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A look at the future of the wide receiver position without Xavier Worthy

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Worthy’s decision will certainly take a toll

Michigan v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

On Thursday afternoon, Xavier Worthy announced on Twitter that he would not be attending the University of Michigan. It was a fitting end to a rollercoaster recruiting process that saw Worthy commit to Michigan, go on a visit to Alabama, and reconsider his options afterward.

Worthy is the type of player that college coaches dream of and was a perfect fit in Josh Gattis’ system. The 6-foot-1 wideout was also a track star in high school and according to the Detroit Free Press, he ran a 10.55-second 100-meter dash. For reference, Denard Robinson ran a 10.56, and Henry Ruggs (formerly of Alabama, now with the Oakland Raiders) ran a 10.53. We’re talking about game-changing speed (in a system that relies heavily on it) now in and quickly out of the Michigan program.

It’s a devastating loss to see Worthy exit as he was likely the WR1 of the future. Who is left to assume the role? Let’s take a deeper dive into what the wide receiver room looks like going forward.

The second-year players

Let’s start by discussing the two wideouts from a season ago who came in renowned for their speed. Roman Wilson and A.J. Henning are expected to make significant jumps this season and be the future of the receiving corps.

Henning was highly recruited coming into Ann Arbor, but Wilson impressed the coaching staff more and had a considerable role in his freshman season. The 6-foot sophomore had nine receptions for 122 yards this touchdown as a rookie:

Mike Sainristil named the fastest receivers on the team in a pre-season press conference a year ago and said that Roman Wilson “flies” and is probably the fastest player in the room. With an offseason of perfecting Gattis’ system, he will likely have an expanded role as Michigan will want to find more ways to get him involved. Hopefully, he takes a Ronnie Bell-like leap in his junior year and be the team’s top target going forward.

Henning may have something to say about that, though. Although he didn’t see as much playing time as Wilson, he has a higher ceiling and fans rightfully expect more out of the former No. 102 overall recruits in the 2020 class. He has an incredible burst when he gets the football in his hands and can make some really exciting plays like the one below:

In year one, Gattis liked to get Henning on the field for gadget plays (had three carries in 2020), mostly as a slot receiver. With so many other slot guys on the roster, it was tough for Henning to break through. Expect that to change in a big way this year as more experimentation happens with Wilson on the outside, and Jackson decided to leave the program.

The remaining freshman class

Without Worthy, the top remaining receiver in the 2021 class is Cristian Dixon from Mater Dei High School in California. He’s a big 6-foot-2, 187-pound freshman that was a composite four-star recruit.

Dixon has a lot to like about him. He’s another big body that quarterbacks love to toss deep balls to. Dixon has really good hands and uses his size to his advantage down the field. He has a knack for making things happen after the ball is in his hands and is a solid route runner.

The issue is that he isn’t necessarily the fastest down the field. He clocked a 4.63 40-yard dash as a senior. That means he is going to play on the outside and hope that he can get enough separation by playing physically at the collegiate level.

Then, there is freshman Andrel Anthony from East Lansing High School. At 6-foot-2 he’s not the fastest guy on the roster and needs to put on weight to make a difference on the field. Michigan listed him at 180-pounds on their spring roster, but 247sports had him as light as 175.

Anthony has some impressive footwork that allowed him to play both in the slot and the outside in high school, but he lacks the speed that Gattis likes to utilize at the position. If he is going to see some playing time at Michigan, it will more than likely be as an outside receiver known for running strong routes.

Without Worthy, what is clearly lacking in this class is the speed that the Wolverines so desperately need for their offense to run effectively. Worthy was supposed to be this class’ Mike Sainristil/Giles Jackson or Roman Wilson/A.J. Henning with the potential to be the best of them all. Now the Wolverines will go a year without a guy like that and have one less name to add to the Speed in Space bunch.

The potential 2022 class

Michigan already has a top receiver commit in the 2022 cycle and that is composite four-star Tay’Shawn Trent. He’s was the Wolverines biggest wide receiver target at 6-foot-4, 210-pounds. He’s a really good athlete paired with dominant size that makes him a threat on every play. But like Anthony and Dixon, he does not have the elite speed that Gattis looks for in his system. The East Detroit-native reportedly ran a 4.59 40-yard dash, which will play with him making plays on the outside or moving to the slot as a blocker for end-arounds and screens.

Now more than ever, though, Michigan will need to find the blazing speed that their current future is missing. Tyler Morris is one of the obvious choices as the four-star made our Recruiting Roundup this week. The four-star, Top-100 talent still has his eyes on Michigan and played a few seasons with J.J. McCarthy at Nazarene Academy in Illinois before McCarthy transferred to IMG Academy in Florida.

Another name to keep an eye on is Kaleb Brown who Michigan offered in January of this year. Michigan came on as the early front-runner to land Brown, but he mentions recently that he was having a lot of conversations with Ohio State as well. It appears the rival schools may be competing for the prospect out of Illinois.