The Wolverine

November 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 59

26 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2020 BY JOHN BORTON S peed in space might be off to the races this fall, Michigan's wideouts corps evolving into a smaller, quicker crew. As of early October, senior wide receiver Nico Collins still hadn't rescinded the opt-out he delivered when it looked like there wouldn't be a football season. If he doesn't, Michi- gan loses its top wide receiver target. But the U-M pit crew is putting fresh tires on some Indy cars that of- fensive coordinator Josh Gattis says are ready to roll. They could wreak havoc against scrambling secondaries all season long. If Collins is gone, it all starts with 6-0, 190-pound wideout Ronnie Bell, who led all Wolverines in catches (48) and receiving yards (758) a year ago. However, he made just one touch- down grab compared to Collins' team-leading seven. The junior receiver will be looking to reach the end zone, and Gattis sees him prepping for success every day. "Ronnie is a guy that sets the tone in practice, because he practices so hard," Gattis said. "Just being able to have a guy that has played a ton of football, he understands things. "Ronnie's motivated. Even with what a lot of people saw as suc- cess last year, Ronnie believes and knows that last year was just scratching the surface. There were opportunities to be even better." Gattis will be counting on the vet- eran to make plays that turn games around or put them away. Sophomore Giles Jackson (5-9, 188) made the change to jersey number 0 in the offseason. The digit marked the shape of Maryland mouths when Jackson ran back the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against the Terrapins last fall. Jackson also caught nine passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. Given Michigan's mass exodus of older wideouts (if Collins remains out), the first number marks the second-most catches among returning receivers. He also ran 10 times for 69 yards and an additional score. "Giles displayed a unique ability as a touch player last year, whether it was kick returns, whether it was spe- cific touch plays," Gattis said. "Giles came in last year as a true freshman, and didn't really get a chance to grasp the offense until about week five. "Earlier in the season, I had a lot of doubts about Giles. He was on our scout team early in the season, be- cause it took him a while to learn it. I didn't think he was going to make an impact on our team until about week five. From week five on, it was figur- ing out how many times a game he could touch the ball. "He had the ability to be such an explosive player. Now this offseason is about how we can make him a com- plete receiver. He's really accepted the role and the responsibility. He's made some really unique, big-time plays for us." Sophomore Mike Sainristil (5-10, 183) accounted for eight catches, 145 yards and a touchdown last season. On the other end of the height scale, classmate Cornelius Johnson (6-3, 205), made four grabs for 61 yards and a TD. "Those guys are going to have great years," Gattis assured. "I'm re- ally excited about Mikey and C.J. It's unfortunate, because they were tal- ented enough to be on the field last year. Although they both made plays as true freshmen and played as true freshmen, it was just a numbers game of how many guys we were getting involved in the offense last year. "There's always a jump, from year one to year two. To see them make that jump, from a skills standpoint, has been really impressive. Those guys are going to have a big-time im- pact on the offense." Freshmen A.J. Henning (5-10, 185) and Roman Wilson (6-0, 180) feature speed to burn, Gattis insisted. "The first thing you see is speed," Gattis said. "Those guys immediately step on the field and make our team faster. They make the game faster. They're just exceptional football play- ers. They're very smart, very athletic, and both have great ball skills. "The level they're at right now as freshmen is probably as high as any freshman I've ever been around. They're going to play for us." In short, Gattis loves the receiver room. "The speed and athleticism we have in that room, and the competition that's brewing, is special to see," he assured. ❑ A PLUS AND MINUS FOR THE PASS CATCHERS Here's the up and down among Michigan's pass-game playmakers: Biggest Strength: Speed rules the day, and the Wolverines have it. From junior Ronnie Bell, to sopho- mores Giles Jackson and Mike Sain- ristil, to freshmen A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson, Michigan's receivers can move. Biggest Concern: Who goes up and makes the big catch over every- body, if Nico Collins doesn't return? Sophomore Cornelius Johnson, at 6-3, gives U-M the best chance, but it's an unproven one. — John Borton SPEEDY COMPACTS ARE COMING INTO VIEW WIDE RECEIVERS Junior Ronnie Bell has made 56 catches for 903 yards and three scores during his U-M career. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - November 2020