MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — You love your 2016 Charger. It rocks, it purrs, it gets you where you want to go. Only one night, the neighbor pulls up next to you behind the wheel of a 2017 Corvette, grinning from ear to ear, teasing the throttle, holding the beast at bay.
Then he hits the gas.
Meet Dalvin Cook, college football’s Corvette.
If you’re a Michigan man (and woman, this is equal-opportunity envy), admit it: You want one of those, don’t you? From the off on Friday, Florida State’s junior tailback reminded the free world of what the Wolverines don’t have — or rather, don’t have yet. A No. 1 bell cow to build an entire game plan around, the sort of weapon that keeps opposing defensive coordinators up for nights at a time, a bolt of lightning, cocked and loaded and fired upon command.
To put it another way, Michigan’s record when getting outrushed in 2016, Orange Bowl included, is 2-3.
When the Wolverines did the outrushing: 8-0.
“I mean, if you go back and look at the first game of the season, there (are) guys that were making electric plays from the get-go,” Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight said after the Wolverines dropped a 33-32 decision. “And then you see, like at Ohio State, (that Amara) Darboh catch. You know you’re not going to get many big plays when you play a team like Ohio State and Florida State … it’s tough for any linebacker to guard Dalvin Cook, he’s going to be tearing it up on Sundays next year. So no, I don’t think that’s an issue.”
This, however, was:
Getting a 1st down & MORE on a 3rd & 22 run play?!?
Dalvin Cook is truly the RB Mike Shula has been preparing for ? pic.twitter.com/gkPMeXrgqI
— CAR Panthers News (@CarPanthersNews) December 31, 2016
The special ones turn third-and-22 into daylight and a footrace.
The special ones make a good defense look stuck in quicksand.
Cook’s yardage after contact: A bruising 110.
Maybe freshman Chris Evans (49 rushing yards, eight carries vs. Florida State) is that guy. Or could be. The Wolverines’ young back juked at least one Seminoles defender out of his cleats on a 30-yard scamper up the right boundary with 1:36 left in the contest en route to the Wolverines’ third touchdown of the evening.
“For sure,” the Indianapolis native said later. “I look up to guys like (Cook) and feel like I could be in his shoes any time. He said something to the media that there was no doubt in his mind that I would play another game (in college) even if he wasn’t 100 percent. And that just struck me, that you’ve got to be cut from a different cloth to be able to say something like that.”
At first blush, Evans (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) is cut from a similar cloth. With similar wiggles:
— Jon Sanderson (@CampSanderson) December 31, 2016
“Dalvin Cook’s the truth,” Evans said. “He’s legit. I always wanted to see him with my eyes. I always watch him on film, his and (LSU back) Leonard Fournette’s film and see what’s different about them and see why they’re the ‘higher’ guys. I can tell you, he’s a second-effort guy, so he’s going to get that second effort on the play.”
Jim Harbaugh has been courting a second-effort guy, a Cook type of guy — Antioch, Calif., tailback Najee Harris, the nation’s top recruit, a 6-foot-3 workhorse with Bugatti wheels. Despite the teen’s commitment to Alabama, the Wolverines’ coach has visited Harris several times, including holding a satellite camp this past June at his high school. Michigan already has a hard commit from 4-star tailback O’Maury Samuels out of Los Lunas, N.M.
So maybe the Corvette’s on the way.
Or maybe it’s already here, just waiting to be unleashed.
“Absolutely, yeah,” Speight said. “You don’t have to be much of a football guy to know that cut (Evans) made, that juke that he made on that Florida State guy, and those guys are freakish athletic across the board.”
And you don’t have to be much of a numbers guy to read between the lines. Under Harbaugh, the maize and blue when outrushed are 4-5.
When doing the outrushing: 16-1.
The Wolverines don’t just want a Dalvin Cook of their own.
They need one. Stat.