The Michigan Wolverines come into Saturday’s game looking to put their appearance in last year’s CFP behind them. All week, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has been calm, as he knows the task at hand. Since last December Harbaugh has made his goal for the Wolverines crystal clear: win it all.
But first Michigan has to beat TCU, and to do that they need a few players to have big games.
With Blake Corum injured, Michigan has seen the emergence of running back Donovan Edwards. However, he is nursing an injury in his right thumb and still wearing a cast on his hand. So among the running backs, who can step in and relieve Edwards for a play or two?
RB/LB Kalel Mullings
Standing at 6’2 and 232 pounds, the two-way player has adjusted to any role he has been given this year. With his size, he has been a short-yardage power back. He scored his first two career touchdowns in the Big Ten Championship just a few weeks back. He finished the day with eight rushes for 26 yards, and five tackles on the defensive side.
“Right now, it’s been pretty much all running back,” Mullings said of his practice reps when talking to the media. “It’s been a little while since I played some linebacker, but yes, just pretty much all running back right now.”
“For me, personally, I just want the team to be successful.” Mullings said. “If I can help out at running back, I’m going to do that.”
Michigan has also used walk-on Isaiah Gash, freshman C.J. Stokes and sophomore Tavierre Dunlap. Keep in mind that Mullings had never carried the ball at Michigan prior to the Ohio State game. But he was a two-way player in high school. The experience has paid off for the Wolverines and may continue to do so on Saturday.
WR Cornelius Johnson
Truth be told, this could be any Michigan wide receiver. Maybe it’s Ronnie Bell, or Roman Wilson, or Andrel Anthony, or even freshman Amorion Walker. But the Wolverines need at least one receiver to be a real deep threat to fully unlock the offense.
For most of the year UM was content to wear teams down by pounding the ball on the ground and moving the chains with intermediate passes to their tight ends. That strategy may work against TCU, too, but fans should count on the Horned Frogs loading up the box to stop the run.
That should give Michigan chances to take some deep shots. For most of the year those weren’t working, for whatever reason, but it all came together against Ohio State. Texas Christian has a pair of good cornerbacks in Tre’vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Josh Newton, so play action passes that target safeties may be the way to go.
WR Ronnie Bell
Once again, this can be a number of different players, but the goal here is to stretch the field horizontally. A.J. Henning seems like the main candidate to handle swing passes, jet sweeps, or wide receiver screens, but it sounds like he may be injured. Ronnie Bell is probably the next best option here, though Wilson might also fit the bill.
And this is another area where Mullings could help. If he’s a viable second running back, then Michigan might be more comfortable putting Edwards in space against TCU’s linebackers and safeties. That’s a mismatch every time.
Michigan has more than enough talent to beat TCU. But as always, it will come down to the coaches making the right calls, and key players stepping up when they have the chance.