Most Michigan fans are excited to see how the running back group pans out this upcoming season with the emergence of Hassan Haskins, the bright glimpses of Blake Corum, and the arrival of top recruit, Donovan Edwards.
The 2020 season was disastrous from the running game standpoint. The blocking was subpar, play-calling was bad, and the running back rotation was abysmal. The addition of Mike Hart to the coaching staff should help get the Wolverines running game back to where it needs to be.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the former great running backs that have played for the Wolverines. There have been too many to write about, so we’re going to choose the top ten running backs since 1995 — when the Lloyd Carr era started.
The rankings are going to be based upon starts, stats, and how the team performed during each players tenure in Ann Arbor.
ATLANTA - DECEMBER 14: Fullback B. J. Askew #35 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers grabs a warm-up pass against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 14, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Career statistics: 343 carries for 1,580 yards (4.6 YPC) and 17 TD; 83 catches for 777 yards (9.4 yards/catch) and 6 TD Top performance: In 2002 vs Michigan State - 32 carries for 149 yards and 2 TDs Why the rank? Askew played from 1999-2002 and was a hybrid back for his career. He played a little fullback and running back, but played mostly running back his final two years in Ann Arbor. Askew's stats aren't glamorous, but he played a vital role in the running attack during his tenure. Askew was selected in the thirrd round of the 2003 draft by the New York Jets - as a fullback.
Running back Chris Howard of the Michigan Wolverines moves the ball as Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Deshea Townsend attempts to tackle him during the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. Alabama won the game, 17-14.
Career statistics: 418 carries for 1,876 yards (4.5 YPC) and 17 TD; 60 catches for 429 yards (7.2 yards/catch) and 3 TD Top performance: In 1996 vs UCLA - 16 carries for 109 yards and 4 TDs. Why the ranking? Howard played for the Wolverines from 1994-1997, and helped secure a National Championship in 1997. Howard split time with Clarence Williams for a few seasons, but in 1997 he became the lead back with Anthony Thomas as the lead back-up. Howard was drafted in the fifth round of the 1998 draft by the Denver Broncos.
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Career statistics: 495 carries for 2,235 yards (4.5 YPC) and 22 TD; 38 catches for 251 yards (6.6 yards/catch) and 1 TD Top performance: In 2016 vs Indiana - 23 carries for 158 yards and 2 TDs Why the rank? Just a few years removed, Smith played from 2013-2016 for the maize and blue. Smith really planted his foot as the lead back in 2015, and started a couple of seasons for Michigan. He was never the fastest player on the field, but Smith was always a tough tackle, and always fought for extra yards. De'veon Smith went undrafted in the 2017 draft, but signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent.
Nov 30, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (28) runs the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium. Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Career statistics: 510 carries for 2,290 yards (4.5 YPC) and 28 TD; 31 catches for 298 yards (9.6 yards/catch) and 2 TD Top performance: In 2011 at Illinois - 27 carries for 192 yards and 1 TD Why the rank? Toussaint played for the maize and blue from 2010-2013. He put up some really good numbers behind a not very good offensive line. During his Sophomore season, Toussaint rushed for 1,041 yards. Toussaint displayed some really good speed and vision during his time in Ann Arbor. Toussaint could've put up massive numbers behind a stellar offensive line. Toussaint played a few years for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL.
Nov 14, 2009; Madison, WI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Tate Forcier (5) hands the football off to running back Brandon Minor (right) during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin defeated Michigan 45-24. Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Career statistics: 330 carries for 1,660 yards (5.0 YPC) and 20 TD; 10 catches for 70 yards and 2 TD Top performance: In 2009 vs Purdue - 19 carries for 154 yards and 3 TDs Why the rank? Minor played from 2006-2009 for the maize and blue. For what the hand Minor was dealt with - playing behind Mike Hart his first year, and then getting a new coach in 2008 in Rich Rodriguez - he had a fine career. Even running behind a bad offensive line in 2008, Minor was a Big Ten coaches honorable mention awardee.
Career statistics: 471 carries for 2,622 yards (5.6 YPC) and 27 TD; 16 catches for 177 yards and 1 TD Top performance: In 2017 at Indiana - 25 carries for 200 yards and 3 TDs Why the rank? Higdon played from 2015-2018 and really emerged as the lead back his junior season. Higdon rushed for 994 yards his junior year and followed it up his senior year rushing for 1,178 yards. The senior back was first-team All Big Ten in 2018. Higdon went undrafted in the 2019 draft, but signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent.
Photo: Richard Mackson / USA TODAY Sports
Career statistics: 811 carries for 3,696 yards (4.6 YPC) and 39 TDs; 66 catches for 572 yards (8.7 YPC) and 2 TDs Top performance: In 2003 vs Central Michigan - 22 carries for 232 yards and 3 TDs Why the rank? Perry rushed for the Wolverines from 2000-2003, and he sits 7th all-time at Michigan with 3696 rushing yards in a career. He is also 6th in this history books at Michigan with 39 TDs for his career. Perry was an All-American, Doak winner, and also a Heisman finalist in 2003. He was selected in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2004 NFL draft.
30 Dec 1994: Tailback Tim Biakabutuka #21 of the Michigan Wolverines runs with the ball during the Holiday Bowl game against the Colorado State Rams at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. Michigan won the game 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport
Career statistics: 472 carries for 2,810 yards (6.0 YPC) and 24 TDs; 13 catches for 123 yards (9.7 YPC) Top performance: In 1995 vs Ohio State - 37 carries for 313 yards and 1 TD Why the rank? Playing from 1993-1995 Biakabutuka became a full time starter in his junior season - where he broke the single-season rushing record at Michigan when he rushed for 1,818 yards. He helped single-handedly defeated the previously unbeaten Buckeyes when he rushed for 313 yards his junior year - which is second all-time in the Michigan record book for a single game. Biakabutuka was the eighth overall pick in the 1996 draft when he was selected by the Carolina Panthers.
EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 3: Mike Hart #20 of the Michigan Wolverines talks with a reporter after the win against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium November 3, 2007 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan defeated Michigan State 28-24. (Photo by: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Career statistics: 1,015 carries for 5,040 yards (5.0 YPC) and 41 TDs; 67 catches for 566 yards (8.4 YPC) and 2 TDs Top performance: In 2007 vs Eastern Michigan - 22 carries for 215 yards and 3 TDs Why the rank? Hart was a four year starter from 2004-2007, and his name is all over the history book at Michigan. Hart has the most rushing yards in a career with 5,040 and fifth with 41 career rushing touchdowns. Hart was freshman of the year in 2004, and was a first team All-Big Ten awardee three times in his career. Hart is famously known for the "little brother" comment when talking about Michigan State. Hart was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
1 Jan 2001: Anthony Thomas #32 of the Michigan Wolverines runs with the ball during the Citrus Bowl Game against the Auburn Tigers at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. The Wolverines defeated the Tigers, 31-28. Photo Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport
Career statistics: 924 carries for 4,472 yards (4.8 YPC) and 55 TDs; 88 catches for 810 yards (9.2 YPC) and 1 TD Top performance: In 2000 at Northwestern - 37 carries for 199 yards and 3 TDs Why the rank? Thomas played from 1997-2000 and was a three-year starter for the maize and blue. 'A-Train' is second in career rushing touchdowns at Michigan with 55, sixth overall in a single season with 18 rushing touchdowns, third overall with 4,472 rushing yards in a career, and second overall with 1,733 rushing yards in a single season. Thomas was a true 'bell-cow' at the tailback position, and he was first team All-Big Ten in 2000. Thomas was selected in the second round off the 2001 draft by the Chicago Bears.