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UM freshman Donovan Edwards begins to break through at running back

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins have done the bulk of work leading Michigan to the No. 1 ranking nationally in rushing, but freshman Donovan Edwards made his college debut in the end zone scoring twice in the rout of Northern Illinois last weekend.

Edwards last scored touchdowns earlier this year when he led West Bloomfield to the state championship, the game’s timing affected by the pandemic. He rushed for three touchdowns, including runs of 78 and 71 yards, and accumulated a Division I/Class A-record 257 yards rushing. He also enrolled early at Michigan. Not long after that state title, he participated in spring practice.

Michigan running back Donovan Edwards runs into the end zone during a 58-yard touchdown run during the third quarter.

During the week before the Northern Illinois game, running backs coach Mike Hart said he knew he needed to get Edwards on the field more and told the 6-foot 202-pound freshman he should have had more carries in Week 2 against Washington. Hart made good on that and in a 63-10 win last week, Edwards was the Wolverines’ second-leading rusher.

Edwards had eight carries for 86 yards and scored twice on runs of 4 and 58 yards in the third quarter. Corum leads the team in rushing, averaging 135.7 yards a game heading into the Big Ten opener Saturday against Rutgers. Haskins is averaging 93.7 yards and had two touchdowns against Northern Illinois while Corum had three.

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Among the more interested observers last week was Michigan safeties coach Ron Bellamy, who spent the previous 11 seasons as West Bloomfield head coach. He has known Edwards since he was a third-grader and the two have been close ever since.

“I’m not going to lie, felt like a proud uncle,” Bellamy said Wednesday of Edwards’ performance. “We have such a strong bond and relationship that I’m in the press box (coaching during games), and you could just see it and feel when one’s going to break. I know he’s the ultimate competitor and I know what he felt, that sigh of the relief when he got in the end zone the first time.

“He’s a special talent and what I love most about Donovan is when he’s not getting the early carries, he’s cheering on Hassan and Blake. That’s two great mentors for him. Donovan’s going to keep growing and developing but it was awesome watching him get in the end zone. It was special for me with our relationship.”

Bellamy said Edwards has plenty more to talent to show.

“He’s definitely unique,” Bellamy said. “I’ve been around him, so I know some of the things that he has that haven’t been unveiled yet. I know what he’s capable of doing.”

When asked if Edwards reminds him of any running back teammates at Michigan or someone he had seen in the program, Bellamy thought for a while. He said Edwards is most similar to Justin Fargas, the 6-1, 196-pounder who played at Michigan from 1998-2000, before transferring to USC. He played in the NFL for seven seasons.

Bellamy also said he and the defensive coaches were recently talking about how the makeup of Big Ten running backs has changed and used Michigan backs to explain.

“You go from the (Tyrone) Wheatleys to the (Tim) Biakabutukas, the bigger guys, the Chris Perrys, the A Trains (Anthony Thomas), you go from that to more of the scatback kind of guys, (like) Blake. Although Blake is a shorter guy, he’s put together and an explosive guy. Donovan is kind of in that same realm as Blake. Those guys are more explosive than any of the guys that I played with.

“Justin Fargas would probably be the closest, although we didn’t get a chance to see him fully develop himself at Michigan but obviously he went to SC and became that player we thought he would be. I would say Donovan would probably be the closest to Fargas.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis