It's no secret head coach Jim Harbaugh likes his teams to run the football. From his time at Stanford, Harbaugh has been known for his gap-based run schemes. That has been the case at Michigan, too, for the most part. One difference? Harbaugh hasn’t had a lead back like former Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. The Wolverines have yet to have a 1,000-yard rusher under Harbaugh, who has been more than happy to spread carries around. Last season, Karan Higdon and Chris Evans combined for 299 carries for 1,679 yards and 17 touchdowns. Both return this year — Higdon is a senior and Evans a junior. Michigan, though, appears poised to reload once Higdon and Evans are gone. They’ve signed four running backs in the past two recruiting classes, and now have a pair of commitments from highly touted 2019 4-star prospects Zach Charbonnet and Eric Gray . Charbonnet, at 6-feet-2, 215 pounds, might seem like a prototypical big back. At 5-10, 191, Gray is classified by recruiting services as an all-purpose back. Both, though, boast skill sets atypical for their respective sizes. "You know, people overuse the ‘Thunder-Lightning’ term," 247Sports recruiting analyst Steve Lorenz said, "but I really think Charbonnet and Gray would be as close to a ‘Thunder and Lightning’ combo as you’re going to get as far as two high school running back verbal commitments." Charles Collins, Charbonnet’s head coach at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif., had two comparisons for his star running back’s style of play. “When you look at running backs that have come out recently, and also really in terms of character as well, I would liken (Charbonnet) to Saquon Barkley,” Collins said. “Might be just as big, that can run, also has wiggle and more importantly, you’re talking about a team guy and high-character guy. That’s Zach Charbonnet in a nutshell. “He also reminds me of Le’Veon Bell in terms of the patience he has,” Collins continued. “We run a lot of zone scheme, that’s why he’s so good at it. He plays with a really, really good eye, he reads pads well, he understands leverage. They’re getting the total football player.” Those are lofty comparisons. Based on probability alone, it’s unlikely Charbonnet will replicate Barkley or Bell’s college production at Penn State and Michigan State, respectively. But one trait Charbonnet shares with both is his potential in the passing game. According to Collins, when his team participates in agility drills, Charbonnet — who has “always had good feet” — works with the receivers. He has even played some defensive back when Oaks Christian needed help in the secondary. As a junior, he caught 27 passes for 169 yards — nothing extraordinary, but enough to show that Oaks Christian wanted to involve him in the passing game. Then there’s Charbonnet’s ability to run the ball. As a junior, he took 265 carries for 2,049 yards (7.7 YPC) and 23 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps. His film shows a running back with size who cuts well, displays good vision and has decent acceleration and long speed. “I think the best thing he’s doing now is, outside of just being a hell of an athlete, now he understands how to read fronts,” Collins said. “The game has slowed down for him. He’s not just playing with his athleticism or his talent. “I would say he’s playing with better eyes and a higher-level IQ, which is where he’s really advanced. … That’s the biggest growth in Zach, is what he’s learned in terms of scheme and run-game scheme. He’s much more astute there.” Lausanne head coach Kevin Locastro has an anecdote that perfectly describes Gray, Tennesee’s reigning two-time Mr. Football award winner in his classification. When Gray was younger, Locastro put his team through a drill where the running back had to put a move on a linebacker stepping up in the hole. It was something Gray excelled at. “(Gray) put a move on him in real small space and kind of buckled the kid’s knees and melted him to the ground a little bit,” Locastro recalled. “Just some flashes of that early on in his high school career that made you think, ‘Wow, you don’t coach too many kids that can do that.’ ” Look at Gray’s film, and you’ll see a lot of the same thing. He can make anyone miss, and often does so multiple times on the same play. According to Locastro, Lausanne’s scheme boils down to something simple: get the ball in Eric Gray’s hands. Lausanne doesn’t just hand it off to him, either. They’ll also use him as a weapon in the passing game, on angle routes, seam routes and wheel routes. Over the past two seasons, he has a combined 21 receptions for 487 yards and seven touchdowns, to go with a combined 553 carries for 5,366 yards and 83 rushing touchdowns. “He would be our best receiver if he played receiver, as he’s got incredible hands, he runs really good routes,” Locastro said. “... He has a really nice skill set. He’s able to do a lot of things. He’s a pretty darn good pass protector and good blocker, he’s not scared to stick his nose in there and do those types of things either. I think he’s just overall a great all-around back.” According to his father, Eric Gray Sr., Michigan has a specific role for his son in mind. “Pretty much what everybody’s been telling him — from the running back slot, then motioning him out of the backfield to the slot, and then also maybe starting in the slot and motioning back to the backfield,” Gray Sr. said. “Because Eric is skilled at making people miss. Understanding what defenses are, understanding fronts and then taking advantage of who’s the free hitter. … His strength is catching the ball in and out of the backfield. So he’s very versatile.” Gray’s size suggests a future as a back who can provide a change of pace. But Locastro believes otherwise. He thinks Gray can be an every-down back — and that he’ll be comfortable running between the tackles. “Even though we’re spread and we do (run-pass option) a lot … we’re still running power, we’re still running the counter, we’re still getting the ball downhill to him even though it’s from the shotgun situation and not from underneath center,” Locastro said. “But he’s very good between tackles. … I wouldn’t let anybody say that they’re concerned about him having the ability to run between the tackles because of his size, because he’s very good at that too.” Added Lorenz: “He’s very explosive. Again, a guy I think is much closer to where we have him ranked than where the composite has him. I think he’s one of the better backs in the country. Alabama wanted him. Penn State wants him. Two programs, they know what a good running back looks like. Would be a perfect complement to Charbonnet.” Gray might not look like an every-down back. But size hasn’t deterred Higdon ( 5-10, 189) or Evans (5-11, 200). Gray is capable of taking on a similar workload, and he’s already a weapon who can be used in multiple ways. And Charbonnet has the size of a workhorse running back and also possesses skills that could make him a threat in the passing game. And the two could become Michigan's next one-two running back punch. Download our Wolverines Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!