The Wolverine

2018 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2018 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 63 RUNNING BACKS FYI Senior running back Karan Higdon became only the 10th player in Michigan's storied history to notch more than one 200-yard game in his career, accomplishing the feat with a pair of 200-yard (exactly) showings. Only Tom Harmon (1940), Ron Johnson (1968), Jon Vaughn (1990), Tim Biakabutuka (1995), Chris Perry (2003), Mike Hart (2004) and Denard Robinson (2010, '12) have done it in the same season. Hart and Robinson — both with five — are the only ones with more than three in their careers. Higdon flirted with the NFL Draft before deciding to return to Ann Arbor for his senior year. He aver- aged 6.1 yards per carry last year, which ranked third in the Big Ten among backs with at least 150 attempts (behind Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins, 7.2, and Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, 6.6). Running back is the only position group (besides special teams) without a former Rivals250 recruit on the roster — the lone back that was listed as a four-star prospect coming out of high school was sophomore O'maury Samuels. Samuels is Michigan's first scholarship running back from the state of New Mexico, but former defen- sive tackle and longtime NFL player Alan Branch also played some running back at Albuquerque Cibola High School … at over 300 pounds. Though his even-200 outings against In- diana and Minnesota accounted for 40 per- cent of his production last year, he still aver- aged 6.1 yards per carry, including 5.4 in the Michigan State defeat and 5.0 in a loss to Ohio State. Morris believes Higdon has a chance for a big season that could put him up there with some of the Michigan greats. "He's developed each and every year," Morris said. "Opponents have him on film. … You know you have something special when you have him on film and you still can't stop him. "I like the hard running. He can flat out fly, but he's also picked it up in the pass- ing game, too. He's developed into an every down back — he saw his deficiencies, his coaches told him what he was lacking, and he went out and improved each and every week last year and the year before." Evans, meanwhile, didn't have the break- out second year many predicted. He managed one 100-yard game, going for 191 in a 33-10 win over Minnesota, and put up 97 in a win at Purdue. He also paced the squad in both rushing (67 yards) and receptions (a career- high five catches for 34 yards) in the loss to Ohio State. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry on the year and finished with 685 yards after notch- ing 614 as a freshman. "He has great hands, runs hard when he has to and has some elusiveness. He's got a little shake to him," Morris said. How much he plays on early downs, though, will depend on how he improves as a blocker. He had his struggles in pass protec- tion last year, but so did Higdon. "That's a major emphasis for us this year — the backs blocking better in pass protec- tion," head coach Jim Harbaugh said after spring ball. "There's been improvement, but there's more to go. … That was definitely an emphasis, and that's good for our guys to know that. "They didn't do well at that last year, and they need to do better." Evans has the ability, Morris added. "It's a 'want to' thing, and I think he wants to," Morris said. "I saw him pick up a blitz last year, a double blitz where the outside and inside man both came, and he hit the inside man into the out- side man and cleaned them both away. You see someone who can do that, you know he's got 'want to.'" There's a chance both will play at the same time, too, he predicted. "That would give teams something to look at," Morris said. With Ty Isaac having graduated, the Wol- verines will need to find a third back in the Senior Karan Higdon finished the 2017 season ranked fourth in the Big Ten for rushing yards per carry (6.06), tied for sixth in overall touchdowns scored (11) and seventh in rushing yards per game (76.5). PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN YEAR-BY-YEAR RUSHING LEADER Year Player Carries Yards TD 2017 Karan Higdon 164 994 11 2016 De'Veon Smith 181 846 10 2015 De'Veon Smith 180 753 6 2014 De'Veon Smith 108 519 6 2013 Fitzgerald Toussaint 185 648 13 2012 Denard Robinson 177 1,266 7 2011 Denard Robinson 221 1,176 16 2010 Denard Robinson 256 1,702 14 2009 Brandon Minor 96 502 8 2008 Brandon Minor 103 533 9

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