UM notebook: 'Special player' Blake Corum scores 3 TDs, Gemon Green intercepts Rocky Lombardi
Ann Arbor — Earlier this summer, Michigan sophomore running back Blake Corum posted on social media a photo of himself during a rare break in his weight room workout routine. It was clear he had been working hard.
The 5-foot-8, 200-pound Corum has been noted for being a gym rat who takes pride in his conditioning. So far through three games, that seems to be paying off. Corum led the team with 125 yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns in Michigan’s 63-10 victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines are 3-0.
Corum is the team’s leading rusher with 48 carries for 407 yards and seven touchdowns. He is averaging 8.5 yards a carry.
“Special player,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of Corum after the game. “The way he trains in the offseason. His endurance, his strength. (He’s always) finding ways to get in the weight room to get stronger from the day he got here. It's just such a tremendous example of somebody that has an amazing, tremendous work ethic.
“He is a shining star. He's playing great football.”
Earlier last week, Jay Harbaugh, who coaches tight ends and coordinates special teams, said there is a balance to how Corum can be used both as a running back, a receiver out of the backfield — he had one catch for 13 yards against Northern Illinois — and in the return. In the first two games, Corum was used on kickoff returns.
“The guy practices like a maniac and it gives him the capacity to be able to go really hard for a really long time in games,” Jay Harbaugh said last Monday on the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show. “With a guy like that, because he’s so valuable to the team, there are times you have to tell him, 'You’re not going here.' He’d love to be on punts as a gunner. He’d love to be on kickoffs.
“You’ve got to manage it for him a little bit because he’ll do anything. He’ll sell out for the team. That’s the kind of effort you want.”
A big influence on Corum this season has been new running backs coach Mike Hart, Michigan’s all-time leading rusher now in his first season as an assistant at this alma mater.
“He’s made a tremendous difference on the field and off the field,” Corum said after the Northern Illinois game. “He’s helped my IQ for the game. He’s helped me develop patience in all the drills we did this offseason. He played the game, so obviously, when you make a mistake on the field you can come to the sideline and be like, ‘Coach, what did I do wrong? What did you see?’”
Earlier in the week, Hart told reporters that Corum is the “quickest, most explosive” back he has coached. And while he is solid in pass protection, as well, Corum still has improvement to make.
“He’s grown,” Hart said. “He’s not there yet. He’s a lot more patient than he was last year. He gets settled into the game a little bit more. Sometimes he’s too fast still because he’s a fast, quick kid. He understands he needs to let those plays develop, give the linemen a chance to get to their blocks, get to the second level. When the guys do their job up front, then he’s one-on-one with safety and it’s hard to tackle Blake in open field.”
Corum said Hart has helped shape his game but also who he is becoming as an individual.
“He helps me become a better man,” Corum said. “It’s not all about football. He teaches us life lessons. We have life-lessons conversations as an RB room. He’s just a phenomenal guy. I’m glad to call him my coach and a mentor, really. He helps us on the field, in the classroom and off the field.”
Getting a pick
Cornerback Gemon Green intercepted Rocky Lombardi with 7:28 left in the third quarter, giving Michigan its first interception of the season.
Green returned it 27 yards to the NIU 3-yard line where he was stopped by offensive lineman Logan Zschernitz.
“It got tipped, so it was kinda wobbly,” Green said. “I kinda caught it on my shoulder a little bit. Once I caught it, I was trying to get to the crib. That’s what was going through my mind, trying to get to the crib. O lineman came fast so I couldn’t get there.”
Two players later, freshman running back Donovan Edwards scored on a 4-yard run.
Edwards sees the end zone
Hart said last week he told Edwards he should have played him more in the win over Washington.
“I’ve got to get him on the field more,” Hart said last Wednesday. “He’s talented.”
Edwards had eight carries for 86 yards and had two touchdowns. His first score was on the 4-yard run and the Wolverines’ next series, they went two plays again with Edwards scoring this time on a 58-yard run.
“He did a phenomenal job,” Corum said. “There’s going to be many more runs like that from Donovan.”
While the focus in Michigan’s run game has been Corum and Haskins, it was always believed Edwards would also become a factor this season. He enrolled early and participated in spring practice this year after helping lead West Bloomfield to a state championship.
“You talk about that kind of a tandem at running back (Corum and Haskins), each is so is so good,” Harbaugh said. “Adding Donovan in there, Donovan, is quite the back himself. He does a great job with ball security. It's important to him. Some people are just better at that than other people, and he's really good at that.
“Those top three are really, really good.”
Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara on the running backs: “I actually got in trouble for watching the running backs run a little too much. They told me I need to carry out my fakes better, so I’ve tried to put an emphasis on that the last two weeks. It’s hard to not watch because those guys are ballers for sure.”
Northern Illinois coach Thomas Hammock on Michigan: "They beat us soundly in all three phases. Sometimes you just have to say, that is a better football team than us. We won't see an opponent better than this."