2019 Season Countdown: #16 Tru Wilson

2019 Season Countdown: #16 Tru Wilson


August 17, 2019
Tru Wilson (image via MGoBlue)

Name: Tru Wilson
Height:
5’10”
Weight:
200 lbs.
High school:
Warren (MI) De La Salle
Position:
Running back
Class:
Senior
Jersey number:
#13
Last year:
I ranked Wilson #65 and said he would be a backup running back and special teamer (LINK). He ran 62 times for 364 yards (5.9 yards/carry) and 1 touchdown, along with making 6 catches for 34 yards (5.7 yards/catch).
TTB Rating:
N/A

Wilson came out of nowhere to become a very effective running back for the Wolverines last year. After being a Semper Fi All-American coming out of high school, he came to Michigan as a walk-on and dabbled at both running back and safety. He had 1 carry for 1 yard in 2016, zero carries in 2017, and then 62 carries for 364 yards in 2018. Those 62 carries ranked third among running backs (fourth if you count Shea Patterson), and his 5.87 yards per carry was the best average on the team.

Hit the jump for more.

He goes into 2019 with head coach Jim Harbaugh having claimed he’s the starting running back, an astounding leap for Wilson at a place like Michigan. It helps mightily that Chris Evans (81 carries for 423 yards and 4 TD) was booted out of the university for academic misdeeds. The other serious options are freshman Zach Charbonnet (LINK) and sophomore Christian Turner (LINK). All of them have value . . . and all of them have question marks. Charbonnet is a freshman coming off meniscus surgery and Turner is a sophomore who has suffered from various nagging injuries during his short time on campus.

What is the question about Wilson? Explosiveness. His pass blocking is excellent, and he has pretty good vision. He does a good job of cutting back against the grain because he has no other choice; anything else would see him lying helpless in the backfield with defenders celebrating heroic feats. On 63 career rushing attempts, only two of those plays went for 20+ yards; for a comparison, Karan Higdon’s 72 attempts as a sophomore in 2016 resulted in three 40+ yard attempts. Against ranked teams in 2018, Wilson had 13 carries for 51 yards (3.9 yards/carry); against unranked teams, Wilson had 49 carries for 313 yards (6.4 yards/carry). Higdon averaged 4.5 yards per carry against ranked squads, and 5.7 against the unranked.

Wilson is the most important of the running backs in 2019, but by just a smidge. It’s mostly because of the things that won’t show up in the box score (leadership, experience, pass blocking, etc.), but Charbonnet was a close second because he has the combination of skills the other guys lack. In year five of the Jim Harbaugh era, I did not think the Wolverines would be starting a walk-on running back without big-play ability, but I guess that’s where the program is right now.

Prediction: Starting running back; 150 carries for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns

17 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 17
    Joined: 8/20/2015
    GoBlue
    Aug 17, 2019 at 7:59 PM

    Caveats apply, but in general everyone loves to bring up Mike Hart when discussing running backs, and of any comparison, I really think it applies for Tru. Under recruited background is the same…..ok, but their ability to see and hit a hole is impressive. We’ll see if Tru can do it this year against tough competition, but I really like watching him play.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love ZC, but I think Tru is much better than most people think.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3215
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 17, 2019 at 8:06 PM

      If we’re talking strictly about athleticism and running ability, I would take virtually any other starting running back in the Big Ten over Wilson – including the guys from Illinois and Rutgers. Wilson might make up for it with those intangibles, but the number of immediate-impact running backs at both the college and NFL levels says to me that those things are somewhat overblown.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 17
        Joined: 8/20/2015
        GoBlue
        Aug 17, 2019 at 8:44 PM

        Interesting point. I agree with you, and that’s what I was trying to get across with my love for ZC, but I think Tru will bring enough to the table that if he is the floor, I’m comfortable with where we are in the RB room right now. That is with the understanding, or hope, that we improve as the year goes on.

        Great write up. I really hope we see either ZC or Turner blow up this year, and if I got to pick, then Charbonnet would be the guy.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5151
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 18, 2019 at 11:56 PM

      Tru does look a lot like Hart back there. Of course no one has the same magic ability to dodge tacklers, but Hart had some of the same limitations.

  2. Painter Smurf
    Comments: 260
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Painter Smurf
    Aug 17, 2019 at 10:01 PM

    Pass blocking is of course important, but expecting pass blocking duties will be a little less demanding this year, with the new offense. RB competition is usually decided based on game performance (hot hand), no matter the pre season talk. just don’t see Tru holding onto the prime spot for long. Played well last year, but not against good competition and mostly in 2nd half of games. Harbaugh is biting his tongue, but you can tell he is straight giddy about Charbonnet.

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 1447
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Aug 17, 2019 at 10:12 PM

    I want nothing but the best for Wilson – he works his butt off every snap!

    But my expectations are low; very low. If he’s our lead RB by October, we’re not going as far as we all want

    • Avatar
      Comments: 239
      Joined: 12/19/2015
      Extrajuice
      Aug 18, 2019 at 12:18 AM

      I agree. If Tru Wilson gains 700 yds this year we’ll have at least 3 losses. I think he starts the season with 10 carries per game and ends with 1-2 carries per game. He’s the guy they throw out there in the beginning of the season because they “tru-st” him. By the time Wisconsin comes around Turner or Charbonnet better be doubling his carries or else this will be a disaster. Yes, good pass blocker but can’t do much of anything else with the fb in his hand. He may get 400 yds but 80% of that will be in 1st 3 games.

      • Thunder
        Comments: 3215
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Aug 18, 2019 at 7:19 AM

        He had 364 yards in 2018 when Michigan had Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. Don’t you think his production will be bumped by more than 36 yards when the other two guys are a freshman and an oft-injured sophomore? I think the only way Wilson gets “only” around 400 yards is if he gets an injury that keeps him out for a significant chunk of the season.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1447
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          je93
          Aug 18, 2019 at 11:28 AM

          If Tru gets 320yds in three games, he might be worth more snaps

        • Painter Smurf
          Comments: 260
          Joined: 8/12/2015
          Painter Smurf
          Aug 18, 2019 at 8:25 PM

          Agree. Plus, yardage is definitely going up, across the board. We are going to see a good 10 more snaps per game. RB group should get fed in a lot of 2nd halves this year.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 239
          Joined: 12/19/2015
          Extrajuice
          Aug 19, 2019 at 12:46 AM

          Do you see Tru being overtaken (key carries against difficult teams) by anyone throughout the season?

          • Thunder
            Comments: 3215
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Aug 19, 2019 at 7:40 AM

            It depends on the situation. If you need a big play in the run game or screen game, then I think you have to get the ball to someone else. If you’re chugging along at 4 or 5 yards/carry and can make the necessary big plays in the passing game, then you can stick with Wilson.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 5151
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 18, 2019 at 5:35 PM

    What is the intended takeaway of the Higdon/Wilson YPC comparison? Why did Wilson outperform Higdon against unranked teams?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3215
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 18, 2019 at 8:49 PM

      The point is that expecting growth in the run game (at least in the form of Tru Wilson) is probably not a good idea.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5151
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 18, 2019 at 11:52 PM

        The 2018 stats you cited aren’t saying that. Wilson led the team in YPC and outperformed Higdon against unranked teams. He only got 13 carries against ranked teams.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3215
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 19, 2019 at 7:24 AM

          Sorry, but I’m not going to get into a long debate about running back production with you.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5151
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Aug 19, 2019 at 12:53 PM

          I wasn’t thinking it required a long debate to explain why Wilson outperforming Higdon on a YPC basis against unranked teams is somehow a bad thing.

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