Michigan football is in a great spot with its cadre of tailbacks heading into the 2018 season.
Loaded Michigan RB Room Ready to Make Huge 2018 Impact
You already know the names.
WYANDOTTE, MI — Chris Evans. Karan Higdon.
Evans began the 2017 season as the starter, and Higdon, in his third-year, finished it that way. But the two worked well in-tandem last year, really the first showcase for both with former starter De’Veon Smith gone to the NFL after the 2016 season.
Higdon finished the season just six yards shy of the 1,000 yard mark, while Evans eclipsed his freshman campaign’s 614 yards by adding 71 more yards and two more touchdowns.
Now with Ty Isaac’s eligibility gone, they will be the two bell cows for the Michigan offense, a duo who showed glimpses of what they could do a season ago, but now will get the full opportunity to showcase their skills.
And their work this offseason has been geared towards exactly that.
At the end of last season, Higdon was 190-pounds, but he tells WolverinesWire that he’s up to 203, and intends to be 205 by the start of the season. Evans was 210, and is now up to 217-pounds.
It’s a credit to new strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, who has changed the culture of the Michigan football program off the field. The dividends are obvious right now, but the players say that come game time, the yield of the offseason results will be that much more apparent.
“Bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, more mentally focused, locked in,” Evans told WolverinesWire of the difference with Ben Herbert leading the charge in the weight room. “Little things. The attention to detail. He’s big on attention to detail, (from) how your locker looks to how you squat. It transitions over to life.”
And just like Evans is proud of the work he’s put in on and off the field — not including his extracurricular coaching — he’s proud of how he’s seen Higdon grow over the past two years.
Higdon didn’t get much run in his first year in Ann Arbor, but his redshirt was burned regardless. He got 11 carries for 19 yards in his freshman season, but posted 425 yards on 72 carries in year two, averaging 5.9 yards in the process.
But 2017 was Higdon’s best season yet, amassing 994 yards with an average of 6.08 yards-per-carry, made that much more complete with two 200 yard performances — something we haven’t seen from a Michigan tailback since Mike Hart over a decade ago.
Where Evans has seen the most progress from his backfield teammate is on the mental side, even if the weight gain is also apparent. This is Higdon’s last go-round, and from what Evans says, he’s more than ready to stamp his legacy.
“(He’s become) a little more as a leader,” Evans said. “He’s always been a leader, but he’s grown as a leader, he’s grown as being a teammate. Once he gets the bell call, he always answers.”
While the focus remains on those two, the question remains — who will be the third in the rotation?
Most eyes are on players like second-year tailback O’Maury Samuels or incoming freshman Christian Turner. But, on one of his Attack Each Day podcasts, head coach Jim Harbaugh said that Wilson — a former quarterback-turned-safety since walking on at Michigan — currently sits at third on the depth chart.
“His talent, his effort. He improved in all areas,” Harbaugh added. “Running the football, protection, catching.”
One source told WolverinesWire that Wilson is the real deal, making surprising cuts this spring, and having something of a wow-factor when given the opportunity.
Both Evans and Higdon agreed with this sentiment, telling WolverinesWire on Saturday that fans will get to know Wilson’s name sooner than later.
“Tru’s a good player and one of my good friends on the team,” Karan Higdon said. “I’m excited to see him ball out this year. A lot of people are going to be shocked. He’s got a lot in store to prove.”
“The hype is legit,” Evans added. “Locked in, attention to detail. Run, pass, catch – pass pro. All that. You can just see his focus. He’s locked in, making the plays that you go like, ‘Wow!’ All he needs is a shot – literally.”