Name: Tru Wilson
Weight: 200 lbs.
High school: Warren (MI) De La Salle
Position: Running back
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.
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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
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