Welcome to the Wednesday Morning Brews. Here is the latest from the land of the Wolverines that you may have missed throughout this week’s news cycle.
When it was announced that the Michigan Wolverines and the rest of the Big Ten would be returning to the football field for an Oct. 24 start, all eyes went to the opted-out players across the conference. Michigan had a trio of those players in offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield, cornerback Ambry Thomas and wide receiver Nico Collins.
Mayfield would be the only Wolverine to opt back in.
Things have been quiet on the Collins front for several weeks with rumors that there was work being put in behind the scenes. However, the radio silence continued and Michigan went through training camp without him.
Now, Collins — who signed with NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus back in September — is on the record as to why he will not be opting back in to the 2020 season.
“I came back for my senior season,” Collins said on a podcast with ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “Everything was going smooth, just as planned, until this virus outbreak. One thing that really impacted my decision was when we were supposed to play, our set day was September 5 against Purdue. During that camp process and they canceled the season. That was heartbreaking for me because I wasn’t sure when the next time they would say (Big Ten football was coming back). They said in the spring, thanksgiving, it was too many unknown questions to answer. Nobody really had the answer to it. I sat down with my family and I just made a business decision. I kind of felt like I was in no man’s land for a minute because I came back to play my senior season and they canceled it maybe three weeks before we played Purdue. It was supposed to be a home game. I had that marked on my calendar. Once they canceled that and they said they weren’t sure when the next time we would have the season, they were saying towards spring.
“That kind of time, that’s training. That’s a time where I could prepare for the draft around December, January. After the bowl game. That was the set date they were saying, kind of pushing it towards spring a little bit. I really just sat down with my family and made a business decision. I really appreciate my family helping me out with that. That was one of the reasons. Just too many unknown questions to be answering and nobody had answers to.”
Collins did admit that he considered returning when the new fall schedule was released, but ultimately the unknowns were too much and that his training was going to be the priority moving forward.
“I had to do what’s best for me and my family,” Collins said. “Once I signed and got ready for the combine, that’s when they came out with a statement to come back and they were going to have a season at the end of October to play Minnesota on the 24th. It was kind of late notice, 8 games stretch, I just didn’t want to get injured or something bad to happen. It just didn’t feel normal to me. I felt like everything is forced, this pressure. I made the right decision. It’s bittersweet, for sure. I want to be out there playing with my teammates and everything. I just had to make the right decision that was best for me.”
Collins leaves Michigan after having 78 catches for 1,388 yards and 13 touchdowns in his three seasons in Ann Arbor. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said this week on the Inside Michigan Football radio show that the Wolverines expect to play six wide receiver this season in junior Ronnie Bell, sophomores Mike Sainristil, Giles Jackson and Cornelius Johnson, and true freshmen AJ Henning and Roman Wilson.
Collins is still enrolled at Michigan and plans to finish his degree in time for graduation in May.
Mike Smith gives early impressions from start of hoops practice
Michigan Men’s Basketball added am important graduate transfer to the roster this offseason in the form of Columbia point guard Mike Smith, who is currently penciled in to one of the two guard spots in the starting five.
At Columbia, Smith was a player that had the ball in his hands almost all the time and was the primary scorer. The will not be the case this year, as he enters a locker room with no shortage of players able to score the basketball. He spoke to the Michigan media on Tuesday afternoon about his initial takeaways from the start of practices, which tipped off on Oct. 14.
“I think (the offense is) more shared. Share the ball specifically,” he said. “I think at Columbia, I was more like the dominant handler. The ball would always be in my hands. Here, it’s more that I can play off the ball. I’m a really good catch-and-shoot player. I really didn’t get to show that at Columbia but that would be a really good thing for me here. To be able to give the ball to Isaiah or Eli or Franz, Zeb, Chaundee and let them create for me. I don’t always have to create for somebody and at Columbia I always had to create for somebody, which is cool. If that’s what we need, that’s what we need. I don’t think here would be an issue.”
There have been adjustments to be made for Smith in joining a new program, but fitting in with his new teammates has not been one of those things. Team building and chemistry is the least of his concerns right now.
“First thing I noticed is that they welcomed me with open arms. I think that’s a Michigan culture thing here. Once you’re in, you’re all in. Everybody is treated the same. Nobody is treated better than somebody else and coach has always preached that. He lives by it and you notice all the players care for you, who you are and what you bring to the table. Off the court as well, we all hang out with each other. Especially with times now, you can’t really do anything else because you can’t jeopardize the season or anybody else’s life with covid going around. We’ve all clicked for sure.
“Also, what I’ve noticed, is that I am playing with NBA players for sure, or players that will play at the next level and will make a lot of money playing this game. It’s amazing to see so many young people that can actually play the game of basketball and the talents they have are tremendous. I think we could do something special this year. A lot of people don’t notice that but that’s fine. At the end of the day, we’re going to come out and fight. I think that’s all part of the Michigan culture that Coach Beilein left and Coach Howard is instilling now.”
Michigan Daily: Baseball, gymnastics partially closed down due to COVID-19 positives
Late Tuesday afternoon, Theo Mackie of The Michigan Daily reported that Michigan’s baseball and men’s and women’s gymnastics are currently partially shut down due to positive COVID-19 cases within the programs.
“This just tells us that we have to be extra, extra careful and that we have to really do this correctly,” one athlete said in a text message to The Daily.
Men’s gymnastics coach Kurt Golder confirmed the positive cases and continuation of practice in a separate text message to The Daily.
The baseball team is also continuing practices despite two positive cases. Practices are currently occurring in a limited capacity, according to a source close to the program, with approximately two-thirds of the team isolating due to contact-tracing efforts that have flagged those who came in close contact with positive players. Sources were granted anonymity for this story as they were not authorized to speak publicly.
“We are strictly following all health and safety protocols,” baseball coach Erik Bakich said in a text message to The Daily. “We are not permitted to discuss specific student information.”
The news came hour after Washtenaw County announced a two-week stay-at-home order for undergraduate students on campus, though the order allows athletics to continue.
There were 11 positive cases of COVID-19 in 1,559 tests conducted between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16, per the most recent data from U-M Athletics.