We already know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Karan Higdon and Chris Evans are the feature backs for Michigan heading into 2018.
Or as Jay Harbaugh put it, they’re a “one-one punch.”
But, the Wolverines have a strong stable of backs at this point, bolstered that much more by the additions of the two true freshmen — Christian Turner and Hassan Haskins.
Only days into fall camp, the freshman backs — and offensive freshmen as a whole — have been the surprise for the maize and blue running backs coach, as they’ve bought in immediately into what the Wolverines are trying to do on the offensive side of the ball.
“The freshmen have been great, just in terms of how willing they are and how tough they are,” Harbaugh said. “They just want to get in and make something happen, not scared to make mistakes.
“Just the overall competitiveness has been pretty cool. And to go toe-to-toe with our defense, who’s tremendous, to see them deal with the occasional bad play or bad period, and maintain that enthusiasm and regroup and come back, that mental resiliency is really nice. Because you know in games in the fall, there’s going to be situations when things don’t go your way. Seeing that togetherness now early is really nice, knowing that we have a few weeks to even improve it more.”
Of course, Harbaugh directly coaches Haskins, Turner and fullback Ben VanSumeren.
VanSumeren, a freshman from Essexville (MI), just outside of Bay City, is vying for a role at fullback with second-year stalwart Ben Mason and converted linebacker Jared Wangler.
But at the tailback spot, there’s also a big opportunity. Coming out of spring ball, head coach Jim Harbaugh said that walk-on Tru Wilson emerged as the third tailback behind Higdon and Evans. But, now that Haskins and Turner are on campus, they’re doing what they can to put their name into the conversation.
And, from how Harbaugh sees it, so far, so good with the two true freshmen. They’ve already come into a daunting environment and have fit right in.
“Those guys, including VanSumeren, all doing a great job,” Harbaugh said. “They’re like the rest of the group in the sense that they’re kind of just earnest, hardworking. Don’t talk a lot. Really just love to play and really try and do everything right and follow the example of the older guys. Those guys are off to a good start.”
But the three aforementioned aren’t the only tailbacks who are new to the Michigan program.
Michigan legacy and former Minnesota Golden Gopher Berkley Edwards had announced this offseason that he was transferring into the program as a graduate walk-on. The son of former second-team All-Big Ten running back Stan Edwards and All-American wide receiver Braylon Edwards, the younger member of the clan has but one year to make his Michigan legacy.
Jay Harbaugh says that he’s been a welcome addition to the loaded room, and that his work ethic and football knowledge have been evident quickly.
“Berkley – I love working with him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a really, really conscientious guy. Tries to do everything exactly right. It’s just working hard to find what his role’s going to be. Working his tail off on special teams. Really fast, and he’s really tough. He’s been fun to work with.”