The Michigan run, the first of two fourth-round runs by the Tennessee Titans last Saturday, described himself as an “angry” runner who refuses to be taken down so easily. For example, he had 270 loads last season that only suffered six losses.
But the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder pounder has also seen plenty of action on special teams during his four seasons with the Wolverines. He was just as physical in this respect.
“We love it,” Tennessee General Manager John Robinson said after the draft. “The guy who’s going to run out there in special teams and hit the guys – that’s an extra check.”
Led by two-time champion Derek Henry, the Titans have built a reputation as one of the most persistent physical crimes the NFL commits, particularly when it comes to football management. They draft and sign broadband receivers that have shown they are able – and willing – to block. They have filled their offensive line with players well suited to spread the penalty across their outer area scheme.
Other than Henry who’s 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, Tennessee wasn’t exactly flush with their backs chasing competitors. D’Onta Foreman, at 6-foot-1, looked 236 pounds in the part and had some memorable performances over parts of the past two seasons, but he’s had smaller, faster debuts like Dion Lewis, Jeremy McNichols and Dontrell Hilliard who filled in often, when the need.
At Haskins, coaches may have as close to someone who can impose losses on a defense similar to what Henry does.
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“It’s a mindset,” Haskins said. “My mentality is different. I just feel that no one can stop me.”
Haskins won the Michigan Most Powerful Player award last season, which came as a result of a vote by his teammates. He led FBS with 96 runs (more than a third of his campaign total) that produced his first touchdown and broke the school’s record held since 1968 with 20 touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, he was also forced to waste 50 missed tackles, finishing second in the country.
“Running downhill, that’s my game,” he said. “I can do everything, but it feels like the best part of my game. I try to run down a slope, run right through your face and get in those yards.”
Michigan coaches didn’t know exactly what to do with Haskins at first, but his physicality wasn’t in doubt. Lightly recruited from St. Louis, he played linebacker as a freshman but returned to his preferred position, returning, the following year. He was the most advanced player on the team as a sophomore, Player of the Year for each of the next two years, and their offensive player of the year for 2021.
Haskins isn’t likely to produce the kind of game-breakers that helped define Henry’s career thus far. But he has the ability to help smash through defenses over four quarters the same way Henry does.
“It’s a downhill runner, between interventions, and stretches and cuts,” Robinson said. “His long pace is good. I don’t think he would be a 4.2 man in the open field, but usually the number one doesn’t drop him easily. I like the style the way he carries football.”
For Haskins, it’s not just style. It is mentality.
“I feel like my back is strong, but I have everything in my tool bag,” Haskins said. “I run furious. I don’t want to get hit on the field or nothing. I try to gain yards and get the extra small YAC yards. I am just a strong, aggressive runner.”