Mike Hart shares his thoughts on freshman CJ Stokes and his possible role as the No. 3 back

·5 min read

It’s very apparent who the top two options for Michigan football are in the backfield: Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.

Corum did almost reach 1,000 yards lost season, but due to the injury bug and sharing reps with Hassan Haskins down the stretch, Corum was just shy of the 1,000-yard mark with 952. Now a sophomore, Edwards came into Michigan as one of the best running back recruits that the university has seen in quite a while, but being stuck behind both Hassan Haskins and Corum last year, his playtime was sporadic. But the former five-star recruit shined when his opportunity came his way.

Now in 2022, the Wolverines are set up with another fantastic one-two punch in the backfield. The big question coming into the year, was going to be who would be that No. 3 running back? Michigan tried its hand with linebacker Kalel Mullings in spring, but he has now settled in on the defense. The Wolverines still have Tavierre Dunlap who came in last season with Edwards, but it appears that true freshman CJ Stokes has received the first opportunity to take that role.

Against Colorado State, Stokes was the first back off the bench behind Corum and Edwards. He carried the ball six times for 35 yards in the game.

On Wednesday, running back coach Mike Hart met with the media and he received plenty of questions about the freshman from Columbia (SC).

Hart told the media that both Stokes and Dunlap had good camps. He said that Michigan needed to find that No. 3 guy. Hart says that it’s still not clear who is going to get more carries week-to-week between the two, but he says the bulk of the battle will between these next couple of weeks.

“I think that him and Tavi have had a good fall camp obviously,” said Hart. I think everyone knew this offseason, we had to find a guy that can get carries as a No. 3. And he runs hard. I think he has great burst. So, excited about him, still excited about Tavi. I think the bulk of battling throughout these first couple of weeks of who’s gonna get more touches, who’s gonna get more carries as that No. 3 guy.”

Coming out of high school, Stokes was a three-star recruit according to 247Sports composite. He was the 63rd-ranked running back and the 798th-ranked recruit in the entire country. Stokes had offers from South Carolina, Penn State, Missouri, West Virginia, among others. While he wasn’t some five-star recruit, Hart says that he doesn’t need that. Coach Hart says that wants to recruit “good players”. Hart called Stokes strong-minded and self motivated, Hart loves those type of players.

“I always tell you guys this — at the end of the day, I’m not — you guys know this, the recruiting guys know that I don’t recruit stars, if that makes sense,” said Hart. “I recruit good players or try to recruit good players. And he’s a kid that was under-recruited, who had great film, is fast, had track times, ran the ball hard, ran through people, could show he can catch the ball. And then at the end of the day, it’s just who he is as a person.”

“And you talk about a kid who has a strong mind, who’s confident in himself who’s not afraid of competition,” said Hart. “A kid that is gonna have success in the long run, he wants to be great. Like, you have to have kids that want to be great. Some kids like the recruiter, he wasn’t a kid that you had to call every day. He’s a kid that knew who he was, you know, and just that self-motivation. And those are the kids — the Blake Corums, the Donovan Edwards — those are kids who show up to work every day, you don’t have to worry about, Are going to go to class, we’re going to take care of those things. And those things are more important to me as a coach than kids were ranked five-stars because they go to a big school, that may not be that good.”

Running backs don’t just run the ball. In today’s day and age, you have to be able to run, catch, and pass block. Hart was asked how far along Stokes was with his pass protection. The former Michigan great said that Stokes is just like any freshman, something he has to work on. He said that Stokes can do, but they will continue to work on the consistency of doing it.

“Like any freshman,” said Stokes. “You come in it’s the number one thing any freshman recruit has to work on, is pass pro. Can they do it? Absolutely. Has he done it? Absolutely. You know what I mean? So we’ll move on and I mean, is he gonna be in on third-and-12 when I know they’re gonna bring zero blitz? Probably not. But he could be. No different than Donovan last year. No different than Blake before that. No different than any freshmen I’ve ever coached. Tavi was the same way last year. That’s the biggest jump to college football, is pass protection for any freshmen.”

You can check out CJ Stokes and the rest of the running backs this Saturday at 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network.

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Everything Mike Hart said about Michigan football running backs in Week 2

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire