Michigan football was loaded at wide receiver in 2016 and while UM still has plenty of talent, the picture is a little less clear.
I think you know how these position conversations are going this year. With Michigan football losing so much talent to the NFL, we don’t really know what we have, etc, etc, so we’ll have to wait and see when the season starts.
For the wide receiver position, going into the 2017 campaign, that’s partly true, but there are a couple of wrinkles to notice too.
First, Michigan football unquestionably took a big hit at the wide receiver position in the off season. Both Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh are gone, and they will be missed. So will Jake Butt, who wasn’t a wide receiver, of course, but those three were the guys Wilton Speight looked to most often in the passing game.
But here’s the thing: Neither Chesson nor Darboh will go down in team history as the greatest of all time. No one will look at their stats or highlight reels and be reminded of Anthony Carter (1979-82), Desmond Howard (1989-91), or Braylon Edwards (2001-04), who wore the no. 80 for two seasons, and then earned the no. 1 jersey for his junior year and went on to break program career records for receptions, yards, and touchdowns, which he still owns.
Heck, no one is going to think of Mario Manningham in connection with Chesson and Darboh either. Manningham’s 11 career 100-yard games are the third most in Michigan history.
Here’s my point: While the loss of Chesson and Darboh is significant, it’s hardly crippling. In fact, there’s at least one guy – and maybe two – in the current group who could one day be mentioned alongside those all-time greats.
One thing we know for sure at this point is that Drake Harris is out as a wide receiver. After arriving in Ann Arbor with such promise, he has not lived up to his potential and is making the switch to defensive back for his senior year.
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And then there’s Grant Perry.
He didn’t exactly put up huge numbers in 2016, catching just 13 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown. But head coach Jim Harbaugh apparently thinks enough of him to overlook some serious off-the-field issues dating back to late last season.
As you may recall, Perry has pleaded guilty to one count of resisting a police officer, a felony with a maximum sentence of two years in prison (Perry will serve a year of probation). He also pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of assault and battery. In return for his plea, prosecutors dropped two counts of misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and a charge of minor in possession of alcohol.
With all of that – and a full reinstatement to the football program – Perry has a strong incentive to redeem himself with some outstanding play this season.
Other returning players include Eddie McDoom and Kekoa Crawford, who both showed flashes of brilliance last season and could easily break out and find their place in Wolverine history.
But the receivers we should really be watching this season are the new ones – Donavan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Tarik Black, and Oliver Martin. Some have commented on the individual potential of Peoples-Jones and Martin, but someone – might as well be me – should point out that this group has some of the biggest potential on the team. Nowhere is the success of Harbaugh’s recruiting more evident than in the wide receiver position.
The outstanding receivers in Michigan football history didn’t reach their full potential during their first years on the team, but there’s always a first time. One of these new guys could set the record book on fire this fall.