The Michigan Wolverines were dealt a major blow on Thursday, as the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport noted that Blake Corum will not play again this season. The all-around running back is set to undergo knee surgery.
Corum suffered the knee ailment during Michigan’s narrow home win over Illinois. He reportedly “tried to play” in Michigan’s road clash with Ohio State, but in the end, he was sidelined from the contest. Barring a surprise return in the Wolverines’ expected College Football Playoff run, Corum will finish his junior campaign with 1,463 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns — both of which currently rank in the top 10 in all of the FBS.
Michigan’s Big Ten title and College Football Playoff national championship aspirations will not go down the drain following the unfortunate injury news to Corum. For Michigan to repeat as Big Ten champions and for it to cap off the season as a 15-0 national champion, the Big Ten powerhouse will surely need these two talents on the offensive side of the ball to step up in the coming games.
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy revealed following the home victory over Maryland earlier this season that he touched base with Charles Woodson after the conference matchup, and the former Heisman Trophy award winner advised him to use his legs “more.” The sophomore passer added that this is “something that I really need to do.”
McCarthy has since not taken Woodson’s advice to heart, although he has shown more of a willingness to simply run with the football. He has scored a combined three rushing touchdowns in the Wolverines’ last four contests, and since the win against Maryland, he has orchestrated two games with at least 50 yards on the ground.
For Michigan to begin to replace Corum’s stout production on the ground, the Big Ten side must allow McCarthy to add another dimension to the offense with quarterback runs. He showcased in the victories over Penn State and Ohio State that this aspect of his play can be exploited in crucial moments of must-win games, as he combined for 84 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown in the conference wins.
From McCarthy’s standpoint, quarterback runs helped to further open up the offense in Michigan’s pair of victories over the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes, and overall, such runs can continue to do just that down the road.
“I feel like in the first half when we’re just giving the ball, giving the ball and we’re pounding the ball, we’re just setting up for that quarterback keeper,” McCarthy said during a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the 2022 Big Ten Championship Game against Purdue. “It just helps it so much more.
“In the first half when we are pounding the ball, it just opens up the quarterback run so much more. Nothing’s really said at halftime. We might call more quarterback-designed reads and all that, but I just feel like with the constant pounding the rock down their throat in the first half, it allows the quarterback run to open up that much more.”
With Corum’s reported season-ending injury, it is next man up for the Wolverines, as they are set to call on Donovan Edwards to lead their rush offense the rest of the way in the ongoing campaign.
Edwards, who has been nursing a nagging hand injury, is just coming off of the performance of his life. He led the Michigan rush offense in the 22-point win over Ohio State, rushing for 216 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This showing from him was far from a surprise, as he showcased in his 100-plus rushing yard outings against Rutgers and Penn State that he can be relied on as an RB1 in must-win contests.
As McCarthy touched on ahead of the upcoming Big Ten title game, Edwards’ career day against Ohio State was far from a shocker to him — even as the all-around running back was dealing with an injury in the game.
“I expected it, because when he came in as a freshman, he had a cast on and he was catching the ball as well as anyone and running the ball as well as anyone,” McCarthy said. “He didn’t complain at all. So I expected that it wasn’t going to be an issue at all.”
For the Wolverines to run the table and claim their first national title of the Jim Harbaugh head coaching era, they do not need McCarthy and Edwards to string together three more encore performances from their statement showings against the Buckeyes. If the two talents can each help to balance out the offense and keep opposing defenses on their heels, it could end up being all that Michigan may need to finish off its Cinderella campaign with a national championship.