UM running back Corum says ankle has improved ahead of CFP semifinal matchup
Even when he ran 67 yards for Michigan’s first touchdown in the Big Ten championship, Blake Corum’s right ankle wasn’t fully healthy.
Corum, who suffered a high ankle sprain late in the first quarter against Indiana on Nov. 6 and missed the better part of three games, said he is feeling great as Michigan goes through practices in South Florida preparing for Friday’s Orange Bowl national semifinal against Georgia.
“I feel like my ankle is finally back,” Corum said Monday during an Orange Bowl Zoom meeting with reporters. “I feel like I have my cutting ability, my speed and my top-end speed, my burst. I feel like I have all that back.”
Before the injury, Corum was leading Michigan in rushing. In his absence, Hassan Haskins carried a greater workload and now has 1,288 yards and a program single-season record 20 rushing touchdowns. Corum has 939 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns and 22 catches for 143 yards and a score.
“Blake is healthy. We're a healthy team, and that's where we're fortunate,” Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said Monday. “Being able to take the last few weeks and get ourselves back to 100 percent, because as everyone noticed the last few weeks of the season, we were playing some really tough teams, but we had some bumps and bruises along the way, certain players being out. But the good thing for us is the next man stepped up and was always ready.
“We're excited now that we're finally back to full speed and healthy. Just having great depth has allowed us to be in this position. Other than the few weeks where we had to put a lot on Hassan's plate, we've been able to have great depth and have different guys step up, whether it's Blake, whether it's Donovan (Edwards), and so we're excited to finally get a chance to see a full-speed Blake Corum. I think a little bit of what people saw in the Big Ten Championship Game was him catching himself back up to full strength, and he's ready to go, he's excited, and we're glad to have him back to 100 percent.”
By the time Michigan plays Georgia in the national semifinal, nearly a month will have passed since the Wolverines’ last game, a 42-3 victory over Iowa in the Big Ten title game Dec. 4.
The Wolverines won their final four regular-season games and then the championship and their momentum was strong. Now, the challenge is being able to pick up where they left off. Michigan arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 25 to resume preparations for the Orange Bowl and get acclimated to the heat. The winner advances to the national title game.
“Leading up to our bowl practices, we had phenomenal practices back at campus, and then the next challenge came, OK, would we be able to carry that over with all the excitement, with all the different distractions that can potentially come with bowl preparations down in Miami?" Gattis said.
“I'll tell you what, I was blown away (Sunday). The type of urgency, the effort, seeing how fast our guys fly around. It's different for us because we're coming south, so when you put us out here in warm weather and we're able to run around nice and fast, we look different. We're used to practicing in 30-degree, 20-degree weather right now wrapped up in clothes. I think the maturity of our team and the leadership of our team obviously led us to have a great season, but it's also prepared us to have a great night on Friday. We couldn't be more pleased with the effort that our guys are playing with and the attention to detail.”
An Alabama blueprint?
Georgia was rolling through its season undefeated until facing Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. The Tide won that game, 41-24, after finding ways to pick holes in the Bulldogs’ stingy defense.
The Bulldogs rank first nationally in scoring defense, yielding an average 9.5 points a game, and are No. 2 in total defense (254.4). They are ranked third against the run (81.7 yards) and pass (172.7). Before that loss to Alabama, Georgia had allowed 83 total points during the regular season.
“They were the better team that day,” linebacker Quay Walker said Monday. “They executed very well and highly on both sides of the ball. At the end of the day we pretty much didn't do our job on defense. We didn't get any turnovers, didn't sack the quarterback. We’ve just got to do what we've got to do, and that will take care of everything else.”
Michigan receiver Mike Sainristil said the Wolverines would have determined ways to find holes in the Georgia defense even without film of the Alabama win in the SEC championship.
“We'll just find ways through film, find different ways to expose open areas of the field, find ways to create good runs in the run game,” Sainristil said. “Coach Gattis does a great job of coming up with game plans for us, and we do a great job ourselves of believing in the game plan and just sticking to what we do really good on our offense.
“But yeah, I guess it definitely helps just seeing a team that kind of has a style of offense that we have, as well, going in there and doing what they did. We didn't need them to do that, but just looking at the film, we understand where they can be attacked, and we're just going to do our best job to keep attacking those areas.”
A throw is a throw is a throw
Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine said Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara’s sometimes sidearm throwing motion does not make it more challenging to track the release or the ball flight.
Cine, asked about this during a Monday morning zoom with reporters, seemed unfazed.
“The ball has to get in the air one way or another,” Cine said. “Regardless of how he throws and which way he throws, it's still going to be in the air, so that doesn't really affect me.”