The Five Best Running Backs Under Jim Harbaugh
There have been several legendary running backs at Michigan but it's been quite a while since one has suited up for the Wolverines. Sure, there have been some really good ones, and the game is different now than it was when backs would get 30 carries per game regularly, but U-M has been lacking a superstar back.
Jim Harbaugh is entering his sixth season as Michigan's head coach so we're taking a look at the five best running backs during Harbaugh's five-year tenure.
1. Karan Higdon
To me, Karan Higdon has been Jim Harbaugh's best overall back. He was dependable, explosive, tough and really effective. He carried the ball 202 times at U-M and piled up 1,248 yards and 16 touchdowns. He never lost a fumble and had a career-long touchdown run of 77 yards against Minnesota. His 6.2 yards per carry average is the best of any back under Harbaugh and is one of the main reasons I have him No. 1 on this list.
2. Chris Evans
Admittedly, I've always been a big fan of Chris Evans. To me, he's the most talented running back on the list but for some reason was never really utilized in a way that showed off his versatility and overall skill set. I think that could change this year in Josh Gattis' system, which is why I'm so bullish on him and have him at No. 2.
In his three years at Michigan before being suspended in 2019, Evans carried the ball 304 times for 1,722 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averages 5.7 yards per carry and is also dependable as evidence by his zero fumbles. His longest run also came against Minnesota in the form of a 67-yard touchdown run. He's also the most gifted receiver on this list, which has me very excited for his 2020 season.
3. De'Veon Smith
Smith is the most-utilized back on this list with 495 carries under his belt. He finished his Michigan career with 2,235 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. He did lose two fumbles while at U-M, and averaged a pretty pedestrian 4.5 yards per carry, but was as tough a runner as you'll find in college football. He didn't have much long speed or short-space quickness, which are pretty important traits for a running back, but he broke a ton of tackles and always fell forward. His 61-yard touchdown run against BYU was a sight to see and I was fortunate enough to view it from the field in the back of the end zone where Smith leaped across the goal line.
4. Hassan Haskins
I was very, very impressed by Haskins last year. As a redshirt freshman who had moved positions a couple of times while at U-M, he burst onto the scene during the middle portion of the season and actually ended up as the starting running back for the final five games of the season. In just one year, he carried the ball 121 times for 622 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged a solid 5.1 yards per carry and just seemed to have the "it" factor as a back. Once his pass blocking improves he'll be hard to keep off the field even though U-M has as loaded a running back room as any team in the Big Ten.
5. Zach Charbonnet
It seems criminal to have Charbonnet at No. 5 on this list after breaking the freshman rushing touchdown record last year with 11, but I think this is where he belongs. He carried the ball 149 times last year as a rookie for 726 yards and those 11 scores. However, he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, which is the main reason I have him behind the other guys. He has great vision, and obviously a nose for the end zone, but I think he's less dynamic than everyone else on this list not named De'Veon Smith and is limited a bit by his lack of breakaway speed and suddenness.
The biggest takeaway I have from putting this list together, is that Michigan has three of Jim Harbaugh's best backs during his five-year tenure on the roster for 2020. That's a great problem to have for running backs coach Jay Harbaugh and you just hope that Gattis can find a way to put each guy in a position to succeed.
How would your list look? Should someone else be here that's not? Comment below!!!