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Michigan football appears to have new star running back in true freshman Zach Charbonnet

Charbonnet scores three touchdowns in second career game

Zach Charbonnet #24 of the Michigan Wolverines is tackled by Jacob Covington #57 of the Army Black Knights, right, during the first half at Michigan Stadium on September 7, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It's been a long time since Michigan football had a true star at running back.

Fitzgerald Toussaint, De'Veon Smith and Karan Higdon were all solid players. Even Brandon Minor had his moments.

But in terms of a workhorse running back as well-rounded as Zach Charbonnet, it's been more than a decade.

The true freshman was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after his 33-carry, 100-yard, three-touchdown performance that helped rescue Michigan from an upset against Army.

Charbonnet has already carried the ball 40 times for 190 yards in his first two college games.

The actual rushing total from the Army game was more about quantity than quality for Charbonnet. Of his 33 carries, 21 went for 3 or fewer yards. He only had two carries of more than seven yards.

Elijah Riley #23 of the Army Black Knights tackles Zach Charbonnet #24 of the Michigan Wolverines during the first half at Michigan Stadium on September 7, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

But situationally, Charbonnet had some critical moments. He powered through a stout Army front three times for touchdowns and moved the chains seven times -- including four times on third down.

He couldn't convert either fourth down attempt, but that was more about Army beating the Michigan front, giving Charbonnet nowhere to go.

Here's a look at the results from all 33 of Charbonnet's carries against Army:

Any concern about Charbonnet's big-play potential was largely dispelled in the opener when he broke off a 41-yard run and averaged 11.3 yards per carry.

What really makes Charbonnet impressive, though, is his polish in other areas.

Jim Harbaugh has raved about Charbonnet as a blocker. The freshman went nine for nine in blitz pickups against Middle Tennessee State and was perfect again in the Army game.

He's also proved to be a weapon in the passing game, catching four passes in the first two games.

For a Michigan team that has already fumbled eight times this season -- losing five of those fumbles -- Charbonnet has secured the ball on all 45 of his touches.

For a true freshman to be so polished in the parts of the game that don't show up on highlight reels, such as blocking, ball security and converting in short yardage, is rare.

Charbonnet has the ability to rip off big runs. That's what initially drew Michigan to him in high school. Once he adds that to his arsenal, he could be the most well-rounded Michigan running back since the Lloyd Carr era.

Charbonnet is already gaining trust in the most difficult aspects of the game. His future is bright.


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