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Nico Collins returned to be The Guy in the Michigan passing game

Three seasons of missed opportunities could be erased by a spectacular senior campaign.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.

Nico Collins, true SR

247 Composite Ranking: 4 stars (WR 23, Overall 138)
2019 Stats: 37 rec, 729 yards, 7 TD

After losing the trio of Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Jake Butt at the end of 2016, Michigan instantly reloaded the receiving corps with a package of outstanding freshmen capable of surpassing their predecessors. Three years later, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black never were able to live up to their hype despite moments of triumph and will not be on the roster in 2020.

The lone receiver remaining is Nico Collins, who has left fans wanting more, although not by any fault of his own. A dominant weapon with All-American potential and a certain NFL future, Collins has not been utilized to his full capacity while in Ann Arbor, strongly due to quarterback play. Now the clear first choice at the position and a potentially better option under center, he is set up for a huge finale.

Will Michigan finally be able to unlock Collins’s full abilities?

The question is simple and not a unique one; plenty of players have come to Ann Arbor and fallen flat. That statement may be a little harsh on Collins, who has hauled in 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons while being one of the best jump ball receivers in the country. Still, he has yet to showcase his true potential despite all of the glimpses of talent he has shown.

With Peoples-Jones moving onto the NFL, the targets should dramatically rise for Collins. His 37 receptions in 2019 are not nearly enough for someone of his caliber, and he is the downfield threat that this offense just does not have elsewhere. Whoever ends up winning the quarterback battle will be a first year starter and can surely benefit from the reliability of a weapon like Collins. Throwing the ball up to him will result in a free 15 yards at worst.

While the big play potential and red zone strength are where Collins really makes a difference, he needs to continue to find work in the RPO offense. There will be more routes to run without his original cohort around, and he is talented enough to work all across the formation. Really, there is no reason for Collins to not run away with the lead in targets, despite the dependability of Ronnie Bell.

Everyone expected Collins to take a step forward in his junior year, and while he did not quite regress, it is fair to say that fans still wanted to see more. Again, this is not his own fault, but if he does not have a dominant senior year, it will have to be seen as a giant missed opportunity. I would expect the coaching staff to feel the same way and give him every chance to be The Guy this season, but there is a big question mark at quarterback that will ultimately determine just how high he can fly.