Michigan's Running Back Rotation Continues To Puzzle

The running back rotation is clearing up a bit, but it still seems a bit off.
Publish date:

Hassan Haskins has started to separate himself from the pack a bit when it comes to how Michigan's uses its running backs but certain in-game approaches still don't seem to make much sense. As our intern Jake Sage pointed out with a post game article, Haskins mysteriously disappeared for a pretty long stretch in the game.

One of the lone bright spots on offense was Hassan Haskins, who rushed for over 100 yards for the second straight week. However, Michigan’s coaching staff couldn’t get out of its own way: AGAIN. After Haskins dominated on the ground rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown on a drive, Haskins only received one carry on the next three Michigan possessions, which each resulted in punts. That’s simply inexcusable by the Wolverines coaching staff.

Obviously the system isn't completely broken as Haskins did carry the ball 17 times for 101 yards and two scores, but the usage still seems a bit off. If a back is in the flow of the game, picking up a lot of yardage on long runs and routinely going forward, he should stay in. Instead, Haskins looked great on a drive, finished it with a score and then was essentially pulled for three straight possessions. That doesn't make any sense.

Jim Harbaugh never operated this way when he was at Stanford. Toby Gerhart was an absolute bell cow for Harbaugh during his last two years at Stanford piling up 553 carries. Harbaugh continued to feature one back during his time at San Francisco with veteran Frank Gore receiving 1,071 carries during that four-year stretch. What's even more indicative of Harbaugh's approach is the consistency. Gore carries during each of those seasons — 282, 258, 276, 255.

So why such a different approach at Michigan? The obvious answer would be Jay Harbaugh. The young assistant has been in charge of Michigan's running backs since the 2017 season. Obviously he never played the position and before 2017, never coached the position. One could ask why he's been put in charge of such a key position, but that's a completely different discussion. The point it, you don't have to have 15 years of experience playing the position to understand how it works. 

On the outside, it just seems like the staff is trying to keep too many people happy, when they should be most concerned with doing what works. That's at the running back position, with walk ons and potentially at quarterback. Michigan isn't currently doing anything right and it shows in the 2-4 record. Jim Harbaugh was asked about what's missing and his answer basically sums up the year.

"There's disdain for the process. People outside of the program are very results oriented."

You don't say...