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'That’s How It’s Supposed to Look at Michigan,' Gattis Says Of RB Room

Michigan has recruited the skill positions extremely well over the last few years, but it’s been hit and miss on the field.

That could be about to change.

The Wolverines wrap up spring practice today with a closed scrimmage (we’ll still have reports later), and all eyes will be on the quarterbacks and running backs. There will be plenty of new faces here, but offensive coordinator Josh Gattis loves what he’s seen from his groups.

The running backs — redshirt sophomore Hassan Haskins and freshmen Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards — have the chance to be an outstanding trio.

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Michigan Wolverines football running back Blake Corum has had an outstanding spring.
Michigan Wolverines football running back Blake Corum has had an outstanding spring. (USA Today Sports Images)

“This running back room has a lot of different pieces that complement each other. When you look at Hassan Haskins, his physicality, he’s a guy in a normal practice scenario where it’s a tag off period, you’re going to look good as a defender because you’re just going to be able to swipe your hands past him and say, ‘I tagged him off,’” Gattis said. “Well, his physicality, his balance, body control, contact balance … he’s one of the hardest backs I’ve been around to tackle. He’s so strong at the point of attack, but he’s a guy that’s shown that in games.”

Second-year back Blake Corum showed flashes of his ability last season, but he lacked the patience to find that hole and get to the second level. That’s changed this spring, Gattis assured.

“He’s really a combination of everything — strength, speed and power,” he said. “Now we’ve been able to see the growth from year one to year two.

“One of Blake’s biggest challenges last year was he relied too heavily on his speed so often that at times he didn’t have patience going to the hole. He understands now what it takes to be a high level collegiate running back. Plays he’s been making in practice … we all know once he gets to the second level, he’s gone. There’s no one who can run with him or catch him.”

That combination of vision and patience has paid off for him, Gattis added. He’s also got “elite” skills out of the backfield, meaning he should be even more involved in the passing game.

As for freshman Donovan Edwards — there are expectations that come with being a five-star, and Gattis said his first-year standout has met the hype. You want him to look the part, and Edwards has flashed that ability each and every day not only with his ablity to run the ball, but also to catch it.

“He had a big play [Thursday] in practice when he ran up the sidelines for 50 yards. He’s special,” Gattis said. “It's going to take time for him to grasp the whole offense so he can continue to have that discipline on every play, but he has a very, very bright future here at Michigan.”

U-M hasn’t had a “great” back since Mike Hart, now the running backs coach, was playing. That could be about to change.

“Those three guys are what the running back room is supposed to look like here at Michigan,” Gattis said, adding frosh Tavierre Dunlap is coming around, too. “We’re high on it and excited about it.”

Quarterbacks Continuing to Progress

But it all starts under center, and the coaches have tried to put their two in as many game-like scenarios as they can to prepare them for live fall competition.

“That’s the hardest thing. You never really know about the quarterback until you put them in game scenarios,” Gattis admitted. “Cade McNamara has experience; players believe in his leadership, and he has a tremendous understanding of the offense. He’s a leader. He moves the ball for the team, for the offense and he takes control and command ...”

But he’s still only played in three games, Gattis acknowledged.

“He hasn’t played a ton of football," he said. "He gives you the feeling of a returning starter, but still hasn’t played a ton of football.”

Frosh J.J. McCarthy, meanwhile, has done a good job learning the offense, but he has work to do to grasp everything.

“He’s had his freshman moments, but he’s also had some big-time moments that display his five-star ability status,” Gattis said. “The kid has tremendous talent, but it’s about getting him caught up, understanding that every day is a new day when you’re a freshman because you don’t have the same reps and repeated opportunities to be able to bank from other practice scenarios. Obviously, the more defensive install that goes in, the picture changes, as well.”

So, it appears McNamara is the leader coming out of spring, but Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman has plenty of game experience, and he’ll be here this summer. He’ll want to start. McNamara is gifted and will continue to battle, too.

One thing is certain — whoever wins the starting job this fall will have earned it by beating out two other hungry signal callers who want to see the field.

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