Michigan running back Blake Corum shows strength, strives for perfection

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor —  From the eye test, Michigan running backs coach Mike Hart, the program’s all-time leading rusher, and sophomore back Blake Corum certainly look similar.

“Size-wise, yes,” Hart said this week when asked if Corum reminds him of himself when he was a player.

Hart was listed at 5-foot-9, 202 pounds his senior year, and Corum is 5-8, 200 pounds.

“He works a lot harder,” Hart said. “Blake’s a lot faster than me, a lot quicker than me. If I was that fast, I’d probably still be playing in the NFL.

“He’s a great kid, but I think his mentality and the way he does things, the way he approaches the game is really similar to the way I did. He doesn’t like making mistakes. He wants to be perfect. And that’s something that reminds me of myself.”

Michigan running back Blake Corum evades a tackle by Penn State cornerback Marquis Wilson in the fourth quarter.

Corum might also be stronger than Hart was as a player. He is a noted weight room devotee and added muscle in the offseason while, he said, improving his quickness.

“The most (squat) reps I did was 315 (pounds) for 25 reps,” Corum said casually on Friday while speaking to media.  “That was at the end of the workout.”

Linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green said Friday that pound for pound, Corum is the strongest player on the team. The added strength should be an assist in terms of breaking tackles and in an integral part of playing running back —  pass protection.

“It’s a mindset,” Corum said of that facet of the game. “You’ve just got to bring it.”

While he became faster, he also has worked on slowing down.

“He’s just a confident kid that wants to be great,” Hart said. “He’s one of those guys that you want him to slow down because he’s always going, going, going. He works his tail off. He’s one of the hardest-working running backs I’ve ever been around.”

During the offseason, besides getting in the weight room, Corum said he worked on being a patient runner. Hill-Green said he has seen Corum’s improvement in practice.

“Blake has gotten so much faster,” Hill-Green said. “I’ve seen his explosiveness and just his IQ for the game. He’s just so patient with holes now. He doesn’t miss his opportunity to break long runs now.”

Corum said working with Hart, who joined Jim Harbaugh’s staff earlier this year after four years at Indiana, has also lifted his game. He often picks his brain and frequently will ask what Hart would have done in particular situations and applies that advice to his game.

As Michigan closes in on the start of the season Sept. 4 against Western Michigan at Michigan Stadium, Harbaugh has said Corum and Hassan Haskins are like having two No. 1 running backs. Hart calls Haskins a “sneaky” back, a guy who breaks a lot of tackles. He describes Corum as "explosive".

But Corum also is mature, not one to fall back on a chip-on-the-shoulder approach because he’s on the shorter size as a running back. Hart was that way, too. What they share is a don’t-care-what-others-think approach.

“Other people’s opinions don’t really matter,” Corum said. “They can say I’m short. All right. That’s fine. That’s your opinion. I know what I can do, and I know I’m going to do it to my best ability, and I have confidence in myself. At the end of the day, that’s just people talking. They can say whatever they want to say. There were probably people that didn’t believe in me, probably still don’t believe me. That’s going to happen.”

He just wants the last word.

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis