The Michigan Wolverines have lost a significant amount of talent from their receiver room over the past few seasons. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Tarik Black, and Giles Jackson have all moved on from the program via transfer or the NFL Draft. Jim Harbaugh has done an excellent job of replenishing those losses with some premier talent in recruiting. A highlight of that is a young receiver we will focus on today, Roman Wilson.
The story so far
Roman Wilson was the most notable true freshman receiver to come into Ann Arbor last season. That honor goes to A.J. Henning who fans were drooling over with his high school tape with his shiftiness and speed. Henning was a borderline Top-100 recruit and was the highest-rated recruit in the 2019 cycle.
Unfortunately, Wilson was more of an afterthought and lived in Henning’s recruiting shadow. Wilson was rated at No. 354 in the country and was the No. 60 wide receiver in the class. He went largely unnoticed because he hails from Honolulu, Hawaii, and didn’t get the same exposure as some of his peers.
Then, he came into camp, and people started taking notice. Everyone knew about Wilson’s ridiculous speed. He ran a 4.37 40-yard dash in high school. But, wide receiver compatriot Mike Sainristil told the media before the season in 2020 that Wilson was the fastest guy in the room: “I think Roman will come out with [the title of fastest receiver]. That guy flies. The freshmen really help us in the receiver room, in terms of depth. It adds two more fast guys who can make plays.”
That speed earned him playing time in 2020. Wilson was often found in the slot and caught nine passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in his true freshman season. He played significantly more playing time than Henning and touched the ball in all six games last season. His top performance was against the Michigan State Spartans where he caught five balls for 71 yards, including a 26-yard catch.
Outlook moving forward
The top two spots in the receiver room are all but guaranteed between Ronnie Bell and Cornelius Johnson. After that, there will be a battle between Mike Sainrisitl, Wilson, and Henning for playing time. Out of that bunch, Wilson had the most receptions and receiving yards a season ago.
However, Jim Harbaugh said on the “In the Trenches” podcast that Sainristil is the No. 3 receiver to start the season. He also mentioned that Wilson was sidelined for a majority of Spring camp with a soft-tissue injury.
Cade McNamara, the prospective starter, should be much better through the air than Joe Milton was a year ago. The issue with that is all but one of Wilson’s nine catches came with Milton as the quarterback. Meanwhile, Sainristil and Henning saw eight of their combined 13 catches come with McNamara at the helm.
Wilson will certainly see playing time in 2021, because of his exceptional speed. He embodies the “speed in space” design of Josh Gattis’ system. However, there should be some legitimate concern that he could lose favor to some of the other names around him if he does not get going early in the 2021 season.