Zach Charbonnet lifts Bruins with his feet

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet is having a blast in his first season with the Bruins. After spending two seasons at Michigan and their respective football program, Charbonnet entered the transfer portal, left dodge and headed to Westwood.

“I wanted an opportunity to be closer to home,” Charbonnet said. “In times like this, you just want to be close to family.”

Since making the move to leave the midwest back to his Southern California roots, Charbonnet has been a welcomed addition to the UCLA family. Starring in Chip Kelly’s offense, Charbonnet has made the best of his opportunities.

After rushing for 131 yards on 21 carries in the Bruins’ 24-17 win against the University of Washington on Oct. 16, Charbonnet’s totals for the season are closing in on 1,000 yards for the season.

After his stellar performance against Washington in an impressive road win for the Bruins, Charbonnet has rushed for 697 yards on the season. He is averaging 6.4 yards per rush. Charbonnet’s big season has helped the Bruins improve to 5-2 overall on the season and has earned UCLA a tie for first place with Arizona State in the Pac-12 Conference South Division.

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet is off to the races against LSU. The Bruins defeated the Tigers, 38-27, earlier this season. Charbonnet rushed for 117 yards against LSU. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

With Charbonnet bringing the thunder, UCLA is No. 17 in the country in rushing. The Bruins have a jewel in the Los Angeles native.

Charbonnet was highly recruited coming out of high school by many schools, including UCLA. He was a top 50 recruit coming out in 2019. He was ranked as a four-star student-athlete by ESPN. After weighing all the recruiting pitches that he received, Charbonnet decided to attend Michigan where he found early success with the Wolverines in his freshman season.

Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the Wolverines, was a big fan of the running back during his time at Michigan.

“He’s the best, and there is nobody more loved out of this recruiting class than Zach,” Harbaugh said. “We fell in love with him as a football player the first time we met him. He can also carry a team and has everything we are looking for.”

In his first season with the Wolverines, Charbonnet shared the workload with other running backs. Charbonnet finished the 2019 season rushing for 726 yards, with a 4.9 average per carry. While at Michigan, Charbonnet established a rushing touchdown record with 11 as a true freshman.

In his sophomore season, Charbonnet saw a decline in his numbers. Recovering from a knee injury going into the season, Charbonnet only finished with 124 yards with a single touchdown.

With a less than ideal sophomore season that saw the Covid-19 pandemic really affect the college football season, Charbonnet entered the transfer portal.

Growing up in Camarillo and attending Oaks Christina High School in Los Angeles, Charbonnet transferred to UCLA.

Coming into the upcoming season, and as a new member of the UCLA Bruins football team, Charbonnet acknowledges he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet has rushed for over 100 yards five times this season. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“That is just how I am built,” Charbonnet said. “No matter where I am, I’m always gonna have that chip on my shoulder and work hard,” said Charbonnet.

Integrating into Kelly’s system, running backs get a lot of usage. Like at Michigan, Charbonnet shares the backfield with other running backs. But so far through this season, Charbonnet has become the featured running back early on.

He’s gotten off to a strong start and has been impressive.

Against LSU early in the season, Charbonnet’s strong performance had a major impact on the Bruins taking down the Tigers in a major upset. Charbonnet finished the game with 117 rushing yards and a touchdown.

 He averaged 10.6 yards per rush in the game and imposed his will on the LSU defense as the Bruins handed the Tigers a 38-27 defeat.  

“He checks all the boxes. He’s got that innate talent that all great running backs have,” said Kelly.

Charbonnet’s string of impressive play continues. He rushed for 117 yards against Arizona, averaging 5.6 yards an attempt on the ground against the Wildcats. His performance helped UCLA defeat Arizona, 34-16.

Only seven games into the season Charbonnet already has five one hundred rushing yard games. He is currently tied for 23rd in the country in rushing touchdowns with seven and is 20th nationally in rushing yards. The junior running back seems to be displaying a similar season to the one he produced his freshman year at Michigan.