Michigan X-factor: Donovan Edwards a serious dual-threat RB

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Note: This is the seventh story in an eight-part offseason series focusing on Michigan Football’s “X-factors” — key players or position groups — for 2022.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Even as one of the most productive running backs in the nation, Donovan Edwards found a way to stand out last season.

The former four-star recruit arrived in Ann Arbor to much fanfare, a standout player from nearby West Bloomfield High School who said all the right things when he signed up.

The 6-foot, 202-pound Edwards saw the field early as a rookie, earning six carries in Michigan’s season opener against Western Michigan and turning eight carries into 86 yards and two touchdowns two games later. in a resounding victory over Northern Illinois.

But as the season progressed, Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins became Michigan’s true 1a and 1b options. They won most runs in key spots, combining to rush for over 2,200 yards and 31 touchdowns — a real bright spot for an emerging offense.

In some games, especially early in the season, Michigan has relied on its rushing offense – led by a physical and experienced offensive line – to carry it to victory. Hassan Haskins, an American Football Coaches Association second-team All-American pick, rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Later that year, however, Edwards showed off his skills in other less expected ways. He was a major part of the passing game in a 59-18 win at Maryland last November, catching 10 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. If there was ever a ‘proof’ moment for the young running back, it was on the road to College Park.

Edwards showed that dual-threat ability in high school, racking up 539 receiving yards during his junior season to go along with the 1,439 rushing yards. West Bloomfield — and then-head coach Ron Bellamy — had no problem leveraging their best player into advantage games.

After: Donovan Edwards’ Escape Game Presents Itself in an Unconventional Way

Michigan running back Donovan Edwards (7) runs down the field for a touchdown in the third quarter of their college football game against Northern Illinois at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

Against Maryland last fall, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his team discovered they too could benefit. While Edwards remained the No. 3 option to come back down the stretch, even with Corum playing with a high ankle sprain, he came out on top in the Big Ten Championship game against Iowa.

With 5:27 left in the first quarter, quarterback Cade McNamara sent a swing pass from behind the line of scrimmage to Edwards, who delivered a perfect spiral down the sideline to a wide-open Roman Wilson. Wilson, a sophomore receiver, then went the rest of the way for a 75-yard touchdown play that put Michigan up 14-0.

Afterwards, McNamara jokingly remarked that they had practiced the trick game in the days leading up to the game – but Edwards had struggled to deliver the ball from the home run. But when the lights came on and the Wolverines needed a big play, which would dictate the pace of the game, the rising star arrived.

Edwards’ last stat line in the rushing department was nothing short of extraordinary (162 yards, 2 TDs), but it was those flashes of game-changing moments that thrilled those around the building. Michigan football about its potential.

And with Haskins having moved on to the NFL, the opportunities will now be plentiful for Edwards. He’s set for more runs and a No. 2 running back role, and you can bet Harbaugh and the staff plan to use him in the passing game.

But what about his dashing skills that make him dynamic? He’s been described as a cross between Haskins and Corum, a running back who can slip between tackles or break an outbound home run. As a result, look for Michigan to play on the outside with their running game this season, using Corum and Edwards on the edges to help extend defenses.

Former coordinator Josh Gattis liked to talk about “speed in space” when he first arrived here, and with Corum and Edwards healthy and running at full speed, Michigan will have the chance to do just that this fall.

Michigan’s other fall X-factors:

In Part I, we profiled linebacker Junior Colsonwhich recently received rave reviews from Jim Harbaugh.

Part II focused on tight end Erick Allwho leads a deep and important position group.

Part III was on security RJ Motentasked with filling a void in the defensive field.

Part IV was on offensive tackle Ryan Hayeswhich is the “exclamation point” of the coming year, is essential for Michigan’s offensive line.

Part V, published last month, centered on defensive tackle Mazi Smith and his additional responsibility this fall.

Part VI, the most recent edition, was on wide receiver Andrel Anthonywhose explosive and athletic traits were on display against Michigan State.

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