Script by Inside The Huddle.
On Saturday, in the 2016 Michigan football season opener, redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight silenced his doubters, redshirt junior linebacker Mike McCray offered a preview of what he can accomplish in Don Brown’s blitz-heavy defense, the Wolverines tied a single-game record with two pick-sixes from senior defensive backs Channing Stribling and Delano Hill.
But Saturday belonged to the freshmen, particularly rookie running back Chris Evans.
Throughout the four decades of freshman eligibility, there have been 29 efforts in which a first-year runner went for 100 yards or more in a game, including the program record for a rookie 234 yards Mike Hart had against Illinois in 2004.
However, only two freshmen – Walter Cross in 1998 and Chris Perry in 2000 – had ever rushed for 100 yards in a career debut. Cross had 104 yards in his debut against Syracuse in 1998. Perry had 103 yards against Bowling Green in 2000. On Saturday, Evans rushed for 112 yards setting the new standard for true freshman success in a debut.
The 5-11, 200-pounder scored on runs of 18 and 43 yards, his first niftily keeping his feet in bounds as he dove for the end zone pylon. The second showing off incredible burst as he surged through a big hole and left the Hawaii secondary in the dust.
Evans had the brightest performance among his freshman cohorts on a day that saw Michigan play 17 true freshmen, including 16 scholarship players. Think about this: in the previous 44 years of true freshman eligibility, U-M had played a season record of 12 in 2007, 2010 and 2013. A SEASON record. We’re at 17 and counting.
In addition to Evans, wide receiver Eddie McDoom had two rushes for 34 yards and two receptions for 15 yards, accounting for 49 yards on four touches. Running back Kingston Davis averaged 8.5 yards on two carries. Tight end Sean McKeon and receiver Kekoa Crawford combined for three receptions and 28 yards.
Defensively, the rookies had 6.5 tackles, including one for loss, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry.
In February, Rivals.com ranked this 29-man recruiting class No. 4 nationally and everyone was impressed. Coach Jim Harbaugh likely disagreed. In his book, it probably should have been No. 1.