ATLANTA — For about a minute and a half, Christian Turner was on top of the Michigan world.
Taking his first carry across the field, around the edge and down the sidelines to the end zone, the freshman running back from Buford, Georgia had given Michigan an early lead on his first carry in over two months with a 48-yard score.
It was called back and ruled an eight-yard run, as replays showed Turner ever-so-slightly stepping out of bounds. After the game, Turner didn’t exactly agree with the call, for the record.
“I didn’t think I stepped out,” he said. “I guess I did. Next time I go to the end zone, it won’t be called back.”
If Saturday was any indication, there’s a high possibility of a next time for Turner in the fall. The freshman, who will redshirt after only appearing in three games this fall, carried the ball seven times for 32 yards — both highs among running backs — and caught a pass for 16 yards. His playmaking ability was present, and it’s hard not to imagine Turner joining Chris Evans, five-star 2019 running back signee Zach Charbonnet and Tru Wilson in the primary rotation heading into next season.
“My mind was on just contributing any way possible,” Turner said. “Whether it was on special teams, running back. I was lucky to get on the field as a running back, and I’m blessed for that and just going forward.”
Of course, Turner had to wait his turn more than initially expected. A product of regular Georgia power Buford High School, Turner chose Michigan over Notre Dame, Wisconsin and a host of others. Upon arriving to Ann Arbor, his vision and versatility stood out, even prompting senior running back and team captain Karan Higdon to predict Turner to be the team’s best freshman this fall.
But in part due to a broken hand sustained in August and in part due to the depth chart (Michigan had three players rush for 350 or more yards this season), Turner was forced to sit back, watch and learn.
“You’ve just got to humble yourself,” Turner said. “You know you’re not the top player on the team, you’ve got to learn from the top players on the team. That’s why I took in everything I could from Karan, learned everything from Chris, guys like Tru and just going on from there.”
Touches might not be especially easy to come by next fall, with as many as 19 offensive two-deep players coming back including six of the Wolverines’ top seven rushers and eight of their top nine receivers.
But if bowl practice and Saturday’s game were any indication, Turner will get his chances, and he hopes to make the most of them so he can end up on top of the Michigan world for even longer next time.
“I’m just focused on getting better,” Turner said. “I mean, my role’s going to be higher next season, and just going to go from there.”