Before he was the offensive coordinator at Michigan, Josh Gattis was one of the better wide receiver coaches in the country. He is credited for developing some very talented receivers like Chris Godwin (Penn State) and Jerry Jeudy (Alabama). In his first year in Ann Arbor, Gattis came close to having a couple guys get over the 1,000-yard mark in Ronnie Bell and Nico Collins. So what will happen with the group in year two?
Collins is off to train for the 2021 NFL Draft, Donovan Peoples-Jones is already in the NFL and Tarik Black is now at Texas, but Gattis and company have plenty to look forward to at the position in 2020. There is a lot of talent here, and plenty of players for Joe Milton to throw the ball to.
Here is my depth chart prediction for one of the deepest positions at U-M.
WR-X — Ronnie Bell, JR
The former two-star recruit from Kansas City, Missouri collected 48 catches for 758 yards and one touchdown in 2019. A pretty solid step up from his freshman year, when he had just eight catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Bell gives the passing game a different dynamic as a guy who can make guys miss and rack up yards after the catch. In fact, Pro Football Focus listed Bell as the Big Ten’s best YAC receiver in 2019, with a 9.9 yards after catch average.
Solidly locked in as a starter, Bell should pick up right where he left off a season ago, especially with Collins moving on. Look for Bell to consistently be on the field for the Wolverines moving forward.
Backup to WR-X — Cornelius Johnson, SO
A modest freshman campaign could very well lead to a breakout season for Johnson.
Playing in 12 games, Johnson caught four passes last season for 61 yards and one touchdown. He wasn’t on the field too much because of the guys in front of him, but he has a shot to make a bit of noise in 2020.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder from Greenwich, Connecticut is Michigan’s tallest wide receiver now that Collins is gone, so even though I have him listed as a “backup,” I expect Johnson to be a consistent contributor this year.
WR-Z — Roman Wilson, FR
The first of two true freshmen on this list, Wilson is an absolute blazer. He ran a verified 4.37 40-yard dash and a 3.96 shuttle time in high school. Those are insane numbers, and with that comes a ton of potential.
The Hawaii native is already one of the fastest players on the team, but can he do the same things well that a guy like Bell does, like pick up a ton of yards after the catch and run crisp routes? We will find out soon enough, but I expect Wilson to be on the field very often.
Backup to WR-Z — Mike Sainristil, SO
It took Sainristil a bit to get going despite having a good amount of hype last offseason. He finished the year with eight catches for 145 yards and one touchdown.
Again, even though I have Sainristil listed as a “backup,” I do think he’ll be on the field pretty often as well. He proved to be reliable on third downs last season, so he should have a prominent role on the offense this year.
WR-Y — Giles Jackson, SO
Jackson, who is also the kickoff returner, played in all 13 games and had nine receptions for 142 yards and one touchdown, including four catches for 57 yards against Alabama in the Citrus Bowl. He is someone I loved coming out of high school, and he proved his worth from the get-go.
Jackson is a highly-skilled guy who can line up in the slot or in the backfield and make guys miss in more than one way. Jackson has a ton of potential, and could be Michigan’s most versatile skill player already.
Backup to WR-Y — A.J. Henning, FR
The second true freshman on this list, Henning has a shot to make contributions on offense and special teams right off the bat.
Henning, Michigan’s highest ranked player in its 2019 class, was well-regarded coming out of high school in Illinois. He played both wide receiver and running back and put up monster stats in both departments his senior season — 808 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, 52 catches for 815 yards and 13 touchdowns.
His production, along with his 4.46 40-yard dash and 4.08 shuttle, should get him on the field early and often as a freshman. Like with Jackson last year, I expect Gattis to use Henning in multiple ways in the offense.