Run the damn ball. Coming into the game, Indiana was ranked #91 in rushing defense. And it was raining. So naturally, Michigan decided to come out throwing, with four pass plays and two rushes in the first six plays. Two of those pass plays resulted in sacks, and one was a drop by Colston Loveland. Meanwhile, the two carries by Corum averaged 4.5 yards per rush. Michigan wasn’t necessarily going to obliterate Indiana on the ground with huge runs, but they could have just taken over the game physically instead of trying to throw in those conditions.
Name: Benjamin Hall Height: 5’11” Weight: 235 lbs. High school: Kennesaw (GA) North Cobb Position: Running back Class: Freshman Jersey number: #28 Last year: Hall was a senior in high school (LINK). He ran 61 times for 324 yards and 4 touchdowns, and he caught 9 passes for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns. TTB Rating: 71
Hall is one of the most interesting recruits in the 2023 class. It’s baffling to me that he played second fiddle to someone else, but that represents the embarrassment of riches North Cobb had at running back this past season. They had a running back going to the Big Ten champion Michigan Wolverines on a scholarship, but their primary running back was Clemson commit David Eziomume (4-star, #30 RB, #366 overall in 2024). Hall was a 3-star, the #55 running back, and #787 overall in 2023.
(In case you think I’m jealous as a coach of North Cobb having two FBS players at one position . . . you’re right. I am jealous.)
When Michigan accepted Hall’s commitment, it was a little bit underwhelming and left a lot of people scratching their heads. Why were the Big Ten champions accepting a commitment from a little known player when the Wolverines were on a run of landing Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, among others, and producing the likes of Hassan Haskins?
Well, Hall was one of the stars of Michigan’s spring game and showed some excellent vision and toughness. Despite being 235 pounds, he has quick feet and good lateral agility. Perhaps he won’t ever be a superstar because he lacks great speed, but he can be a productive running back at the FBS level. The only thing holding him back right now is that pesky Corum-Edwards combination. Both of them could be picked in the first couple rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft, and both of them could be All-Big Ten in 2023. Hall will likely be battling with sophomore C.J. Stokes for the #3 running back role. I think it’s a toss-up between the two, but Michigan needs to be ready for the 2024 season when Michigan fans could be looking at a competition between Hall, Stokes, and Cole Cabana as the top backs on the roster.
Okay, it’s time to put some thoughts about the spring game on paper.
QUARTERBACK: We know what J.J. McCarthy brings to the table, and Michigan was never going to let him factor into the run game, so whatever. This comes down to thoughts on the backups. After watching Michigan have a good 1-2 punch the past two years with McCarthy and Cade McNamara, there is a big question mark at the #2 quarterback spot in 2023. I thought redshirt sophomore Davis Warren once again outplayed the competition, which comes from Alex Orji and Indiana transfer Jack Tuttle. Tuttle had a couple decent throws and showed some decent athleticism on the run, but Warren is more accurate and probably a better decision maker, despite the fact that Tuttle is a sixth-year player. Orji has decent arm strength but leaves something to be desired when it comes to his timing and accuracy; running is the best part of his game, and he’s a change-up guy. I would put him at #4 on the depth chart.
Mark Fletcher – Fort Lauderdale (FL) American Heritage: Miami
Justice Haynes – Buford (GA) Buford: Alabama
Sedrick Irvin, Jr. – Miami (FL) Columbus: Stanford
Kaleb Jackson – Baton Rouge (LA) Liberty: LSU
Christopher Johnson – Fort Lauderdale (FL) Dillard: Miami
Jaquez Keys – Ironton (OH) Ironton: Wake Forest
Jayden Limar – Lake Stevens (WA) Lake Stevens: Oregon
London Montgomery – Scranton (PA) Prep: Penn State
Samuel Singleton, Jr. – Orange Park (FL) Fleming Island: Florida State
Daylan Smothers – Charlotte (NC) West: Oklahoma
Dijon Stanley – Granada Hills (CA) Granada Hills: Utah
Darius Taylor – Walled Lake (MI) Western: Minnesota
Treyaun Webb – Jacksonville (FL) Trinity: Florida
Richard Young – Lehigh Acres (FL) Lehigh: Alabama
REASON FOR THE GRADE: Michigan needed at least one running back in the class of 2023 to bump up its scholarship backs from four to five. As we saw this past season, four scholarship running backs leaves Michigan precariously thin at the position. When Blake Corum hurt his knee and backup Donovan Edwards hurt his hand, Michigan was stuck with redshirt freshman Tavierre Dunlap, true freshman C.J. Stokes, position switchers, and walk-ons. That led to an array of plays in which more talented backs would have made Michigan’s season a little easier, such as walk-on Isaiah Gash’s dropped pass against Illinois and converted linebacker Kalel Mullings’s fumble against TCU. Michigan should have at least five scholarship backs on its roster at all times.
So Michigan needed at least one, and then a lot of people expected Blake Corum to leave for the NFL after a highly productive season, bumping up the need to two. Indeed, Michigan landed speedster Cole Cabana (4-star, #10 RB, #161 overall), who might be more of a scat back who can split out wide. And they also took a fairly early commitment from Benjamin Hall (3-star, #55 RB, #781 overall). Hall is the bigger question mark of the two, not only because of his lower ranking, but also because he didn’t start for most of his senior season. Hall is a bigger back (5’10”, 225 lbs.) and lacks great speed. One might expect to see him be a bruising downhill runner, but he bounces a lot of his runs outside and tries to reverse field, which he will not have the speed to do in college.
Michigan tried to get in late on in-state Minnesota commit Darius Taylor, but it was too late to get much movement there. So obviously the coaching staff wanted a third back – or perhaps to replace Hall in the class – but that didn’t happen. That not only solidifies my confidence that Michigan wanted at least two backs, but it makes me question how much confidence they have in the guys they brought in.
Right now the Wolverines are in a good position with Corum, Edwards, Dunlap, and Stokes all returning (for now), plus Cabana and Hall entering the program. Even if someone like Dunlap or Stokes transfers following the spring, Michigan would still have five scholarship guys on the roster.