Predicting Zach Charbonnet's Sophomore Season Is Very Tricky

Brandon Brown

In 2019, freshman running back Zach Charbonnet came out of the gates on a mission. The rookie carried it eight times for 90 yards in the season opener against Middle Tennessee, but then he toted it a whopping 33 times for 100 yards and three touchdowns in week two against Army. 

At the end of the year, when the dust settled, Charbonnet had 149 carries for 726 yards and a Michigan freshman record, 11 rushing touchdowns under his belt. Yesterday afternoon, the Michigan football Twitter account tweeted out five minutes of Charbonnet's best plays from his freshman campaign and you can't help but be excited about his future.

But hold that thought...

Charbonnet had a great freshman season, but to me, it's crazy to think that he'll improve on it, even though that's usually how it goes.

Charbonnet was used more than any freshman running back at Michigan since Mike Hart, who carried it 282 times as a rookie. Generally speaking, and even in Hart's case after so many touches, when a freshman plays as much as Charbonnet did, there's a significant bump in year No. 2. 

In fact, Chris Evans, Mike Hart, Brandon Minor, Chris Perry, Michael Shaw, De'Veon Smith, Vincent Smith, Anthony Thomas, Tim Biakabutuka and Tyrone Wheatley, who all played a lot as freshmen, saw a 63% increase in carries in year No. 2 on average. In the yardage department, there was a 56% increase in production and in touchdowns, it was a 75% jump.

For Charbonnet, that would mean a sophomore season with 243 carries for 1,133 yards and 19 touchdowns. Those numbers aren't necessarily untouchable, but for Charbonnet, I think they are. I don't think there's any way those numbers are attainable especially with the emergence of Hassan Haskins during the second half of last season and the return of Chris Evans. Throw in the addition of highly-touted freshman Blake Corum and I actually think Charbonnet is line for a regression.

It's really hard to project what Charbonnet is going to do next fall because of what he's up against. He's a very talented back who had a lot of success as a first-year player. He sniffed out the end zone more than any freshman running back in Michigan's illustrious history. Still, to progress in a "normal" fashion seems like a pipe dream. 

Knowing all of that, what's the California native's sophomore season going to look like? That's the million-dollar question.

Comments (3)
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Over It
Over It

I have a hard time understanding why people think that Evans will be our #1 back. I like him a lot as a change of pace back/pass catching back, but as a true #1 back I never really saw a ton of potential. ZC on the other hand has the makeup of a great #1 back. While he isn't really a home run threat, he's a smart/tough runner and a really good blocker. He always seemed to get an extra 2-3 yards at the end of his runs. I think Haskins and ZC should share the primary workload with Evans coming in to mix things up. ZC will likely have fewer TDs, but I wouldn't be surprised is he's around the 1000 yard mark.


I think Chris Evans is going to carry the ball most of the time. So, yes, Charbonnet, even though good things happen when he has the ball, will regress. But,...on second thought, Evans may be used more for screens and short passes in the flat, etc. This may give Charbonnet a similar amount of carries this year compared to last year. Another great topic!


Very good questions. Jimmy likes going with the person with the hot hand. If Charbonnet gains over 700 yards this season (depending on how many games are played) will be good.