Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh shed light on the running back position at Big Ten Media Days, announcing Tru Wilson as his starting running back, is it legit?
When Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh meets the media, it’s always big news. However, when he talks about players and the roster in general, you sometimes have to take what he says with a grain of salt.
It’s like what he has said about the quarterback position. Even when he has known who his starter will be, Harbaugh has insisted there was a competition and even waited until just prior to kickoff of the season opener to name a starter.
Thankfully, he didn’t do that with Shea Patterson last season. Apparently, Harbaugh is also trying to end any potential drama at running back by proclaiming that Tru Wilson would be the Wolverines day one starter.
It was a surprise, especially since Zach Charbonnet, one of the possible contenders, hasn’t even gotten a chance to show what he can do. In some ways, I get it and it’s not surprising. I have long said that Wilson was a dark horse in the running back race and with his experience, it makes sense to start him early in the year.
Charbonnet enrolled early and has had time to learn the offense. However, a knee scope kept him out of the spring. Yet, he seems healthy at this point and Harbaugh sang his praises in the weight room, comparing his work ethic to that of Ben Mason, which is quite the compliment.
When he gets the opportunity in fall camp, it wouldn’t be surprising if he started turning heads. Redshirt freshman, Christian Turner, should also impress if he is 100 percent, which Harbaugh indicated he was Friday.
With all three backs, Michigan football should be fine in terms of depth. And over the years, a back-by-committee approach has been common for the Wolverines. The past two years, Karan Higdon was able to establish himself as the starter, although Chris Evans also played an important role as a runner and receiver.
Jim Harbaugh names Tru Wilson as the starting running back.
— Brandon Knapp (@BKnappBlogs) July 19, 2019
But with Evans out due to academic suspension, Wilson is the most experienced back remaining. He ran the ball over 60 times last season and averaged 5.9 yards per attempt. He also excels in pass protection, which will be essential in Josh Gattis spread system.
That skill as much as any other will keep Wilson on the field. And if the Wolverines adopt a no-huddle approach, there will be little time to substitute so having a back who can be effective as a runner and in pass protection is essential and right now, Wilson is the guy that fits the bill.
Among Michigan’s top three running backs, there were less than 100 total carries last season and that’s a concern. But if Charbonnet and Turner are healthy, they should bring plenty to the running game. Charbonnet was an elite four-star recruit and the top offensive signee in 2019.
Turner was only a three-star but he has grown tremendously and averaged over four yards per rush last season. So while Wilson should open the season as the starter, who knows how long he will remain in that role.
If healthy, expect all three backs to get plenty of touches, but until Turner and Charbonnet prove they can help protect Shea Patterson and/or Dylan McCaffrey, Wilson will likely remain the No. 1 guy, simply because, with him, the Wolverines know exactly what they are going to get.