What We Know, What We're Wondering And A Prediction About The Wide Receivers
Michigan lost wide receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones to the NFL and Tarik Black to a transfer, and may actually have a better corps of pass catchers on the field this fall than they did last year.
What we know...
Nico Collins returns as a senior and surprise super producer Ronnie Bell will be back for his junior campaign. True sophomores Giles Jackson and Mike Sainristil could be poised for massive upticks with fellow sophomore Cornelius Johnson in the mix as well. Throw in a returning Chris Evans, who could get a look at slot receiver, along with true freshmen speedsters AJ Henning and Roman Wilson, and you have a potentially explosive group.
Within the group, you have every type of receiver you need to run a spread offense. Collins is obviously the big-bodied, jump ball, deep threat receiver. Bell is the yards after catch, move the chains, find the open spot guy, at least that was the case with Shea Patterson. Johnson looks like a combination between the two at 6-3, 209 with good speed, solid athleticism and pretty tight route running ability. Sainristil and Jackson are the Swiss Army Knife, slot guys who are extremely dangerous in space and out of the backfield — Evans too, although we think he'll be more running back than receiver. Henning and Wilson both have some of the slot abilities that Sainristil and Jackson do, but are a touch bigger and maybe even a tick faster. There are some unproven guys, but it's a really exciting group.
What we're wondering...
For me, it's all about Chris Evans — both as a ball carrier and as a pass catcher. His skill set is perfect for Josh Gattis' system and I think he could really end up being the X-factor in Michigan's offense. He's 5-11, 216 pounds, dynamic in space, a great receiver and possesses terrific long speed. I see him being an absolute weapon as a returner, in the slot and as a receiver in the screen game.
You could also count on Evans to carry the ball 20 times in a game if you want, which is why he's so intriguing. How does Gattis intend to use him? Will he be looked at in the return game? Is he going to be 80-20 running back to receiver? Is it closer to 50-50? I'm just really curious to see how Evans will be used in his last year as a Wolverine.
My prediction is that Nico Collins will take a big leap and be U-M's unquestioned No. 1 receiver both in status and statistically. In 2019, Ronnie Bell led the Wolverine in catches with 48 and yards with 758. Collins paced the team in touchdown catches with seven, but looked up at Bell in catches and yards with 37 and 729 respectively.
I think that changes in 2020.
Bell may still lead the team in catches, because he has a knack for getting open and is probably more likely to be targeted on short and intermediate routes, but I see the big senior leading the way in yards and touchdowns. I don't think the quarterback will make a huge difference, but I do see Collins being even more of a deep threat if Joe Milton ends up winning the job. Obviously Collins flirted with the NFL, which tells me that he didn't come back to be mediocre.
What do you know, want to know and see happening with the wide receiver group in 2020? Comment below!!!