One of the deepest parts of this Michigan Wolverines football team in 2019 was looking like it was going to be depleted come 2020. Tarik Black is transferring, and Donovan Peoples-Jones is bound for the NFL.
Then, Michigan got the news it needed as Nico Collins triumphantly said Sunday he would return for his senior season.
There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful this group is going to get a lot better and flourish in Josh Gattis’ system in Year 2 of his offense. Here is what the depth chart projects to look like in 2020.
No. 1A and 1B: Nico Collins and Ronnie Bell
It’s hard to pinpoint who the No. 1 guy was this past season, as they had eerily similar numbers. The fact the quarterback position is up for grabs also makes it difficult to know where the passing game will be focused.
The argument for Collins as the No. 1 option is strong. He had 37 receptions for 729 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2019 and was the best downfield option. He can go up and win almost every jump ball.
Collins just wins in one-on-one coverage, and we saw it all season. He has the speed to burn by corners and the size to get up and over them, even on balls thrown behind him like on the play above. He is a special talent and one that is going to thrive next season no matter who is tossing the ball at him.
Bell was utilized a bit differently. A lot of the crossing routes and underneath targets went to Bell and DPJ this past season. This was a lot of the focus toward the end of the season, which is why Bell tallied the most receptions and yards on the team with 47 and 747, respectively. Where he lacked was in touchdowns, as he only reached the end zone one time.
When Bell gets the ball with space, he is really fun to watch. He has shown a great deal of elusiveness and makes precise cuts in open space gaining big-time yards in the process. He was very close to putting the ball in the end zone several times, but was held just short multiple times. He has had a couple of issues with drops, but has loads of potential in this offense.
No. 3 Giles Jackson
Jackson will have an opportunity to take a huge step in 2020 and move to the No. 3 wide receiver role, and maybe even a slot option in different formations. That is what I love about this guy; you can line him up anywhere on the field and he will make plays. Here is the perfect example:
This play was designed perfectly for Jackson. The play action gets the linebacker to bite in on the run and then Jackson turns on the jets and blows by the defender on a wheel route, which leaves him wide open on the sideline for a huge gain.
We have already seen Jackson’s blazing speed on kick returns, so it is going to be exciting to see what he can do on an every-game basis moving forward.
No. 4 Mike Sainristil
In the moments we have seen Sainristil on the field this season, it has been clear why coaches on both sides of the ball were arguing what position he would play. The kid has shown impressive speed and shiftiness. My favorite play from him in 2019 came against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish when he scored his first touchdown in Ann Arbor:
He caught the ball from the man who could be his quarterback in 2020, Dylan McCaffery. This play was an RPO as McCaffery pulled the football and hit Sainristil on a well-run slant route. After the catch, the true freshman worked his magic by making three men miss and finishing the play in the end zone.
We are going to see a lot more of Sainristil in the lineup in 2020, and he is another guy that can see his stock rise with a good offseason.
No. 5 A.J. Henning
This pick is a bit of a wildcard as he has yet to even get to Michigan, but the incoming freshman was the top recruit of the 2020 class for Michigan and fits the mold for an offensive play-maker in Gattis’ offense.
Henning was a superstar in high school, which has helped him earn a top 100 ranking.
He will probably compete with current freshman Cornelius Johnson for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.