Few players will ever have a greater debut than Andrel Anthony. While the freshman’s homecoming in East Lansing was technically not his first appearance, Anthony did record his first catch and first touchdown (on the same play!) in a game that was slightly soured as a loss, but still quite memorable.
While the rest of his rookie year was mild, the Michigan Wolverines know Anthony can be utilized in a bigger role going forward. The wide receiver room is loaded, but if he can make the most of his targets then he will surely earn a larger dose. Expectations are tempered going into 2022, but there is a legitimate shot at a huge breakout.
The story so far
It truly felt like the Wolverines were recruiting Anthony solely to mess with their rivals, as Michigan State had the East Lansing product at the top of its board for most of the cycle. Though clearly under-ranked as a three-star outside the top 500 of the 247 Composite, he was not exactly a must-have target for most teams.
With Michigan’s depth at receiver and Anthony’s youth, the coaching staff eased him into the 2021 season. His talent and raw abilities were clear coming out of high school, but he does not have the biggest frame for his height and entered the year behind players like Cornelius Johnson and Daylen Baldwin.
Even though coaches will sometimes allow players to get additional snaps in their hometowns or states, it was a bit surprising to see Anthony out there on the first drive against the Spartans in a massive top-10 showdown. It took just one catch — his first of his college career — to validate his inclusion:
His blistering speed fits right into the Michigan receiving corps, but it was really his second score of the game that was even more impressive. J.J. McCarthy put the ball in perfect position, and Anthony had no problem going up and snagging in the laser for an outstanding catch over the defensive back:
Despite this outstanding 155-yard performance, Anthony would not log more than a single catch in any of the remaining six games; he actually had exactly one reception in each contest. There were a few more bright spots, including a great one-handed grab against Maryland and the team’s lone touchdown against Georgia in the College Football Playoff, but it was mostly a one-game season for the freshman.
Outlook moving forward
With Michigan returning nearly every receiver and getting back Ronnie Bell, targets are going to be tough to come by. However, there could be a higher emphasis on the passing game with the departure of Hassan Haskins, and that would definitely benefit someone like Anthony. In general, receivers often take a big step forward in their second season, and the script could be set up perfectly if some things fall the right way.
Chief among these factors is at quarterback, as it was clear that Anthony had a strong connection with classmate McCarthy, with the two spending plenty of time on the practice field together. Should McCarthy win the quarterback job, this chemistry might be on full display as it was in a limited capacity in 2021 (two of Anthony’s three scores came from McCarthy). Anthony has excellent hands, a good vertical, and great route-running ability to go with his speed, and there are all sorts of ways the elite quarterback could get him the ball.
Of course, there are also reasons why Anthony might have to wait another year to truly break out. Despite his talent and growing experience, both Bell and Johnson are squarely ahead of him on the outside, and there are plenty of speedsters who will get targets as well. McCarthy could sit behind Cade McNamara again, and perhaps the cards will just not line up for Anthony this fall. Still, it is hard to see him not outproducing his recruiting ranking when it is all said and done, whether that manifests in 2022 or in the future.