It’s that time again! It’s time to sit down and check in on one of the more interesting players and match ups for this weekend’s college football schedule in our Player to Watch space.
However, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that this column appears to have somewhat of a touch of bad luck that follows the players covered – You can read the rest here – With none having a particularly great outing game after being written up.
Big Blue fans will hope that a similar effect isn’t felt by their star running back in this weekend’s game against Iowa… Although, how do you better 243 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns? Anyway, let’s get into Blake Corum…
So who is this power cube of a running back?
Blake Corum is on quite the tear to start this season as Michigan have stormed to a 4-0 start and to #4 in the AP Top 25 (although more importantly to the same position in the UK & Ireland CFB Media Rankings). Corum has scored at least one touchdown in each of the four games, he has had a 5 touchdown game against UConn and followed this with the aforementioned 243 yard game against Maryland last weekend! So it’s safe to say that he’s having quite the season so far!
Last year he was part of an absolutely deadly duo with Hassan Haskins in the Wolverines backfield with the pair combining for over 2,400 all-purpose yards. These guys powered Michigan as they won the Big Ten Championship, ended the season ranked #3 in the country, losing in the college football playoff semi-final to eventual champions Georgia and best of all, beat Ohio State.
I’ve got to say I was very interested to see how Corum would fare without Haskins, but he seems to be shouldering the load and thriving as the main man this season! Whether he succumbs to the previously discussed Player to Watch Kiss of Death remains to be seen.
Into the background before we get some film study in then; Corum stands at 5’8 and packs a dense 210 lbs on to his frame – We really are talking about a wrecking ball of a runner here. Corum grew up in Marshall Virginia before heading to St. Frances Academy in Baltimore for High School where he accumulated over 40 touchdowns across his Junior and Senior seasons, which earned him a 4-star rating across all major recruiting sites.
Since arriving on campus in Ann Arbor, Corum has worked his way up the depth chart to make it into his current role; in his Freshman season he mainly saw action as a returner, returning five kicks and one punt, with small action as the third running back in rotation. Although he showed his potential by scoring twice in 31 total touches. Then came the breakout Sophomore season where he and Haskins dominated pretty much everyone they faced.
Let’s see how he does his damage…
Corum is a squatty back who can do damage between the tackles. He has a jittery, one-cut style and good vision, which is fantastic when combined with his burst and lateral quickness when needed to create yardage.
Check out how he makes the first man miss with a cut to the outside before a little shake’n’bake leaves another Northwestern defender’s ankles in shambles for a nice gain that leaves Michigan on the verge of a score.
Which brings me on to Blake’s next strength – The guy is a finisher from short yardage.
This is the very next play in the game against Northwestern. He doesn’t get stopped from that distance, as you can see in the above tweet thread vs. UConn.
Let’s talk about an aspect where Blake is underused – Pass catching. With only 31 catches to date, there isn’t a huge sample size for this but I feel from what I did see, Corum has nice, soft hands and he can take in ones like this that require him to make a catch on the move. Back to the Northwestern game;
There’s no run after catch here, which I feel he can easily get in different circumstances, but I have included this one as I felt it was one that could easily have been dropped. He’s backpedalling, with defenders approaching at pace.
Generally speaking, I see a lot of evidence of Blake being a safe checkdown option with the ability to catch the ball with hands extended away from his body, before turning and accelerating upfield for a decent gain. Easy money for JJ McCarthy and Michigan.
This is an area that will also intrigue NFL teams and make them wonder about his ceiling in his area, because it does feel like there’s untapped potential here.
This next clip is one I absolutely love, which is from the Michigan State game from last year. Michigan schemes up a lovely run off the left side of their line here, Corum shows outstanding patience to wait for the blockers to open things up and he’s able to burst through the gap. This is a long-developing run play with both tight ends making their way across the formation, as well as the center getting involved. Some running backs would get jittery and get dancing feet in the backfield on plays like this, but not Blake.
It’s not a huge gain but just shows his maturity as a runner.
I’ve also seen multiple instances of Corum being willing and able to do the dirty work as a running back. Corum is willing to chip as he releases out of the backfield, he’s willing to stay in as a pass protector when needed too, and he’s more than a speed bump in those situations. Corum will also get after it as a blocker downfield too when the ball doesn’t go to him and he puts in the effort when doing so.
Add this to his value as a returner, (although as the clear RB1 Michigan hasn’t asked him to return through four games this year) and we have a player whose stock has a good floor level.
However, as is tradition here in the Player to Watch film segment, we can’t finish off before giving one area of weakness and for Corum aside from his size profile, it’s his long speed.
In short areas he’s great and he has the burst to make a short gain into a long one but over long distances he’s just not a burner.
We can see this in this return against Western Michigan last season. It’s a superb play and sets Michigan up with fantastic field position, but I feel like a real speedster takes his to the house.
A positive within a play I’m using a negative though – The contact balance is brilliant. Corum’s low center of gravity and thick lower half means he’s very difficult to bring down on first contact.
On to this weekend!
This week against Iowa sees Corum face a stingy defense with a couple of big linebackers…
Iowa’s record stands at 3-1 for the season so far, which on the face of it, seems pretty good. However, anyone who has been paying attention to college football will have noticed that the Iowa offense has become somewhat of a meme with their lack of scoring punch. Although, back-to-back 27 point outputs (albeit against Nevada and Rutgers) may stem the tidal wave of tweets somewhat.
On the flip side, the Hawkeyes defense is performing at a high level, having given up just 20 total points all season. Ok, the opponents have been South Dakota State, Iowa State, Nevada and Rutgers but still, this defense has always been a good units that has almost always performed to a level that is more than the sum of its parts in under Kirk Ferentz and DC, Phil Parker.
The unit is anchored by linebackers, Jestin Jacobs and star man, Jack Campbell, who was ranked very highly by myself and Keith in our Summer Scouting podcast. Jacobs measures up at 6’4 and Campbell at 6’5, unusual given their positions, so it will really feel like a David and Goliath(s) game when Corum gets to the second level. Campbell in particular is a tackling machine with good tackle radius and stopping power. He’s not the most athletic when moving side-to-side, but I know he’ll have been devouring Corum film in the lead up to this game and will be ready.
I really feel like this one-on-one is key – If Campbell can stop Corum from getting going, it’ll go a long way to stopping the cogs in the Michigan machine from turning, and give Iowa a chance to stay in the game and maybe steal it. The Wolverines may have put up 200 points so far this season but this is Big Ten football now, and Kinnick Stadium is never an easy place to play.
So should you be looking forward to seeing Corum on Sundays?
Corum will get drafted, there’s no doubt in my mind about that.
He has been very productive, he’s got some interesting traits as we discussed earlier, as well as some special teams value. He has also played at a high level for a blue blood programme, in a time of success for the programme. However, just how high will he be drafted?
I feel like Corum’s size puts limitations on his draft ceiling – There just aren’t too many 5’8 running backs who are hugely successful in the league right now and of course, running back is a hugely devalued position in today’s NFL, especially when it comes to the draft.
His old buddy Hassan Haskins was picked up with the 131st Pick (fourth round) by the Tennessee Titans, and I think that could be a similar point in which Corum has his name called on day 3 of the draft next April.
Yes, it sounds sort of disrespectful to say that his super-productive college player will go on day 3, but that’s the reality of having this profile, at this position. Every season there is a running back who is productive in the NFL, that 90% of fans of his team won’t have heard of before he started scoring touchdowns on Sundays. Think of someone like Elijah Mitchell at the 49ers, he was drafted in the 6th round and has 1,100 scrimmage yards last year! However that is sadly the reality of it, especially when he doesn’t have that breakaway speed. He’s a short-term, short yardage battering ram, the kind of back that an NFL team will draft, run into the ground whilst on his rookie contract and then discard, in all likelihood.
Sad, but true.
Corum is a super-fun player to watch and he will be fondly remembered in Ann Arbor and by Michigan fans for a long while. However, there’s a part of me which feels that he could blend into relative obscurity in the NFL, whilst having a respectable career for a decent number of years.
The sort of player who makes me think, fun college player but just fine in the NFL.
So let’s enjoy his dominance whilst he’s still playing on Saturdays! Corum is worth a watch almost alone for a Michigan team who will be pushing all the way for that 4th playoff spot this year and another visit to the CFB playoff.
By Lee Wakefield – Follow Lee on Twitter, @Wakefield90