NCAA Football: Michigan at Rutgers

Michigan running back Blake Corum will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury requiring surgery, according to 247Sports' Sam Webb. Corum had emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate prior to the injury, which he sustained against Illinois on Nov. 19.

Corum tried to play in Michigan's 45-23 win over Ohio State last week but exited after two carries early in the game. In Corum's absence against the Buckeyes, Donovan Edwards rushed for 216 yards and scored two touchdowns -- one of 75 yards and the other of 85 -- late in the game.

The No. 2 Wolverines play Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday and are widely expected to be part of the College Football Playoff for the second season in a row. That means Michigan could play up to three more games this season without the player who has been the centerpiece of their offense.

Corum ran for 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry as Michigan's lead running back this season after splitting duties with Hassan Haskins last season. He surpassed 100 yards rushing in all eight of Michigan's Big Ten games until the Ohio State contest. 

Next man up

Replacing Corum's production won't be easy, though Edwards appears plenty capable of taking on an increased workload. The sophomore has amassed 687 yards and six touchdowns on 92 carries this season, while also catching 16 passes for 188 yards and two scores. At 6-foot, Edwards is four inches taller than Corum but runs with a similarly bruising style. In addition to his monster game against Ohio State, Edwards also turned in a huge performance in the Wolverines' second-biggest win of the season when he ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns against Penn State on Oct. 15.

After Edwards, Michigan is likely to rely on true freshman C.J. Stokes for help in the backfield. A former three-star prospect, Stokes has carried rushed 55 times for 273 yards this season. Much of his work came early in the year against the Wolverines' lackluster nonconference opposition, but he carried 11 times for 36 yards against Illinois with Corum hampered by his injury. 

The absence of Corum for the postseason could also mean that McCarthy continues to play an increased role in what Michigan does offensively. The redshirt freshman was largely a game manager this season, but he took his game to new heights against Ohio State with three long touchdown passes.

Corum's legacy

As a junior, Corum is draft-eligible. However, he is not ranked among the top running backs in the 2023 CBS Sports NFL Draft Prospect Rankings. Regardless of whether he turns pro or returns to Michigan, he cemented his place as a key figure in the program's renaissance under coach Jim Harbaugh over the past two seasons. Even though Haskins led the team in rushing in 2021, Corum was still a key part of the offense with 952 yards  and 11 touchdowns as the Wolverines finished 12-2 with an appearance in the CFP.

2022 will be remembered as Corum's true breakout season, however. Few offensive players -- and certainly very few running backs -- have taken on the brunt of the responsibility for their team's success on that side of the ball. And yet Corum is as important as any individual performer this season. His injury will make it hard for him to win the Heisman -- USC QB Caleb Williams seems to have run away with that late in the year -- but his effectiveness should at least merit an invite to New York.