Chris Evans and Karan Higdon are at the top of Michigan’s running back depth chart, as they have been since justifying themselves in 2017.
The question remains: Who is No. 3?
“They’re still fighting,” Evans said. “I mean, Coach Jay (Harbaugh) isn’t going to declare one. He’s going to give everybody an opportunity to do what they can, to impress him. It’s like a talent show out there to get that spot.”
Candidates for the vacancy consist of sophomore O’Maury Samuels, walk-on junior Tru Wilson, freshman Hassan Haskins, freshman Christian Turner and Central Michigan graduate transfer Berkley Edwards.
In the offseason, Wilson received praise from head coach Jim Harbaugh. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back went for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns in his senior 2015 season at De La Salle. The walk-on worked on special teams as a freshman and sophomore in college but has now surfaced.
“The best were Chris Evans, Karan Higdon and Tru Wilson. Those three really did well,” Harbaugh said after spring practice ended. “(Wilson’s) talent, his effort. He improved in all areas. Running the football, protection, catching.”
Harbaugh has also been impressed with Edwards, who announced his decision to transfer to Michigan on June 21.
“He’s a really, really conscientious guy, tries to do everything right, just working hard to find out what his role’s gonna be, he’s working his tail off on special teams,” Harbaugh said. “Really fast, and he’s really tough, so he’ll be fun to work with.”
Michigan running backs coach Jay Harbaugh is “really excited” about Samuels, who ran the ball eight times for 13 yards in 2017.
“He’s improved in a bunch of different areas, he’s playing as fast as he ever has, and he’s a really fast guy,” Jay Harbaugh said. “When he gets closer and closer to playing at that full speed, which is smoking fast, it’s going to be scary, and he’s definitely on that track right now.”
In the eyes of Michigan offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr., neither Wilson or Samuels have entangled his attention. Alternately, it has been Turner. The 5-foot-11, 200 pounder logged 801 yards and 10 touchdowns on 115 carries during his senior season at Buford High School in Georgia.
“I’d say from watching film, probably Christian Turner,” Runyan said. “Small guy, but he’s explosive, he runs really hard. That’s what we need from a back in the Big Ten. He’s been really impressive out there.”
The 2017 Michigan season featured three main running backs – Higdon, Evans and Ty Isaac. The trio united for 387 carries, 2,227 yards and 19 yards. Isaac, the clear third running back of the group, took the ball 88 times for 548 yards and two scores.
Under Harbaugh, the Wolverines have repeatedly used a three-running back scheme on offense, so the team presumably will not settle with just Higdon and Evans in 2018.
The running back room is deep-seated and the third spot is up for grabs.