The battle at quarterback has been the story of Michigan football’s fall camp so far, but the man that wins the job will be relying on the strong group of wide receivers the Wolverines return in 2016.
Michigan had a lot of question marks at the position entering 2015, but answered them thanks to the emergence of Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh as two of the best receivers in the conference, if not college football as a whole.
Both Chesson and Darboh return with some familiar faces behind them on the depth chart as well as some new blood from the strong haul in the 2016 recruiting class.
Behind those two, the depth chart is very much in flux. Grant Perry received some time in the slot last season and will look to build on his freshman year. Drake Harris has battled inconsistencies and injury in his career, but saw the field as well. Moe Ways is coming off of an injury and his role is to be determined, also.
The Wolverines should boast a strong, efficient passing game in 2016. Here the the players who will make up that group in more detail:
#86 | Senior | 6-3, 203 pounds | St. Louis, Missouri
2015 statistics: 13 games | 50 catches, 764 yards | 9 TDs
Chesson entered 2015 with 29 career catches, but broke out in a big way with 50 in his junior season in Ann Arbor, most of which came in the second half of the season when the passing game began to click. He had been a key contributor on special teams and as a blocker, but finally but it all together and became a wide receiver that could take the top off of a defense.
His emergence earned him All-Big Ten and preseason All-American honors and some see him as the top wide receiver prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. He is still working his way back from injury, but should be able to build on that and be a playmaking threat throughout the season. That will make the man who wins the quarterback battle very happy.
#82 | Senior | 6-2, 215 pounds | Des Moines, Iowa
2015 statistics: 13 games | 58 catches, 727 yards | 5 TDs
Darboh has been a steady contributor for Michigan at wide receiver. He followed up a 36 catch campaign in 2014 with 58 last season. If Chesson is the gamebreaker at wide receiver, Darboh is the consistent target that will move the chains and make a play or two on his own, as well.
Darboh is as sure-handed as it gets and could actually end up being the team’s leading receiver for the second year in a row. His best football could be ahead of him and his mentorship of the younger players at the position cannot be understated.
#9 | Sophomore | 6-0, 196 pounds | Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
2015 statistics: 13 games | 14 catches, 128 yards | 1 TD
Alex Malzone was the quarterback that Michigan built its 2015 recruiting class around, but when you watch the tape of the Birmingham Brother Rice duo, the player that stood out the most was Grant Perry.
Despite all of this, Brady Hoke’s staff never made Perry much of a priority, and he committed to Northwestern. It wasn’t until Harbaugh was putting the finishing touches on the class that he offered Perry and he flipped to Michigan.
Perry was thrown right into the fire in his true freshman season at Michigan and struggled early on, but the staff continued to play him and he capped off the season with five catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in the bowl game against Florida. If he picks up where he left off, he is going to be a reliable target in the slot for the Wolverines.
#14 | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-4, 188 pounds | Grand Rapids, Michigan
2015 statistics: 9 games | 6 catches, 39 yards
Drake Harris famously flipped his commitment from Michigan State to Michigan when he decided to focus solely on football. Since then, he has had injury issues and has not been able to see the field consistently. As a redshirt freshman, he saw the field sparingly in 2015.
This is an important year for him. Chesson and Darboh will not be back in 2017, so opportunities will be there to emerge and build some momentum heading into next season.
#85 | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-3, 217 pounds | Beverly Hills, Michigan
2015 statistics: 11 games | 3 catches, 40 yards
Ways falls into the same category as Harris as a guy who could parlay a nice 2016 into being one of Michigan’s top receivers in 2017. The Detroit Country Day alum broke his foot in the spring and is still working his way back, but has the size and length to grab jump balls and be a decent red zone target.
#2 | Freshman | 6-3, 205 pounds | Egg Harbor City, New Jersey
2015 stats (high school): 10 games | 47 catches, 872 yards, 27 rushes, 241 yards | 17 total TDs
Mitchell, a four-star recruit, was an early enrollee and physically looks the part of a college wide receiver. Guys like that usually find themselves on the field early He was an excellent playmaker in high school and could certainly be that at Michigan.
However, he is currently suspended indefinitely for undisclosed reasons and will have to work his way out of the doghouse. If he is able to do this, Mitchell could end up being a special player in time for the Wolverines.
#1 | Freshman | 6-2, 195 pounds | Rancho Santa Margarita, California
2015 stats (high school): 10 games | 51 catches, 822 yards | 7 TDs
Crawford is another wideout in the freshman class who physically passes the eyeball test as someone who could play right away. He does not have spring football under his belt like Mitchell does, but could see some early time in 2016.
Crawford’s skill set is similar to Darboh’s and I could see him being that type of receiver for the Wolverines in the future and perhaps sooner.
#13 | Freshman | 6-0, 180 pounds | Winter Garden, Florida
2015 statistics (high school): 29 catches, 653 yards | 9 TDs
Michigan is extremely high on what McDoom brings. He was a three-star recruit, but the staff saw something they loved in his game and recruited him hard to Ann Arbor.
McDoom has excellent hands and tracks the ball well downfield. If they feel he can play early, it would not be a shock to see him in a similar role to what Grant Perry had last season.
#10 | Freshman | 5-11, 185 pounds | Thompson’s Station, Tennessee
2015 statistics (high school): 15 games | 87 catches, 1713 yards | 27 TDs
Johnson was a late rising prospect and put up absurd, videogame-like numbers in his senior season in high school. He could see some time in the slot this season, but looks like a candidate for a redshirt.
Johnson can play outside, but will need to bulk up a bit, as most freshman do. He is also similar to Perry in terms of the role he could end up playing his freshman year.
Chris Evans was featured in the running backs preview, but could see some time in the slot, as well. Brad Hawkins will not enroll at Michigan and instead play at prep school this year. His future with the program is in doubt.
Other players at the position are: Simeon Smith (Fr.), Kenneth Sloss (Sr.), Austin Brenner (Jr.), Jake Martin (Fr.), Nate Schoenle (Fr.), Brenden White (So.), Jack Wangler (Sr.)
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