AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Michigan running back Donovan Edwards, upon learning veteran offensive guards Zak Zinter and Trevor Keegan planned to return for this season, let out an enthusiastic response.
The Wolverines, 13-1 last season, were fifth nationally in rushing, averaging 238.9 yards a game thanks to Edwards and leading rusher Blake Corum, but also in large part because of the offensive line, which won a second straight Joe Moore Award as the top line in the country.
Edwards, asked Monday before a NextGen football camp at Evolution Sportsplex about Keegan and Zinter coming back to the established line, responded with an exaggerated “woohoo."
“You can quote that, just a bunch of Ws and Os, and an exclamation mark,” Edwards said, laughing. “I can see from (Zinter's) perspective for an offensive lineman to show what they can do. I’m happy, selfishly, for me that he’s coming back, him and Keegan, because they were a big part of our offensive line success last year.”
Their announcements came a few days after Corum, who is recovering from knee surgery, announced Jan. 9 his decision to return. Corum informed Edwards earlier that day before making it official. Edwards’ response?
“Let’s run it,” Edwards said. “Literally, let’s run it.”
Things are coming together for Michigan’s offense to be explosive his fall with quarterback J.J. McCarthy, the full-time starter last season as a sophomore, returning, along with receiver Cornelius Johnson, who also last Sunday announced his return, as well as sophomore-to-be tight end Colston Loveland. Michigan finished the 2022 season ranked sixth nationally in scoring offense, averaging 40.4 points a game.
Corum is recovering from surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee suffered just before halftime against Illinois on Nov. 19. A week later at Ohio State, he had two carries before having to shut down his season and had surgery just before the Big Ten championship game in early December.
Edwards also underwent surgery shortly after the Big Ten title game, of which he was named most valuable player, to repair a Bennett's Fracture — a fracture of the base of the thumb — in his right hand. He wore a cast in those final games against Ohio State, Purdue and TCU, and on Monday was wearing a lighter, less intrusive cast while signing autographs.
He will have surgery Jan. 27 to remove hardware from the December surgery.
“I’m doing great,” Edwards said. “I’ve just gotta get the plates and screws out and then I’m gonna be back to the best version of me, although I’ve already been the best version of me.”
After the surgery later this month, he will rehab the thumb and work on mobility and range of motion. He joked that playing with the cast never limited him.
“Still playing better than players with two hands,” he said, laughing.
Corum rushed for 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns and was in the Heisman Trophy conversation before he injured his knee, forcing him to miss the final two games. Edwards, who played in 11 games last season, missing two earlier games because of a lower-body injury, finished with 991 rushing yards and seven touchdowns and also 18 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Edwards said he envisions the carries being more even between the two backs this fall, in part to protect their bodies because of the inherent physical nature of playing running back.
Corum had seven games last season with 25 or more carries, including two games of 30 or more. With this in mind, Edwards is confident there are roles for both backs.
“It’s no reason why I shouldn’t be on the field, no reason why I shouldn’t be getting playing time, because the dynamic player I am, the coaches know how versatile I am,” Edwards said. “The world might now know just as yet, but I’ve been showing it. We’ll see it when the time comes.”
Edwards also had some big rushing performances last season, including 173 yards and two touchdowns against Penn State, 216 yards and two touchdowns (75 and 85 yards) at Ohio State and 185 yards and a score against Purdue in the Big Ten title game.
But what sets the 6-foot-1, 204-pound Edwards apart is his ability to catch out of the backfield. Last October, Michigan running backs coach Mike Hart described the weapon Edwards can be.
“I think Donovan could start at slot receiver anywhere in the country,” Hart said at the time.
Through two seasons, Edwards has 38 catches for 465 yards and three touchdowns. During his freshman season in 2021, Edwards set a single-game record for a running back with 10 catches for 170 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown at Maryland on Nov. 20.
It’s more than likely Edwards’ role will feature significant time as a slot, which suits him. In the Michigan records, he is eighth among running backs in career receiving yards. Anthony Thomas (1997-2000) holds the record with 810 receiving yards.
“I would love to do anything,” Edwards said. “If I play the slot, then the NFL can see how more versatile I am and on top of that, too, I’m closer to one of my goals and that’s breaking the Michigan receiving record for a running back.”