Zach Charbonnet, Ex-Wolverine

Zach Charbonnet, Ex-Wolverine

January 18, 2021
Zach Charbonnet (image via Michigan Daily)

News came on Monday that rising junior running back Zach Charbonnet is entering the transfer portal.

Hit the jump for more.

Charbonnet was Michigan’s leading rusher in 2019, toting the ball 149 times for 726 yards (4.9 yards/carry) and 11 touchdowns. But in 2020, he fell behind Hassan Haskins. Charbonnet ran the ball just 19 times for 124 yards (6.5 yards/carry) and 1 touchdown in five games during his sophomore year, and he was not consistently productive behind a young and patchwork offensive line.

Though Charbonnet’s sophomore year started off with a bang against Minnesota – including a 70-yard touchdown – he didn’t do much else. That left him with 18 other carries that totaled just 54 yards. Michigan also failed to use his receiving skills effectively out of the backfield, as he totaled just 14 receptions in two seasons. He was probably Michigan’s best pass blocking running back in 2020, but a borderline 5-star running back should be more than a pass blocker.

Charbonnet was a 4-star, the #4 running back, and #46 overall in the 2019 class. I gave him a TTB Rating of 83 (LINK) before bumping him up to a 90 (LINK).

Though I think Jay Harbaugh has done a fine job of developing running backs on an individual level, Michigan has long done a terrible job of featuring running backs. The last Michigan running back to get drafted was Mike Hart in 2008 (coincidentally Michigan’s new running backs coach).

Over the past 20 years, Michigan has consistently taken elite high school running backs – David Underwood, Carlos Brown, Sam McGuffie, Derrick Green, Ty Isaac, Charbonnet – and turned them into bit players or forced them to transfer. All of them were usurped by ho-hum recruits like Hart, Brandon Minor, De’Veon Smith, and Hassan Haskins.

If you are a low-ranked running back, you should commit to Michigan when there’s a superstar running back also pledged to the Wolverines. It seems inevitable that 3-star Tavierre Dunlap will outplay 4-star Donovan Edwards in the 2021 class.

Also on the heels of Mike Hart’s hiring as running backs coach, I’m afraid what I said in the Hart post is accurate: he’s going to promote runners like him – slow but dependable – over guys with more explosive capabilities. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but if you scour the College Football Playoff teams, you find teams with explosive running backs. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and whoever else ends up in the CFP don’t have 5’11”, 220 lb. 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust backs.

It’s probably a coincidence, but maybe not: Hart himself was 0-4 against Ohio State, but the most recent win against the Buckeyes in 2011 came with perhaps Michigan’s best running back in the last dozen years or so. Fitzgerald Toussaint averaged 6.0 yards/carry (20 attempts for 120 yards) in the 41-35 win that year. I have to imagine Charbonnet met with Hart in the past couple days and did not get a warm, fuzzy feeling about the direction of the position.

Ultimately, I can’t blame Charbonnet for his choice. He’s a talented running back far from home and his coaches won’t hand him the ball more than 3.8 times per game. He can go somewhere and not have to sit a year, so there’s not much of a downside.

Michigan’s remaining running backs include redshirt junior Hassan Haskins, sophomore Blake Corum, freshman Donovan Edwards, and freshman Tavierre Dunlap. Two players have departed since last season: Chris Evans (NFL) and Christian Turner (transferred to Wake Forest).

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