SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Donovan Edwards speaks of his abilities on a football field with the confidence of someone claiming water is wet.
The other Michigan running backs, seated at a table next him, don’t even glance in his direction when he says it. They’ve heard it before.
Edwards is good. Knows he’s good. Will tell you he’s good.
“There’s nobody in the country that can do just about half the things I can do,” Edwards said Thursday at Fiesta Bowl media day. “There are other talented people, but when it comes down to it I’m just special. God has blessed me.”
Confident even before his turn in the spotlight, Edwards will likely be a key cog in No. 2 Michigan’s bid to beat No. 3 TCU Saturday in the Fiesta Bowl, one of two College Football Playoff semifinals.
The Wolverines (13-0) appeared to suffer a playoff-crushing blow when Blake Corum went down with a knee injury against Illinois on Nov. 19 that ended his season a week later. Corum had a Heisman Trophy-worthy season going before the injury, one that was still good enough to earn first-team Associated Press All-American honors despite missing the final two games.
Edwards picked up the ball from Corum and kept running, taking a star turn in Michigan’s two biggest games of the season.
The 6-foot-1, 204-pound sophomore ran for 216 yards and two touchdowns in the Wolverines’ lopsided win over rival Ohio State. He backed that up with 185 yards rushing and a touchdown in a 43-22 win over Purdue in the Big Ten championship game.
It’s a small sample size, but it’s hard to argue with Edwards’ proclamations so far.
“We knew he had it in him. Donovan is one of most confident guys I’ve ever met in my life,” Michigan offensive lineman Ryan Hayes said. “We knew he was going to step in and do his thing because I think he was waiting for that moment to kind of have that spotlight on him. I think he loves that spotlight, too.”
Edwards was considered one of the nation’s top running backs out of West Bloomfield High School, about 45 minutes northeast of Ann Arbor. He showed off his skills in glimpses through his first two seasons while playing behind Hassan Haskins and Corum.
Edwards set a Michigan record for a running back with 170 yards receiving against Maryland as a freshman and threw a 75-yard touchdown pass against Iowa in the Big Ten championship game.
Edwards ran for 173 yards against Penn State early this season, but got limited touches most of the season until getting his shot late.
“I thrive in the big games,” Edwards said. “I come alive in the big games. That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to play in the big games.”
Edwards gives Michigan a different dynamic than when Corum was the main running back.
Corum was excellent at picking holes and is better on short runs. Edwards is a more patient runner behind his blockers, but is also more likely to bounce away from the designed hole in search of a big gain.
Edwards also is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, even lining up in the slot at times the past two seasons.
“He can run behind his pads really well,” TCU defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie said. “This isn’t going to be a one-man tackling type deal. You’re going to have to have some gang tackling, guys running to the ball. He can also extend the play on the perimeters, and he’s got speed.”
Edwards also is supremely confident in his abilities. Just ask him.
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