Moore Award winning offensive line. The performance of both Corum and Edwards was crucial to Michigan’s success last season. Corum put together a Heisman caliber season before an injury cut it short and Edwards impressed in Michigan’s final three games. Michigan returns two of college football’s elite running backs, but how deep is this group overall? Here is what to expect from Michigan’s running backs this season.

Read more Michigan Football position previews here: Quarterbacks

Michigan Football Running Back Preview: Corum-Edwards Duo is Among the Nation’s Best

Who is in and who is out?

Returners: Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards, Kalel Mullings, C.J. Stokes, Tavierre Dunlap, Leon Franklin, Danny Hughes, Henry Donohue

Key Additions: Cole Cabana, Benjamin Hall

Key Losses: Isaiah Gash

Corum and Edwards are back as the dynamic one-two punch in Michigan’s offense. Much of the depth behind them also returns from last year. The only notable departure is former walk-on Isaiah Gash who underwent career-ending surgery this offseason. The Wolverines also return their third leading rusher in sophomore C.J. Stokes. Stokes garnered most of the carries behind Corum and Edwards, but redshirt sophomore Tavierre Dunlap is a former top recruit with the talent to fight for touches. Linebacker-turned-fullback Kalel Mullings should once again slot in as the short-yardage back and core special teams player.

In addition to the strong group returning, Michigan added multiple impact recruits in the 2023 cycle. True freshman Cole Cabana and Benjamin Hall both enrolled early and have the talent to see the field early in their careers. A four-star recruit from Dexter, Cabana comes from a family of athletes and was a track star in high school. His speed, athleticism, and versatility are similar to Edwards and could get him on the field early. Hall, on the other hand, is a bigger back (5-11, 235) and a much less heralded recruit than his teammate. A three-star recruit, Hall was a standout in the Spring game and will push Mullings for short-yardage carries. He is a powerful runner for a young player and may see the most playing time of any Michigan freshman this season.

Projected Depth Chart

Starter: Corum

Backup: Edwards

Key Contributors: Stokes, Hall, Mullings, Cabana

Corum and Edwards are more co-starters in Michigan’s offense. Both are among the best playmakers in the country at the position and the offense will once again run through them. The main competition will be for the touches behind them. Based on the Spring game, Stokes, Mullings, and Hall seem to be the main competitors for the third running back job. Stokes showed some promise as a freshman and should once again see meaningful carries as the third or fourth option. Hall has been nothing but impressive since Spring practices started. He has made a case to receive a prominent role in the offense. Mullings will attempt to fend off Hall as the short-yardage back, but he doesn’t have the skillset to offer much outside of that role.

Both freshmen will push for playing time early but expect Michigan to potentially save Cabana’s redshirt. He remains very much in the mix, but his skill set is a bit redundant to Edwards with already thick competition for touches. He may be too talented to keep off the field, but the Wolverines will likely at least try to preserve his redshirt if they can. Cabana could see time in spurts in a variety of roles, but he is the long-term replacement for Edwards as the pass-catching back in this offense.

Outlook at Running Back in 2023

The rushing attack paces the offense and has become a cornerstone of Michigan football. Running back should once again be a position of strength for the Wolverines. Corum and Edwards are two of the best backs in the conference. Corum was well on his way to being a Heisman finalist before a late-season injury ended his season. Despite sharing relevant touches with Edwards, expect Corum to once again put himself in the Heisman conversation. Both Corum and Edwards are impact players capable of making big plays at any moment.

Corum and Edwards aside, running back may be a much deeper group than it was last season. The return of Mullings and Stokes and the addition of Cabana and Hall have put this room in a good position for next season and beyond. Stokes, Hall, and Mullings should eat up most of the carries behind the starters. The Wolverines rely heavily on their running backs and have done a good job of building up quality depth. The run game is even more dangerous when quarterbacks J.J. McCarthy and Alex Orji are factored in. Michigan’s deep and dynamic rushing attack should once again put them in a position to win the Big Ten and compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

 

 

Photo courtesy: Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

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