Michigan doesn't have much room left in the 2021 class but the staff will wait as long as necessary and will definitely make room for West Bloomfield (Mich.) High running back Donovan Edwards if need be.
Edwards is one of the most talented backs in the country and has Michigan in his top group along with Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Penn State and Oklahoma. Obviously that group is loaded, but I think Michigan is still the team to beat and it's deeper than football.
Unfortunately, Edwards lost his mother when he was a young child and because of that, spent a lot of time around the West Bloomfield program and head coach Ron Bellamy. The head man does not funnel his players to U-M even though it's his alma mater. We've seen players from West Bloomfield sign with schools all over, including former Michigan top target Lance Dixon, who is at Penn State. Still, the maize and blue vibe is there, and former West Bloomfield standouts Cornell Wheeler and Makari Paige are playing for the Wolverines right now.
With that said, people close to the situation feel like Edwards would feel most home at Michigan. Talented players commit to out-of-region schools every cycle, but a lot of them stay close to home, especially if the fit is right. With Edwards and Michigan, it just seems to make the most sense, especially given his relationship with Bellamy and the level of comfort he'd feel if he were to stay close to home.
Playing devil's advocate, Michigan has to do a better job making Ann Arbor seem like the best place for Edwards to shine. He's a star back and he's going to want to the ball. Unfortunately, Michigan doesn't usually operate in a way that features one or even two backs. We have seen it, but not often. Last year as a true freshman, Zach Charbonnet carried the ball 33 times against Army. Last Saturday against Michigan State however, four running backs had to share 21 carries. Hassan Haskins paced the group with just eight totes. The entire running back room eked out just 84 yards rushing.
You can guarantee other programs are pointing that kind of usage out to Edwards. Alabama's top running back Najee Harris is averaging 21 carries per game. Georgia's Zamir White is carrying the ball 18 times per game. Notre Dame's Kyren Williams is averaging 17.5 carries per game. Devyn Ford is carrying it 14 times per game for Penn State. Even Oklahoma and LSU, who throw it more than the others and utilize more than one back a little more evenly, each have a duo averaging double-digit carries. In two games, Haskins leads Michigan's running backs in carries with 14.
That kind of usage is not attractive to an every-down back who wants the ball as much as possible and unfortunately, it doesn't sound like it's going to change per running backs coach Jay Harbaugh.
“Don’t anticipate anything changing in that regard," Harbaugh said last night on the Inside Michigan Football radio show. "Obviously we would love to see in the course of a game being able to find a groove as an offense where guys are running and getting more productive. But it’s not a ‘Hey, we don’t like how a guy’s playing, let’s pull them out.’ We’re trying to get them involved and get our talented players on the field and give them opportunities. Good things will happen if we do that.”
I'm sorry, I just don't agree with that approach and neither do other top flight programs with several talented backs. You find your best guy and you feed him more than the others.
If Harbaugh and Co. don't do that, they may just watch their top target head somewhere else where he can get more opportunities.
At the end of the day, I still feel like Edwards will end up at Michigan, but more performances like Saturday, and too much of a rotation at the running back position, might change my mind before long.