Performance of Michigan's Zach Charbonnet earns comparison to Adrian Peterson

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Zach Charbonnet blocks for Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson on Saturday.

Ann Arbor — Michigan freshman running back Zach Charbonnet continues to receive plenty of praise for his debut.

Charbonnet had 99 yards of total offense, including 90 rushing, but it was nine pickups in pass protection against Middle Tennessee State last Saturday that has everyone talking and one Michigan assistant making a bold comparison.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound freshman was flawless in pass protection, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said earlier this week. Charbonnet was the first freshman to start at running back for the Wolverines since Sam McGuffie in 2008.

“I’ve only seen one other freshman back block like that, and that’s a guy I played with,” UM tight ends coach Sherrone Moore said Wednesday. “That was really impressive to watch that guy, nine-for-nine in pickups, just go up and strike people and never back down and know how to block with all the exotic pressures that those guys brought. It was extremely impressive.

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“And you can just tell by the way Zach carries himself, he’s all about his business, he’s very mature for his age, and obviously he’s a special talent.”

What freshman back was Moore referencing?

Adrian Peterson, his teammate at Oklahoma who was Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2004, a seven-time Pro Bowler and NFL MVP in 2012.

“He was pretty good,” Moore said, smiling.

Harbaugh gushed about Charbonnet’s performance at a news conference on Monday.

“Zach Charbonnet had nine pickups in protection which, I don’t think we’ve had a back get nine pickups in protection since we’ve been here, one single back,” Harbaugh said. “And be 100 percent, nine out of nine, that’s like, wow, that’s really good.

“There were some sophisticated protections going on. There were some changes in the protection at the line of scrimmage. There were some protections changed right before the ball was snapped by the quarterback or the center. It was just easy for him. He just handled it. Not even a misstep. That’s rare. I’ve been around pro backs that don’t understand the protections as well as the freshman back did in this game. That was a real positive.”

Twitter: @chengelis