Michigan RB Donovan Edwards: 'When My Time Comes, I Can't Look Back'
Donovan Edwards moved his belongings into a University of Michigan dorm in January, before his West Bloomfield (Mich.) High team won the state title game to cap off the delayed playoffs, then began taking classes and working out with the Wolverines' football team. From those first days on campus until now, six weeks into the Maize and Blue's season, he's learned a significant amount.
"The game isn’t the same as it was in high school," Edwards said after practice Tuesday. "Everything is faster. The people are bigger and faster. The speed of the game isn’t the same, so I just had to adapt to it as best as I could, and just keep getting better from there."
It's a steep learning curve, but Edwards is ahead of many others in his spot. The biggest reason why he's only played 43 snaps and received 17 carries despite being one of the nation's top running back recruits in the 2021 class has been the two guys ahead of him on the depth chart — redshirt sophomore Hassan Haskins and second-year freshman Blake Corum.
The 'thunder and lightning' duo of Haskins and Corum has accumulated a combined 1,102 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Edwards is waiting patiently, while trying to pick the brains of the two backs and learning from them on a daily basis.
"Their mentality to the game and their skill sets and what they do, and how easy it is for them to just play their game, because they both have different styles in the way that they run," Edwards said of what sticks out to him about Haskins and Corum. "I feel as though I could try to take a little bit of both of their games.
"Hassan’s physicality. Hassan’s a tremendous running back, he’s a tremendous, physical running back. His skill set is very high; his ceiling is very high. And Blake’s versatility, his electricity. I try to instill that for myself, look at it and just appreciate the talent that they have."
First-year running backs coach Mike Hart — a former Wolverine player who is the program's all-time leading rusher — has also helped. Edwards, who's primary recruiter was Jay Harbaugh, now the team's tight ends coach, was recruited by Hart when the latter was at Indiana. Hart has aided Edwards in his quest to master the college game.
"He instills in me the mindset of getting vertical," Edwards said of Hart. "In high school, I tried to use my speed for everything I tried to do, like running outside the tackle box. He’s instilled in me the get-vertical mentality, more aggressive mentality."
In a 63-10 blowout win over Northern Illinois in Week 3, Edwards saw extended playing time, rushing eight times for 86 yards and two touchdowns, including a 58-yard dash to pay dirt.
"Personally, I felt like it was just something I was supposed to do," Edwards said of his touchdown. "A competitive person like me, I just want to get in the end zone at all times, so I just feel as though it’s something I’m supposed to do to help the team be on top and get the win. So it was a good feeling after the fact, but I just wanted to score. And since I did, I kind of expected it to happen."
For the season, he's churned out 121 rushing yards and has caught one pass for three yards.
Edwards isn't the only talented Michigan freshman who is seeing limited playing time but is surely a big part of the program's future. Signal-caller J.J. McCarthy is in the same boat, as is wideout Andrel Anthony.
The trio has been hitting the practice field after games, getting some extra work in, even doing so at 4:30 a.m. after the Wolverines returned from Nebraska early Sunday morning. Wide receiver Cristian Dixon joined in for the first time during the most recent session.
Edwards and McNamara share a similar mindset — they're going to stay ready for when their name is called, while remaining supportive and productive team members in the meantime.
"We understand that our time isn’t right now, so we’re going to continue to encourage the players ahead of us," Edwards said. "In J.J.’s position, he encourages [redshirt freshman starting quarterback] Cade McNamara. In my position, I encourage Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins.
"That’s what we try to do — we try to be good teammates, we try to keep everybody driven, everybody going and everybody keeping their competitive nature, because it’s easy to get caught up in not playing as much. We just try to be good leaders to the team, from our standpoint."
Make no mistake, though: Edwards will be more than prepared for when he's needed to take on a bigger role.
"I know my time will come," he said. "And when my time comes, I can’t look back at it, look back at other things from the past. You’ve got to stay in the present moment, stay focused, because today is different from what it was yesterday; you’ve got to make it a new day."
Michigan Football Notes
• Edwards was asked why he had faith in the Michigan program last December when he signed his letter of intent, with the Wolverines having just come off a disastrous 2-4 season.
"I feel as though it was definitely God’s plan for me," he explained. "In the recruiting process, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just trusted what God had in store for me, and also I just wanted to go to a program where I felt I can have an impact and change the program around."
• Haskins hurdled a defender on his 50-yard run in the fourth quarter at Nebraska, helping set up a field goal that tied the game. The play excited the entire Michigan sideline, especially Edwards.
"It was crazy," he said with a smile. "It took me back … I remember he had a hurdle like that against Notre Dame [in 2019]. I was at that game, when it was crazy raining. It took me back to that moment. I told him, I reminded him, ‘Bro, you took me back to that moment against Notre Dame.’ That was a crazy moment and definitely exciting."
• Edwards played for Ron Bellamy at West Bloomfield, before Bellamy, now Michigan's safeties coach, took an assistant coaching job with the Wolverines. The two have had a close relationship since Edwards was in middle school
"Our relationship hasn’t changed at all, in my opinion," Edwards said. "He’s been like an uncle to me, I could say it like that. He’s been like a family individual for me."
Bellamy recently told a story of how Edwards came up to him for help, before the coach jokingly brushed him aside.
"I’m not his problem anymore; I’m all Coach Hart’s problem," Edwards joked.
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