2020 Season Countdown: #40 Hassan Haskins

2020 Season Countdown: #40 Hassan Haskins

August 6, 2020
Hassan Haskins (image via Freep)

Name: Hassan Haskins
220 lbs.
High school: 
Eureka (MO) Eureka
Running back
Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: 
Last year: 
I ranked Haskins #64 and said he would be a backup running back and special teamer (LINK). He ran 121 times for 622 yards and 4 touchdowns; he caught 6 passes for 40 yards; and he made 3 tackles on special teams.
TTB Rating:

Haskins was one of several breakout offensive players in 2019, along with Jalen Mayfield and Ronnie Bell. As a freshman in 2018, he bounced back and forth between running back and linebacker. Then with some injuries and the suspension of Chris Evans, he was suddenly thrust into the mix at running back once again and performed admirably. He topped the 100-yard mark twice (Illinois, Notre Dame), but he seemed to be pretty unstoppable against the Fighting Irish, a team many thought would be a difficult matchup for the Wolverines. In a rainstorm, he ran the ball 20 times for 149 yards (7.5 yards/carry) and 1 touchdown, also notching a season-high 49-yarder and leapfrogging a Notre Dame safety.

Despite the breakout season, I have Haskins down here at #40 when he was the primary backup last year. Why? Well, the aforementioned Chris Evans returns to the team after a one-year hiatus, and Evans is a little more versatile. Haskins can be slippery and powerful, but his big-play ability is lacking and he doesn’t present a mismatch for linebackers in the passing game since, well, he’s been a part-time linebacker himself.

I imagine Haskins will take a step down on the depth chart this year, leaving room for Evans and Zach Charbonnet to take the bulk of the snaps. He will probably be the third running back, but the #3 back in 2019, Tru Wilson, handled the ball fewer times (44) than in any of the five seasons since Jim Harbaugh arrived (previous low: Derrick Green’s 47 in 2015).

Prediction: Backup running back; 35 carries, 175 yards, 1 touchdown


  1. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 06, 2020 at 7:15 PM

    Insert my annual grumble about the number of easy to replace RBs in the top 40.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 06, 2020 at 7:24 PM

      I’m not sure how well that argument holds up. Wilson looked a step slower last year, though he averaged over 5.0 yards/carry, mostly in garbage time. The next guy, Christian Turner, averaged 3.9 yards/carry, mostly in garbage time.

      At a position that suffers a fair number of injuries and rotates a lot, the guys down the depth chart are more important than most, since #1 through #3 get on the field regularly. (Though, like I said, Gattis’s offense might stick more to a 1-2 punch rather than a 1-2-3 combo like Harbaugh used to use.)

      I could potentially make the argument that cornerbacks aren’t important, either, because every one of Zordich’s corners ends up virtually leading the conference in completion percentage allowed…but 3-4 corners are going to get on the field regularly, so I deem the the #3 and #4 guys to be pretty important.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 07, 2020 at 11:24 AM

        Here is my rebuttal. By your own logic it’s about what happens if a guy goes down, not who plays the most snaps.

        In 2019 the RBs ranked in the top 40 included: a walk-on 4th stringer, a 5th stringer, and one of the two top rotating backs. None of these guys were really distinguishable from each other or from the 6th rated RB – Haskins. They all averaged around 5 ypc, except Turner (who averaged 5 ypc in 2018). The above entirely ignores Ben Mason (who ran for 7 TDs in 2018).

        With unexpected departures from 3 of the top 5 backs after 2018 this was supposed to be a PROBLEM. It was not. Maybe inexperience at RB contributed to some of the early season troubles for Michigan. Maybe it took some time to figure out the right rotation. But all in all the position was fine and Michigan’s offense looked about as good as it’s looked in a decade to close the year.

        Backups play at every position. There is nothing impactful about the 3rd or 4th RB. Christian Turner or Tru Wilson’s 44 carries can just go to another guy without any effect on outcomes. Jess Speight was a more important player. So was Ryan Hayes. I’d say even Andrew Vastardis – though he played in fewer games he was an injury away from being a starter (like Ryan Hayes). I would assert that he’ll be more important than the 3rd RB again this year, even if he never starts a game.

        The backup DL and OL will be more important than the 3rd or 4th RB again, because, as we’ve seen you can chop down half the RB corps and just throw in another guy and get the same thing. Unlike at other positions we have the stats to back it up. Unlike at other positions we’ve actually SEEN what happens when a 6th string guy (and note that Haskins would have been even lower if Higdon, Evans, or Samuels had returned) has to pop in he plays just as well as a starter.

        • Comments: 3845
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 07, 2020 at 12:31 PM

          I don’t really understand your first paragraph. The guys who get on the field are generally important (which is why they’re on the field in the first place).

          #1-3 at a spot that plays 3 guys are inherently important UNLESS there are 5 or 6 guys who can do the job well.

          At running back, there aren’t. It’s a pretty deep position with 3 very experienced guys (Haskins, Evans, Charbonnet), but Corum is a wild card and Turner hasn’t shown much. I don’t expect either one to help very much in pass protection. You say the guys are indistinguishable (based on what, I don’t know), but Haskins has shown very good balance/power and Charbonnet can do a little bit of everything. Once you get down to #4-5, you’re looking at guys that really limit your play calling and whose ball security, experience, etc. are question marks.

          Some of the backup OL and DL haven’t been profiled in the countdown yet, so I’m not sure what your point is there. There are 22 starters plus a few “starters” on special teams, so there are roughly 14 other backups listed ahead of this guy.

          • Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Aug 07, 2020 at 3:02 PM

            Any other 3rd stringers in the top 40? I’m assuming Haskins is listed behind Charbonnet and Evans.

            It’s one position yet 3 guys in the top 40. If past history is any indicator, no other 3rd stringers are in the top 40, even at QB the most important position.

            There’s rotation sure, but lots of positions rotate, with greater falloff from starter to backup and especially from backup to deep backup (e.g., Meyers vs Dwumfour or Welschof vs. Danna).

          • Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Aug 07, 2020 at 3:05 PM

            Is there any other position where you would make the argument that the 4th stringer isn’t entirely reliable therefore the 3rd stringer is a top 40 guy?

            …Coming off a year where the 6th stringer ended up being a perfectly good starter.

            ….And a guy you are ignoring (Giles Jackson) emerged into the top 3 by seasons end.

            ….And where guys who “haven’t shown much” and freshman consistently fill in.

            ….And where we have a guy with double digit career rushing touchdowns not even in the conversation.

          • Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Aug 07, 2020 at 3:15 PM

            RBs are indistinguishable based on the YPC. Even though that’s a limited metric you see the clustering every year for the primary ball carriers. And generally the backups have better YPC (which I’ve argued is situational but you argue is meaningful).

            While clearly you value RB more than I do, you yourself, most if not every season, argue a backup RB should be in there more – essentially saying the key players are replaceable by a backup.

            Maybe there’s a world where Higdon or Evans would have made a big difference in 2019 but we saw in 2018 that Higdon wasn’t different from Evans and both had a lower YPC than Wilson. Those guys were generally the same as Isaac looking back further. Those are the guys you wanted to take snaps from the starter in 2016.

            This is the cycle. A RB leaves and he is not missed. A RB gets hurt and he is replaced without missing a beat. It doesn’t ALWAYS go this way for a starter but when you get into the 3rd or 4th string option to handle 44 carries a season it does always go this way.

            The 3rd guy becomes important if the guys ahead of him go down. That’s true at every position but we don’t put the 3rd string punter 40th.

            • Comments: 3845
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Aug 07, 2020 at 3:40 PM

              YPC is meaningful when talking about common situations, opponents, etc. I argued for Michael Cox back in the day not because I thought his 8.3 yards/carry would hold up against better opponents, but because I thought it might be better than the 3.9 or 4.4 or whatever it was that the “starter” had.

              Some years the starter is replaceable. Some years he’s not. I don’t think there’s been much frustration with the RB rotation the past couple years when Higdon and Charbonnet/Haskins were the lead backs. Those were the right choices. De’Veon Smith and his 4.5 career YPC was pretty bad. He was #28 and #23 in the conference in yards per carry in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, respectively. Vincent Smith was also not a starting-caliber player. Events since that time have backed up my perception, considering neither one did anything in the NFL and/or their “backups” performed better after they left.

              Smith’s average YPC in his three years as the lead back: 4.8, 4.2, 4.7.
              Average YPC for starters since he left: 6.1, 5.3, 4.9.

              “This is the cycle. A RB leaves and he is not missed. A RB gets hurt and he is replaced without missing a beat.”

              To this, again I say: Insert “CB” for “RB” and the statement has the same amount of truth. Stribling left, and David Long was just as good…Long left, and Thomas was just as good…Watson left, and Gray was just as good…and I could add more names (Clark, Lewis, etc.).

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 07, 2020 at 11:31 AM

        The 3rd CB is usually on the field when the game is on the line.

        The 3rd CB has been ruthlessly exploited by OSU and others as the weak link. Arguably a THE GAME – deciding position.

        You’re not making this argument because you don’t believe it.

        • Comments: 3845
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 07, 2020 at 12:34 PM

          Counterpoint: If the third CB has been ruthlessly exploited by OSU, then maybe he’s not that important. What does it matter if they’re burning the #3 CB as opposed to the #4 or #5 CB?

          • Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Aug 07, 2020 at 3:17 PM

            It could be the difference between giving up 27 points and 56 points.

            The 3rd RB will never be that.

            • Comments: 3845
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Aug 07, 2020 at 3:22 PM

              …but it hasn’t been. We’ve had a pretty good third corner like Brandon Watson, and Michigan let up however many points two years ago when he was on the field.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 07, 2020 at 11:36 AM

        It’s been a long time (probably Mike Hart) since Michigan had a RB who is standout impact player, a guy they will truly miss if he goes down. Vincent Smith (who was an excellent blocker and catcher might be the closest they’ve come since but he had a limited albeit valuable role).

        Even when that day comes (and it likely will) it still won’t justify a 3rd or 4th RB being as important as other backups until such time as Michigan stops having 6,7, or 10 guys who can capably play the position.

        RB is the deepest position on the roster, it rotates frequently, and very few players stand out amongst their peers – particularly at talent rich schools like Michigan. As such, none of them individually are particularly valuable.

        RBs are overrated. They have always been overrated but particularly now, in a pass-dominant era, with option plays being the norm, they are.

  2. Comments: 134
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    Aug 07, 2020 at 10:24 AM

    I like Chris Evans and I’m glad he worked his way back on the team. I think if he’s used the right way he could be a dynamic change-of-pace on offense.

    With that being said….I’ve long felt he was a little over-rated based on his potential. I don’t think he’s ever really translated it into consistent performance or been as dynamic as we’d like him to be. I’m excited to see him in a Gattis offense….but I won’t be surprised if Haskins gets more opportunities than he does.

    • Comments: 49
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Blue in NC
      Aug 07, 2020 at 11:00 AM

      I agree with this. IMO Evans will be more of a specialist and while I think that ZC will be the #1, I think there will be plenty of carries for the #2 back and I think Haskins takes that role.

    • Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Aug 07, 2020 at 11:38 AM

      Agree. It will be interesting to watch how the snaps are distributed in what seems like the deepest RB group Michigan has had in a long time. Charbonnet, Jackson, Haskins, Evans have all earned meaningful snaps.

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