The Michigan Wolverines’ wide receiver group was less than impressive last season. They totaled just over 1,000 yards as a group. Part of that was because of the injury problems at the quarterback position, but there isn’t much of an excuse for the receivers not scoring a touchdown after the second week of the season.
Among those not scoring a touchdown is Donovan Peoples-Jones. Praises are thrown left and right at Peoples-Jones, and for good reason. The former 5-star recruit had an illustrious high school career that just has not revealed itself at the college level to this point.
Don’t get me wrong, the hype is understandable as he is a very talented football player who shows great athleticism and catch ability along with great size at 6-foot-2, 193 pounds for the position. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has even called him the best receiver of the bunch early in spring practices on his podcast.
But it is time for this praise to translate to production in games. The highly-touted freshman had an underwhelming season last year recording only 22 receptions for 277 yards. Not numbers you would expect from someone who is considered your best receiver. Most of this was in part to poor quarterback play, but there were times when DPJ struggled to separate himself from defending corners, specifically some of the best in the Big Ten Conference.
Possibly the most concerning statistic is that Peoples-Jones didn’t record a reception against Ohio State and Michigan State last year. In the biggest moments of the biggest games, that is where stars are born, and Peoples-Jones has yet to take advantage of those situations.
The sophomore will now be in the spotlight as he has one of the most hyped quarterbacks in the country in Shea Patterson. Patterson’s ability to find both Tarik Black and Peoples-Jones will be comparable to the combo from 2016 — Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. If the two sophomores can play at that level, the Michigan offense will be very difficult to stop, especially since Patterson is much better than the 2016 quarterback Jake Rudock. If Peoples-Jones can get separation with crisp routes and by being quicker off the blocks, Patterson will be able to find him.
The good news is that he has plenty of time to prove his 5-star value, and has a quarterback who can help him out, but up to this point he has a lot to prove yet. Last season he was only a freshman and was still learning the system at Michigan and the collegiate game as a whole.
Now he has had a year, time to hone his skills over a full offseason, and expectations are as high as ever. Am I being harsh on him after just one year? Sure, but we are at the point in Michigan football where we need to start criticizing players for not getting the job done. Harbaugh has his guys now and if they don’t perform, all the doubters thus far have been right, and if Peoples-Jones doesn’t pan out this year, he will be at the top of the list of players to criticize.