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Donovan Edwards could be Michigan’s next great RB as Wolverines continue success
After being named Mr. Football in Michigan after his senior season at West Bloomfield, it has not taken Donovan Edwards long to make an impact for the Wolverines. (Courtesy: @therealepap/Twitter)

Donovan Edwards could be Michigan’s next great RB as Wolverines continue success

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (BVM) – Michigan football is back on the rise, and the 2021 season has them trending towards the top. Going 12-1, beating Ohio State for the first time since 2011, and winning the Big Ten for the first time since 2004, Michigan is back on the national radar. 

Now, the Wolverines are focused on winning their 12th national championship, and first in nearly 25 years. Michigan will face off against No. 3 Georgia in the Orange Bowl, also a College Football Playoff semifinal. The winner will go on to play either No. 4 Cincinnati or No. 1 Alabama in the national championship.

To become No. 2 in the country as Michigan has, you need a complete team. The Wolverines’ defense coordinated by Mike Macdonald and headlined by star edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson grabs a lot of the headlines, but the offense has also been solid. That is thanks in large part to a tremendous group of running backs.

Senior rusher Hassan Haskins has totaled nearly 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground during his final season in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, sophomore speedster Blake Corum has been tremendous as well with over 1,000 total yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns.

But one running back who is used much less, yet has also emerged for several big moments this season, is true freshman Donovan Edwards. While he may not be a household name just yet, Edwards is poised to become the next Michigan great.

Although it was not known where he would play his college ball at the time, Edwards flashed his elite potential early and often in his high school career. As a freshman, he helped West Bloomfield to a 12-2 record and state appearance. The winning would continue, as Edwards led the Lakers to state quarterfinal appearances the following two seasons. 

However, it was his junior season in 2019 where he really broke out, amassing nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 25 touchdowns. In a Covid-marred season with less games in 2020, Edwards still managed to put up over 1,000 rushing yards and 20 total scores.

The five-star running back also saved his best for last. With state championships moved to January in Michigan last year, Edwards was put in a unique position, already enrolled early at Michigan but wanting to still help his team at state. After receiving permission to play in the title game from the NCAA, Edwards dominated, rushing for 257 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries in West Bloomfield’s 41-0 win over Davison.

Although it endured some unique circumstances, his high school career had come full circle. He was also named Michigan’s Mr. Football and won the Gatorade Michigan High School Football Player of the Year award following the season. As if the hype hadn’t already been high enough, big things were awaiting Edwards as he entered Ann Arbor, and his potential was clear to his coaches.

“At running back, Donovan is going to be really good,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said before the season. “There’s such a competitive part about him. And the thing Donovan understands is that it takes the whole team to win a championship. Nobody’s winning any championships unless it’s the team. He speaks that team language as good as anybody I’ve been around. He’s been a blessing in that way. He won a championship – he won one at (West Bloomfield). He’s going to be in the mix. You’ll be seeing Donovan Edwards game one.”

As any freshman, Edwards has had some ups and downs in his first year in the maize and blue. Yet, he has still found a way to make an impressive impact. In Michigan’s first game of the season, Edwards received seven touches, gaining 30 yards.

One of his top performances of the season came in Week 3 against Northern Illinois, where Edwards compiled 86 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, one of which was an impressive 58-yard burst to the house.

Although he was still firmly behind Haskins and Corum on the depth chart, Edwards proved his potential in just his third game at the collegiate level. But late in the season, when Corum suffered a leg injury, it was Edwards’ time to step up.

In the Wolverines’ second-to-last regular season game against Maryland, Edwards showed why he may just be the next great back at Michigan. Despite just three rushing attempts, the freshman showed his true versatility, making 10 catches for 170 yards, highlighted by an impressive 77-yard touchdown.

The performance opened the eyes of many, but with the work Edwards has been putting in combined with his natural talent, it didn’t surprise his coach.

“All season, we’ve known about his ability to catch the ball and run routes,” Harbaugh said in a press conference after the Maryland game. “It started back in spring practice … The work he’s put in, he’s got so many built up reps. I understand he and J.J. are throwing and catching all the time … I don’t like to make a lot of big, hyperbolic statements. It was a record, great performance, all-time record, but as I told you earlier, this will be a blip on the radar of the career of Donovan Edwards. He’s destined for greatness.”

“I feel like it was a good moment for me to showcase my talent,” Edwards said after the game. “Eventually it was going to happen, so I was just going to let life take its course and continue to play how I play.” 

With Corum returning, Edwards did not see as much action as he will in future games against Ohio State. But after playing in a state championship just 11 months prior, Edwards made a significant impact in the Big Ten Championship game against Iowa.

Again showing his versatility, Edwards received a backward pass from quarterback Cade McNamara, and proceeded to throw a laser to wide receiver Roman Wilson for a 75-yard touchdown.

“First of all, Donovan Edwards, we had that play, it was ready for primetime, it’s been ready for primetime for about seven weeks,” Harbaugh said after the Big Ten Championship game. “We knew that that one was going to work, we had it planned early … He’s never missed on that throw. He’s always on the move every time he throws it, and every time it’s a dime.”

The running back added another score on the ground late in the game to cement Michigan’s 42-3 win.

On the season, Edwards has totaled 374 yards between his rushing and receiving, adding four total touchdowns. Not bad for a true freshman, and those numbers are expected to skyrocket through the rest of his Michigan career.

Not only has Edwards dazzled on the field, but he has also impressed as a mature leader every step of the way during his football journey. That is no different at Michigan, and similar to his high school career, he is tasting success right away. 

The Wolverines are set to do battle with Georgia on Dec. 31, and if they win, they will earn a trip to the national championship on Jan. 10. It is Michigan’s best football season in quite some time, and it is no surprise Edwards is a part of it.

Perhaps the Wolverines will bring home the title this year, or maybe Edwards and his teammates will have to wait. But with the stud running back among plenty of other talent coming in, Michigan is poised to hang around the top of the mountain for some time. With the talent Edwards has, expect him to be right there at the top as well.

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