Projected starters: Fifth year senior Amara Darboh was Michigan’s leading receiver for most of last season, and he finished with 58 catches (#1 on the team), 727 yards (#2), and 5 TDs (#2). He returns with a spot virtually locked down, and he should be ready to go when spring begins. The latter cannot be said for fifth year senior Jehu Chesson, who had 50 catches (#3), 764 yards (#1), and 9 TDs (#1). Chesson was injured in Michigan’s bowl game and will likely miss spring ball while recovering from that undisclosed injury. Michigan did not get much production from the wide receivers behind them, but redshirt sophomore Maurice Ways, Jr. earned more playing time as the season went along, finishing with 3 catches for 40 yards total. If we’re going by trajectory, he would be the starter opposite Darboh this spring.
Hit the jump for more on the wide receiver position.
Departures: Junior Freddy Canteen switched to cornerback in the middle of the season after making 1 catch for zero yards in five games. He’s supposedly sticking around for now to see how things go during his second year on defense. Brian Cole, on the other hand, made 1 catch for -1 yard before being put in the doghouse; he moved to safety, got out of the doghouse, moved back into the doghouse, and is now a Kentucky Wildcat. Neither move affects the team in the immediate future.
Backup battle: Rising sophomore Grant Perry (14 catches, 128 yards, 1 TD) was the “starting” slot receiver when Michigan went to three-wide sets last season; he’s probably not a great fit outside to replace Chesson, so I’ll put him here as a backup. He should get plenty of time this spring, but some incoming freshmen might push him in the fall. The other receiver who played a fair amount last year was Drake Harris (6 catches, 39 yards), now a redshirt sophomore. If anyone were to supplant Ways for a starting gig this spring, it would probably be him. He was still very skinny last season and should be packing on pounds where he can. Senior Da’Mario Jones (1 catch, 2 yards) and redshirt junior Jaron Dukes were mostly invisible last season, with Dukes appearing just once. The wild card is freshman early enrollee Ahmir Mitchell, a 6’3″, 204-pounder with impressive athletic skills and some questions about his hands. Later in the recruiting cycle, he was talking about potentially playing both ways, which gave way to rumors of him playing safety.
#1 thing to watch: Who will emerge as the heir(s) apparent to Darboh and Chesson? Both will hit the road after the upcoming season, and none of the backups has shown that he is ready and able to step up in their stead. I have had my eyes on Ways as a starting-caliber player since his senior year of high school, and there’s an opening this spring for him to get a lead on some of the other guys at the position. Meanwhile, Harris was a touted recruit who was earning some rave reviews in practices last year, but he didn’t do much in games. If these options can’t get it done, though, four more freshman wideouts will arrive in the summer.
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