The Hype Builds: In early December of 2016, Michigan was still in mourning due to the recent loss to Ohio State and subsequent absence in the College Football Playoff. Even though the Wolverines came up short, Jim Harbaugh had brought renewed attention to the program, demonstrated by a fifth-ranked recruiting class in 2017, which included huge names like Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cesar Ruiz and Tarik Black.
Due to the exodus of wide receivers Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh, Michigan was in dire need of talented wide outs. At 6-4, Black was a huge target with solid speed which piqued the interest of many elite programs. Alabama, Georgia, and Notre Dame all offered Black a spot on their rosters, but on Dec. 14, 2016, Black officially committed to the University of Michigan.
Among the wide receiver recruits that year, Peoples-Jones was the 5-star. Nico Collins was considered a homegrown Alabama target until Michigan managed to beat the Crimson Tide for Collins’ services. Black was, maybe, considered the third-best wide receiver recruit for the Wolverines, but as an early enrollee, he quickly rose up the depth chart and by the end of spring practice was a projected starter; a slot ahead of his elite roommate, Peoples-Jones.
In his debut against Florida, Black scored one touchdown and racked up 83 receiving yards on two receptions - the most receiving yards ever produced by a true freshman Wolverine in a Michigan season opener. After this phenomenal debut, expectations for Black skyrocketed.
At Michigan: His freshmen season was cut short in Week 3 when he fractured his left foot versus Air Force. At that point, Black had been leading Michigan in receptions (11) and receiving yards (149) , and according to Harbaugh would be eligible to receive a medical redshirt due to only appearing in three games.
As the 2018 season approached, fans and media alike speculated about Black’s potential. Before his injury, he was en route to 50 receptions. Unfortunately for speculators, they didn’t have the opportunity to see a healthy Black at the beginning of the 2018 season. He fractured his right foot in fall camp and didn’t see the field until late November, only recording 35 receiving yards for the year on four receptions.
Black had some bad luck in terms of injuries his first two years at Michigan. But in 2019 he reported to the season healthy and ready to practice “speed in space” along with new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. He seemed to be getting back on track when he notched 80 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches in Week 1. But as the season went on, Black’s presence dissipated precipitously as Ronnie Bell, Collins, and Peoples-Jones became the primary targets. At the end of the season, he had tallied 25 receptions for 323 yards.
With freshmen such as Mike Sainristil, Giles Jackson, and Cornelius Johnson starting to make a splash, and recruits AJ Henning and Roman Wilson incoming, the writing was on the wall for Black. In April 2020, he announced his transfer to the Longhorns at the University of Texas.
Was the Hype Real: Black made a huge impression initially during his freshman year. But unfortunately, nagging injuries continued to hamper his performance at Michigan. When he finally healed, it was too late. He was passed on the depth chart by underclassmen who better understood Gattis’ plans for the future of Michigan wide receivers.
Ultimately, Black proved many people wrong. He was the No. 1 recruit in a state that generally doesn’t produce any significant football players. He made it to the biggest stage and played in front of 115,000 fans in The Big House. And he is going to continue playing on the big stage for a devout fanbase at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium.
At Texas, Black needs to live up to the standard that he set early in his freshman year at Michigan. With Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson off to the NFL, Black will have every opportunity to step up and be a leader at the wide receiver position. He may not have lived up to his hype at Michigan, but he has a final chance to change his college legacy at the Longhorns.