Michigan Wolverines football junior running back Donovan Edwards is confident. It’s why he was able to come in and run all over Ohio State in the second half of a 45-23 win, even with a broken thumb and torn patella tendon, after serving as senior Blake Corum‘s backup most of the season.
The money is on Corum, who has recovered from a knee injury he suffered last November and decided to return to school, to be Michigan’s bell-cow back again, but Edwards will have a big role as both a runner and pass-catcher. In two seasons, the West Bloomfield (Mich.) High product has accumulated 1,165 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 175 carries and 38 receptions for 465 yards and 3 scores.
“My patience is impeccable,” Edwards said of what sets him apart on an interview with PFF’s Max Chadwick. “I have the ability to hit the smallest of holes and break through them. It’s second to none.
“I’m the best dual-threat running back. I’ll catch a ball 50 yards down the field, over the shoulder. I’ll be the best slot receiver in the country if I was really mastering that craft, which I am this year. You can’t put a linebacker or safety on me. Shoot, you might have to double-team me or put your best corner on me. You can’t look at my game and go, ‘Oh, that’s weak.’”
He showed that after Corum was hurt last season, delivering two lightning strikes — 75- and 85-yard touchdown runs to seal the win — against Ohio State and putting up 185 yards and 1 touchdown run (that included several broken tackles) in the Big Ten championship game against Purdue, a 43-22 U-M victory.
Edwards said he cried after some games his freshman season, when he was third fiddle to Hassan Haskins, a fourth-round NFL Draft pick in 2022, and Corum. But having to wait his turn allowed him to build resilience and made him work harder. He was ready when his time came.
“I hated that my time came because Blake got hurt,” Edwards said. “But I always prepared myself to rise to the occasion no matter what’s going on with me. [Injuries] don’t mean anything. I have to do everything I can to help the team win. You have to rise to the occasion that’s given to you. I was looking for an opportunity to showcase myself. I accepted it and completed the challenge that was given to me.”
Edwards finished last season with 991 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns on 140 rushes, while adding 18 catches for 200 yards.
Corum shocked the college football world by coming back to Michigan instead of jumping to the NFL. And while Edwards joked with Corum that he should’ve turned professional because his carries this season will be diminished, he views Corum’s return as a positive overall.
“I told him, ‘Man, go to the league!’” said a chuckling Edwards. “Our career spans aren’t long. He already had like 300-plus carries in your career, like go to the league, bro. From a selfish standpoint, it helps me because it’s not putting a lot of strain on my body, and I can do the same thing for him. I’ve always wanted to go to a college with two good running backs.”
Ultimately, not having too heavy a workload will prepare Edwards for the NFL, where he’s already considered to be a hot commodity, with PFF naming him the third-best running back prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft, one spot behind Corum. At the same time, Edwards said he’s focused on the task at hand, chasing a national championship at Michigan.
“I can’t be where I want to be, which is a first overall draft pick, if I’m not producing here,” the 6-1, 210-pounder said. “I can do everything excellent, but the only thing for me is the staying healthy part. If I can’t do that, that will be my only downfall. If I can do that and we go to the national championship, then everybody’s going to eat when it comes to the NFL draft. That’s the main goal — win games so everybody can eat.
Added Edwards of Michigan’s pursuit of a national championship: “The only way we lose is if we beat ourselves. There shouldn’t be any reason we can’t buy into what we talk about, which is winning the day today. I called up the offensive group after practice one day and told them, ‘If we want to win a national championship, we can’t look five months down the road if we can’t win today.’ I’m not worried about the defense because they’re the best in the country.”
When it’s all said and done, though, Edwards is confident he will leave his legacy on the game of football, making a bold prediction about his future.
“I will go down as one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game,” Edwards proclaimed after being asked what onlookers should expect from him. “I’ll be up there with [former Chicago Bears running back] Walter Payton, [former Detroit Lions running back] Barry Sanders. I believe I will revolutionize the game and the position at running back, for how I run my routes, for how I play as a running back and how I can play at receiver, too.
“This is the perfect time for myself specifically, because the NFL wants running backs who can catch. If the NFL wants to guard a running back, good luck with that. I don’t care who you are. Good luck guarding me. I see all the stuff right now with how the running backs aren’t getting paid. I believe that I’ll get paid for how I play the game.”