The Michigan wide receiving unit of 2017 didn’t produce as well as they would have liked. But that doesn’t mean jack now, Jack.
Eddie McDoom and Kekoa Crawford left and went to other programs, but that doesn’t mean this unit is McDoomed. Quite frankly, those two left because of the good depth at this position. The writing was on the wall, playing time was about to get a lot harder to come by.
But putting the foot on the gas and moving forward we are going to focus on who’s still at Michigan and how this unit is going to perform in 2018.
Here are five questions at the wide receiver position for the Michigan Wolverines
How big of a deal is it that Tarik Black is back and healthy?
As this guy on TV a lot likes to say... YUGE!!!
Black appeared to be an absolute stud and difference maker in early 2017 before suffering a foot injury that kept him out the rest of the season.
In less than three games of action, Black racked up 11 receptions for 149 yards and a long touchdown on a pass by Wilton Speight.
The 6-3 wideout may be able to do it all. He tracks the ball well, can take the top off a defense, and is a savvy route runner.
Expect Black to be the No. 1 receiver in 2018. Something tells me he’s hungry to go out there and prove he is a damn good football player.
Will Donovan Peoples-Jones improve?
Fans were too hard on Peoples-Jones in 2017. There were growing pains, there were drops, there were fumbles. But guess what? He was only a freshman who was getting extensive playing time. That’s not to make excuses for the kid, but it’s just true. It isn’t always easy jumping from being a highly touted high school prospect to a top tier collegiate athlete. Expectations were through the roof, and impatience ensued.
But this is a new year, and we should start to see Peoples-Jones come out of his shell and quite possibly gel with quarterback Shea Patterson.
Peoples-Jones showed flashes of his great talent in 2018, but the name of the game is consistency.
One thing that sticks out to me in particular I saw firsthand at the Outback Bowl. After the loss to South Carolina walking back to the locker room, Peoples-Jones was noticeably upset, his teammates told him to keep his head up, but for a freshman to take a bowl loss that seriously showed this writer how much the game of football means to him. This observation makes me a believer that he did everything he could this off-season to better his craft, so he isn’t down in the dumps about losing another bowl game. Eff that, right, Donovan?
Slot (Receiver) MONEY: Who’s going to be cash in the bank?
So we have a nice little battle brewing for slot duties. Peoples-Jones may get some looks there, it sounds like Grant Perry has been a difference maker so far this off-season which should come as no surprise.
Perry’s experience, combined with his savvy route running and reliable hands make him the obvious candidate to retain slot duties. There are some guys who will push Perry for snaps, but we’re going to get to them next.
What about the other dudes? Are they any good?
Well, maybe, they haven’t played a ton but I like what they have to offer.
6-4 Alabama recruit Nico Collins chose the Wolverines over the Crimson Tide and could end up being a big get for U-M as early as this year. While Collins only notched a few receptions this season, he will be seeing the field, and his combination of size and speed will make him an asset in the red-zone.
Then there’s Oliver Martin, a late riser in his recruiting class who runs routes like a smooth Cadillac on a Sunday drive. He will eat a bit into Grany Perry’s slot snaps if he earns his keep.
If there’s more spread offense in 2018, what does that mean for the WR’s?
It means more of them are going to be on the field at the same time, so we could see three or maybe even four wideouts in certain formations. The depth we spoke about above will be crucial in these packages, otherwise defenses can disrespect the unit a bit and play man to man and send a heavier blitz at Shea Patterson.