Michigan Wolverines senior wide receiver Nico Collins came back to Ann Arbor in 2020 to cap off some unfinished business and improve his NFL Draft stock, but the coronavirus pandemic changed everything for a lot of people.
First, Michigan was playing this fall. Then, they were not. As of now, the season is back on. But when the Big Ten decision to cancel originally came down in August, Collins stopped showing up to practices and even reportedly cleaned out his locker.
Now, the season is ahead once again and there has been a push to get Collins back in the fold despite opting out and exploring his options. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis spoke on Wednesday and addressed where things stand.
“We’ve had some conversations,” Gattis told the media. “I’m very respectful of anyone’s personal decisions and I’m going to leave that to Nico to be able to make, whenever he is comfortable, an announcement. We support him 100-percent. The same way we support him and the same way we support all of the players here. I think, eventually, everyone will be hearing from him.
“Nico has got a bright future in football. He’s going to play football for a very long time moving forward. A lot of our guys have been faced with some tough decisions to make, personal decisions they need to make for themselves. It’s really uncertain times right now considering the season got canceled and we got it back, there’s a lot of different scenarios that end up playing out. For the foreseeable future right now, we’re guaranteed the season we have so, I think, individually, a lot of guys are facing tough decisions. We’re just here to support whatever decision they make and we’re fully supportive. Obviously, the selling pitch is being around the team. Being around the guys that you continue play for and believe in. We’ve had a number of different guys make that choice. We’re excited about the opportunity that we have.”
Despite all of that and the knowledge that things are not conventional for a lot of families and individuals right now, the Michigan refrain is that they will prepare with the players that they do have available as they get ready for Minnesota on Oct. 24.
“Nico was here early on when we were doing things,” Gattis said. “Obviously, we kind of hit a pause with a lot of our guys that were either draft eligible or seniors, so they had some time to really reflect upon whether or not they were going to play in the spring season. Obviously, once we got that decision we’ve been able to get back our team. We’re just trying to prepare for our first game of the season. Minnesota is coming up, they’re an in-conference opponent. Really been pleased with the progress and where we’ve been able to pick up since we’ve left off.”
Collins remaining out of the picture would leave Michigan without all three members of a wide receiver trio that also included Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black. The combined production was never what was expected, but Collins was the best of the three and was expected to be the unquestioned No. 1 this year.
Now, Michigan’s most seasoned wideout is Ronnie Bell, who led the team in receptions last year. He will be joined by a room that features a trio of sophomores in Giles Jackson, Mike Sainristil and Cornelius Johnson with true freshmen AJ Henning and Roman Wilson also expected to get some repetitions.