2019 Season Countdown: #19 Zach Charbonnet

2019 Season Countdown: #19 Zach Charbonnet


August 13, 2019
Zach Charbonnet (image via Tacoma News Tribune)

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Name: Zach Charbonnet
Height:
6’1″
Weight:
220 lbs.
High school:
Sherman Oaks (CA) Oaks Christian
Position:
Running back
Class:
Freshman
Jersey number:
#24
Last year:
Charbonnet was a senior in high school (LINK). He had 215 carries for 1,795 yards and 17 touchdowns; he also had 3 interceptions on defense.
TTB Rating:
90

I would like to start off by apologizing for liking Zach Charbonnet so much.

Hit the jump for more.

I will refer you to my commitment post for him for a full explanation (LINK), but I have a long history of liking guys (Brandon Minor and Michael Cox, for example) who can’t seem to get off the bench and “disliking” – or liking guys less – who are the apple of Michigan head coaches’ eyes.

Charbonnet reminds me of Georgia running backs in recent years, such as Nick Chubb. They’re well rounded backs who can run over you, make you miss, or run past you. Michigan hasn’t had a guy like that in a while. Even Brandon Minor, who’s my favorite Michigan running back since Mike Hart graduated, was either going to run over you or run past you, but he only occasionally made people miss. For Charbonnet’s long-term health and career longevity, I hope he finds the sideline a little more often than he did in high school.

Now Michigan has an Under Armour All-American who enrolled early but missed the spring due to meniscus surgery. He’s ranked here at #19 as a freshman for several reasons, but the biggest one is that Michigan needs someone with his talent. Starting running back Karan Higdon graduated and went to the NFL, and his expected successor, Chris Evans, got booted for academic issues. As a result, the Wolverines have a room full of unproven running backs. The named starter is Tru Wilson, a former walk-on without much explosive play ability. The wild card is sophomore Christian Turner, who has been banged up during his year on campus so far, too. Charbonnet is the most hyped back to pick Michigan since at least Derrick Green, but the athletic differences between Charbonnet and Green are stark – in a positive way for Charbonnet. On top of the athletic differential, Charbonnet has already made a reputation for himself as a weight room junkie.

I don’t expect Charbonnet to start the whole season, but he’s an excellent piece to have. Wilson brings the steady hand, while Charbonnet is the exciting guy who could break off some big plays. If you want to be an elite team, you need at least one explosive running back. I don’t know if Michigan will be elite this year – they have questions at running back and cornerback, among other spots – but if they do go 12-0 or 11-1, Charbonnet is going to be a big part of it.

Prediction: 120 carries, 600 yards, 8 touchdowns

18 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1564
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Aug 13, 2019 at 7:39 AM

    Those predicted numbers would be a solid contribution

    How’s his pass blocking?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3268
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 13, 2019 at 10:01 AM

      We’ll find out…

  2. GKblue
    Comments: 317
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    GKblue
    Aug 13, 2019 at 8:33 AM

    The science of the training/weight room has passed me by I suppose, but after the surgery rehab I would prefer strength, speed and flexibility training as opposed to bulking up like Mason.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3268
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 13, 2019 at 10:01 AM

      Just because you’re in the weight room doesn’t mean you’re bulking up to 270 lbs. If you’ve had knee surgery, too, it’s probably a very good idea to work on your quadriceps strength, hip flexors, ankle strength, etc. Everything is connected.

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 5334
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 13, 2019 at 11:21 AM

    Good post. I’m not as optimistic but I’ll say this — the kid has a helluva opportunity in front of him.

    The offense is loaded with talent and experience at OL, QB, and WR. TE is fine and RT looks to be too. There are basically no personnel concerns on the offensive end other than RB. Even the projected backups (McCaffrey, Black, Eubanks, Spanellis) seem pretty strong.

    The biggest unknown is a scheme/OC transition that should only level the playing field for a newcomer like ZC. Furthermore, it’s purported to be a change that will create more big play chances than we’ve seen in many years. That would theoretically play right into ZC’s skillset.

    Competition? a walk-on and an oft-injured generic 3-star sophomore with 115 career yards to his resume. That’s all that’s between ZC and a starring role on an offense that could/should be ranked in the top 15 in the country.

    I’m skeptical ZC will be an impact player for a number of reasons (including the rarity of 6’2 RBs*). But I have to say that 600 yards is certainly in the realm of possibility. The buzz about him being a high character kid is very encouraging, perhaps moreso than his top 100 recruiting profile. I do believe he’s the best open-field runner and may indeed be the most ‘explosive’ talent we have at RB.

    At last, we have the kind of OL that makes this skill consistently relevant. I am confident that our RBs will look very good, regardless of who is back there; walk-on, 3-star, fullback, or freshman — we’ll be good at RB.

    ZC may be as likely of a bet as any of them to look REALLY good.

    *Hopefully 6’1 is closer to the truth.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 9
      Joined: 9/21/2015
      evey1975
      Aug 14, 2019 at 5:27 AM

      The OL still has a lot to prove.

      Here’s Higdon’s YPC last year against decent competition: 3.43 at Notre Dame, 6.33 vs. Nebraska, 3.83 at Northwestern, 4.12 vs. Maryland, 5.53 vs. Wisconsin, 4.36 at MSU, 6.6 at Penn State, 4.81 vs. Indiana, 4.80 at Ohio State. That’s three games of 5 YPC out of nine vs. non-tomato cans. All three at home.

      Now, the run game could benefit this year from the passing game becoming more of a threat—both in terms of total attempts and playing off how opponents are defending U-M. But it’s not like this OL has been plowing people.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5334
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 14, 2019 at 10:20 AM

        There is certainly projection going in the OL. Players typically get better and we have 4 returning starters with all conference honors as a foundation.

        I wouldn’t expect to average 5 ypc against top 20 defenses. I don’t know what team does that consistently. Alabama didn’t.

        Against a top defense the odds of a 40+ yard run plummet. The run game needs to be consistent, avoid TFLs, hold onto the ball, keep the D honest, convert in short-yardage situations.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1564
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          je93
          Aug 14, 2019 at 10:51 AM

          It’s all about 1975s last paragraph. Not being so predictable (or stubborn), and insisting on a run play every 1st Down, or making the D pay for loading up against the Run, will certainly help

          • Avatar
            Comments: 1231
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Aug 15, 2019 at 1:24 PM

            Or not insisting on a telegraphed, predictable run play every time we have third and 1 or 2. Even if it works, it’s a throwaway play that has zero chance of going for much more.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5334
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 14, 2019 at 12:18 PM

        Play-calling is a different issue and it isn’t. We all hate to see run-run-pass-punt but coaches have to have faith in players to execute.

        From my memory the game where Michigan was most aggressive in passing it, or at least among them, was Notre Dame. Their tackles got worked and turnovers were plentiful.

        In that sense I agree – the OL is unproven, despite their accolades and honors. Of course RT remains entirely unproven and has been a sore spot for years. One would hope progress has been made a year later and Gattis will feel confident to call riskier plays.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1564
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          je93
          Aug 14, 2019 at 5:47 PM

          We were down double digits until the last 2min, and barley split 50-50

          I’d hardly call that “aggressive”

  4. Avatar
    Comments: 1231
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Aug 13, 2019 at 11:45 AM

    Based on what we know and have seen so far, and if (we can only hope) our passing game is actually used to its full capacity, I would have to put our top 4 RBs down as pretty much interchangeable. That may change once they get a chance to run behind a better than mediocre Oline, but we could do very well on offense even if none of them are great.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5334
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 13, 2019 at 3:14 PM

      I think the overall ability shouldn’t be significantly different but there may be different skillsets. I’m not sure Wilson’s necessarily the guy you want on an outside run on 3rd and long. I’m not sure I’d trust Charbonnet to pass protect on 2nd and 20 yet. I wouldn’t be opposed to Mason or Van Sumeren carrying the rock on short yardage. It will be interesting to see if any of them can prove to be a standout receiver out of the backfield.

  5. shadowstorm33
    Comments: 2
    Joined: 4/11/2017
    shadowstorm33
    Aug 13, 2019 at 1:26 PM

    Any theories as to why the coaches don’t like the players you do? With Cox at least, if I remember correctly, the talk was that despite his very impressive physical abilities, he couldn’t learn the playbook to save his life, which definitely limits his usefulness. But I agree, some of the coaching preferences are a little baffling. Ty Isaac seemed pretty badly underused, and then of course you had players like Gil splitting snaps despite being objectively outplayed by Ross in pretty much ever metric.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3268
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 13, 2019 at 1:36 PM

      There’s always stuff that goes on behind closed doors. It’s hard to say. We have a really talented kid in our program who won’t work hard because we want him to play a different position than what he wants to play. In fact, we have two. We have a prima donna wide receiver who we know is going to throw some temper tantrums this year, so we’ve got another pretty good player at his spot just in case we have to yank him. Those types of things happen in college, too, but the difference is that Michigan has a 4-star guy battling at your same position. So maybe Mike Cox was the better running back, but maybe his practice behavior or whatever was what was getting him put on the bench. I think Brandon Minor got popped for weed after college, so maybe during college that was an issue but it never became public. It’s hard to say.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5334
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 13, 2019 at 3:11 PM

      Mike Cox ran for 3.6 ypc as a senior at UMass and Ty Isaac sat on the bench in the AAF after getting zero NFL interest. I think the more obvious explanation is that the coaches made the correct choice. Otherwise those guys would have shined somewhere else.

      That’s not a knock on anyone — The coaches SHOULD be right! It’s their job, and they are elite professionals. But beyond qualifications, they see these guys every day in practice. We only get a limited sample in the games and that goes especially for backups. Any coach is going to know his players, on the field and off, better than a fan. Even a fan with a lot of valuable insight and experience in the game, coaching, playing, media, whatever.

      Doesn’t mean the coaches are always right but they are always better informed.

  6. JC
    Comments: 256
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Aug 13, 2019 at 5:56 PM

    I’m unsure where I would put the running backs for a few reasons.
    • I believe the OL is going to be vastly improved, and open up enough holes where any of the top three running backs will be serviceable running the ball.
    • Wilson isn’t a game-changing athlete but blocks very well.
    • Turner showed some things last year, but didn’t show a complete resume.
    • Charbonnet is a freshman.

    I am excited to see how running back will shake out this year. I like having Wilson as a security blanket and I’m looking forward to seeing what Turner and Charbonnet can do.

  7. 17years
    Comments: 235
    Joined: 2/6/2018
    17years
    Aug 13, 2019 at 8:19 PM

    A lot is going to be expected out of Charbonnet. And I think he just might come through–because he’s on a team that has Ed Warinner on the coaching staff.

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