Like 'Gangbusters' And A 'Freight Train,' Zach Charbonnet Announcing Himself At Michigan

It might not be long before he scales the depth chart.

Will Burchfield
August 14, 2019 - 2:42 pm

© MARVIN O. JIMENEZ/SPECIAL TO THE STAR

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On Tuesday afternoon, Jim Harbaugh sat with a panel of reporters on the Big Ten Network's Bus Tour, Michigan's practice fields shimmering in the background of the TV set, and tried to contain his excitement about Zach Charbonnet. 

Among the Wolverines' options at running back, Harbaugh said, Charbonnet is "the one that's coming on like gangbusters." Harbaugh smiled as he talked about Charbonnet's "well-rounded" skillset. Then, lest he get ahead of himself, Harbaugh paused and pointed out, "He's a freshman." 

"Okay," Harbaugh decided. "Moving on." 

Later on Tuesday, while addressing the local media for the time in training camp, Harbaugh circled back. And this time he chose a different phrase. 

"Zach Charbonnet is coming on like a freight train," he said, "He is really, really playing well. Sees holes, can run, got a real knack catching the football, and understands learning the game as well." 

Charbonnet might not be the No. 1 running back on Michigan's depth chart right now -- that appears to be senior Tru Wilson -- or when the season starts, for that matter. But it sure sounds like that's where he's headed. 

As one of the top-five running back recruits in the country in 2019, that's why he's here. 

A minor knee injury kept Charbonnet out of Michigan's spring workouts. That put him behind the eight ball as the team began installing its new up-tempo offense under Josh Gatts. But since he joined practice at the start of training camp earlier this month, it sounds like he hasn't skipped a beat. 

"When you look at his work ethic, he’s always in the weight room, always in the coaches’ offices," Gattis said last week. "He’s a very smart, cerebral player. Even though he missed all of spring, he’s made no mistakes this camp."

Both Harbaugh and Gattis have had plenty of praise for the likes of Wilson and redshirt freshman Christian Turner, too. It's not like Charbonnet is the only one who's stood out. But he stands above those two at 6'1, 220 lbs., and might possess the kind of next-level talent Michigan's backfield otherwise lacks. 

It's a backfield without its top two rushers from last season. A backfield that wants to fuel a "physical running game," Harbaugh said, in an "attacking type of offense." A backfield that, for all the legitimate talk about Michigan spreading things out and slinging it downfield, will have to be the team's backbone when the load gets heavier and the stakes grow higher later this year. 

Charbonnet isn't the one to shoulder that load yet. 

"He's a freshman," Harbaugh said. 

Then he smiled again and said, "I love him. I love him."