Spring Football Preview: Wide Receivers

Spring Football Preview: Wide Receivers

February 27, 2016
Amara Darboh (82) of the Michigan Wolverines pulls in a pass with Micah Hannemann (7) of Brigham Young  defending during NCAA football in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015.

Amara Darboh (image via KSL)

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.

One comment

  1. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Feb 29, 2016 at 4:33 PM

    While Darboh was the main guy in terms of catches and targets, it seems clear to me the Chesson is the #1 WR. He caught a higher percentage of balls, got significantly more yards per catch/target and was the focus of big play efforts. Michigan went to great lengths to get the ball in his hands. If he and Rudock had clicked a little earlier in the year I think he would have broken 1,000 yards. Can’t wait to see what he and O’Korn team up to do in 2016.

    As for who the #3 (Spring #2) WR is – I think it’s a lot more wide-open than described above. Harris seems to be hurt again at the moment and Jones is off the team, but Ways will have to compete with Perry, Canteen, and some freshman. I’d slot Perry ahead of Ways as the #2 WR for now, just based on how much more he played last year.

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