Jim Harbaugh's Current Evaluation of the Running Backs Room

Jim Harbaugh's Current Evaluation of the Running Backs Room

Football

Jim Harbaugh's Current Evaluation of the Running Backs Room


With Karan Higdon and Chris Evans returning as the bell cows for Michigan football, Jim Harbaugh explained what he expects for that third running back position.


Jim Harbaugh’s Current Evaluation of the Running Backs Room

It finally feels like Michigan’s running backs room is loaded, once again.

It used to be the norm in Ann Arbor, that the Wolverines would trot out a series of running backs that were just superior to that of the competition, but the maize and blue have only produced one thousand-yard tailback since Mike Hart graduated after the 2007 season.

However, after running a back-by-committee situation a year ago — with Ty Isaac, Karan Higdon and Chris Evans all getting starting nods throughout the season, it’s the latter two who return and are expected to carry the load.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh can’t even decipher which of the two is the feature back, saying that Higdon and Evans are along the same level of high-end play.

“Karan Higdon, Chris Evans – I really think of them as the same – as talented running backs for our football team,” Harbaugh said. “They’re going to be asked to carry a heavy load this year again as back one and back one. Also be interested to see who our third back is as far as the football goes.”

But both aren’t just excellent football players on the field. Harbaugh continued, praising the efforts that both have done off the field.

As we’ve covered in these pages, both Evans and Higdon have run their own camps for younger players, with the most recent being a series of tournaments for middle school players.

Evans has been active in the state of Michigan, searching for young talent to impart knowledge to, while Higdon has both been active in the Youth Impact Program as well as back in his home state of Florida.

That both have taken to coaching has been impressive to Harbaugh, and something he’s taken strong notice of.

“Off the field, they’ve been mentoring youngsters, coaching youngsters,” Harbaugh said. “They do an incredible job. As a dad who has kids who are that age – 5 and 7 and 9. They relate so well to the young kids. They really make it fun and productive. They teach. And really, really have done a fantastic job. Great job with their time management, as far as participating in all the football obligations that they have, the school obligations that they have. What they’re doing in their foundations, their endeavors off the field, as well.

“Highly impressive – what they’ve done.”

Though both Higdon and Evans will be the feature backs, that doesn’t mean that Michigan is content with that two-headed monster.

Harbaugh says that they’re still looking for the third tailback who will come in and be that change-of-pace type guy, who will give defenses a vastly different look compared to the two known quantities.

Coming out of spring, it was walk-on Tru Wilson who made the big impression — which is, well, impressive, given that the former high school quarterback had most recently been a safety on the Wolverines roster.

But, he’ll have a lot more competition once fall camp starts.

The two true freshmen — Christian Turner and Hassan Haskins — are now on campus. O’Maury Samuels got some run in his first year with the program last season. And Michigan recently added legacy Berkeley Edwards — who spent the entirety of his career at Minnesota — to the program as a walk-on graduate transfer.

Harbaugh mentioned Wilson and recently awarded scholarship recipient Joe Hewlett — a former walk-on who’s in his fifth year with the program — as guys who could definitely get some run once the season gets going. But also praised true freshman Haskins as being a guy who’s shown some things in summer conditioning.

Fall camp will get underway in about a week or so (the start date hasn’t been officially announced), and Harbaugh is excited to see where the chips fall once the tailbacks get pads on.

“The interesting (discussion) about who the third running back will be,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what I’m interesting in seeing. And I’m excited about it. Right now, you’ve got Chris and Karan – they’re both number one backs in my mind. A heavy load is going to go their way running the football, pass protection, catching the ball out of the backfield.

“The third running back – Tru Wilson coming out of spring ball was our third running back. Joe Hewlett was really pretty close. O’Maury Samuels would have been right in there, but he got a hamstring injury and didn’t show enough in spring ball. So he’s going to be back and healthy. Kurt Taylor – is he going to be in the mix.

“I’m hearing great things about Hassan Haskins. Seen some of his numbers from testing – this summer has been really good. Christian Turner as well. Two guys that could get into the mix fast.

“Berkeley Edwards – what’s he looking at? Trying to be that third running back as (his) role. We’ll all be watching that to see who that best guy is for that role.”

Notably absent in the players mentioned by Harbaugh was third-year tailback Kareem Walker, who had reportedly transferred from the program. However, Walker posted to his Instagram story weeks ago that he still is a Michigan Wolverine at this juncture.

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