Michigan Football Preview 2019

Digital Edition

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 69 of 179

68 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW WIDE RECEIVERS BY JOHN BORTON N ew offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has heard all the talk, how Michigan could feature the best corps of wide receivers in the nation. He's not buying it. Not yet, anyway. Certainly, the talk predated his still-brief time in Ann Arbor. Ever since juniors Dono- van Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and red- shirt sophomore Tarik Black signed on with the Wolverines, their collective talents have been hailed as nationally elite. Add in younger pass catchers like sopho- more Ronnie Bell and true freshman Mike Sainristil, and the hype train begins rocking perilously on the tracks. Maybe Gattis senses it. When chased down by the Detroit Free Press at the Best of the Midwest Camp at Grand Valley State University in early June, he grabbed the brake handle. Make no mistake. Gattis loves the receiv- ers he's inherited. But as someone who just finished guiding Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy at Alabama, and who coached All-Big Ten receivers at Penn State, he's not ready to genuflect just yet. "We've still got a long way to go," Gattis said. "I think on paper everybody's a little bit more excited about us than I am. I'm a hard coach, so they'll tell you. I slow those pats on the back down a little bit. "Obviously, there's some guys there that have played a ton of football and made some big plays. They stand out from a skill base, but when I look at each and every one of them, fundamentally, there are areas where we've got to grow." It probably doesn't help that Gattis has gotten mostly video glimpses at his poten- tial top wideouts. Peoples-Jones missed the spring with a lingering groin injury, while Collins underwent an unspecified surgery during the offseason and only made it back for the final practice of the spring. Foot injuries wiped out nearly all of Black's freshman season and most of last year. He practiced in the spring, but in the big picture the Wolverines' wideouts didn't — and couldn't — come firing out of the gate for the new boss. "It's unfortunate this spring being down two or three guys. They missed some sig- nificant time in their development," Gattis stressed. "But I think in the fall when we gear back up and we include our freshmen, we'll have a lot of depth. But we've got to get up to speed. We're not where we need to be. "We're by far not the best receiving corps in the country. Could we be that by the end of the season? We have the potential, but we're not there yet. There's a lot of people that are projecting us to be that, but we're nowhere near that. We're not ready, but it's our goal between now and the season to continue to prepare and get ourselves there." Gattis' early June pronouncement that Peoples-Jones is working out and ready to go registered as Michigan's best injury update of the offseason. At one point, head coach Jim Harbaugh noted that his physical issues could potentially linger into the 2019 season. The news caused more than a little panic among some, with a prediction or two that Peoples-Jones might miss the season. Gattis squelched those fears with his comments to the Free Press. "He finally feels healthy. He finally feels back," Gattis said. "He's been working out. Now it's about him learning the offense. Obviously, he missed a significant amount of time, but he's a very smart kid, and he can pick up on things. Now it's about getting the physical reps. It's about taking the detail and translating it over into success on the field." Peoples-Jones paced Michigan with eight touchdown catches and 47 overall receptions a year ago. He posted 612 receiving yards, a close second on the team to Collins. The one they call "DPJ" also averaged 10.0 yards on 25 punt returns, including an electrifying 60- yard TD runback against Ne- braska. Collins' 632 receiving yards led Michigan in 2019. He averaged 16.6 yards per catch on his 38 grabs, snag- ging six for touchdowns. Collins became a valuable jump-ball option for senior quarterback Shea Patterson, with his length and leaping ability. Gattis is anxious to see it live in more than a single practice. QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Josh Gattis (first season) Returning Starters: Donovan Peoples-Jones (17), Nico Collins (12). Departing Starters: Grant Perry (5 career starts), Oliver Martin (1). Projected New Starter: Tarik Black (4). Top Reserves: Ronnie Bell, Mike Sainristil. Wait Until 2020: Cornelius Johnson. Newcomers: Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson, George Johnson III, Giles Jackson, Quintel Kent. Moved In: None. Moved Out: Martin (transferred to Iowa). Rookie Impact: Sainristil. Most Improved Player: Collins. Best Pro Prospects: Peoples-Jones, Collins. Not So FaSt Wolverine Wideouts Can Be Great, But … Junior Nico Collins went from 27 receiving yards as a freshman to a team-high 632 last year. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL YEAR-BY-YEAR RECEIVING LEADERS Year Player Catches Yards TD 2018 Nico Collins 38 632 6 2017 Grant Perry 25 307 1 2016 Amara Darboh 57 862 7 2015 Amara Darboh 58 727 5 2014 Devin Funchess 62 733 4 2013 Jeremy Gallon 89 1,373 9 2012 Jeremy Gallon 49 829 4 2011 Junior Hemingway 34 699 4 2010 Roy Roundtree 72 935 7 2009 Roy Roundtree 34 434 3

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