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Posts Tagged ‘Wide Receiver’

Jehu Chesson drafted 139th overall by Kansas City Chiefs

Saturday, April 29th, 2017


Jehu Chesson gave Michigan back to back selections in the 2017 NFL Draft when he was picked 139th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs, just one pick after the Cincinnati Bengals selected Ryan Glasgow.

Chesson made 25 career starts at receiver, catching 114 passes for 1,639 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors by the media in 2016 and All-Big Ten First-Team honors by the coaches in 2015. He also added three rushing touchdowns and a kick return touchdown.

Chesson enjoyed the best season of his career in 2015, catching 50 passes for 764 yards and nine touchdowns and adding 154 rushing yards and two scores. He was nearly unstoppable over the final four games of the season when he averaged 126 yards on 27 receptions and scored six of his nine receiving touchdowns.

That performance lead to high expectations for his senior season, but after tearing his PCL in the Citrus Bowl, his numbers declined in 2016. His best game of the season came against Maryland when he caught five passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. The highlight of his career was a 96-yard kickoff return for touchdown to open the 2015 Northwestern game.

The Chiefs ranked 22nd in the NFL last season in receiving yards and 24th in receiving touchdowns. Tight end Travis Kelce was by far the team’s leading receiver, but the team does have a solid corps of receivers including Tyreek Hill and Jeremy Maclin. Chesson will compete with Chris Conley and Albert Wilson for the third receiver spot this fall.

Amara Darboh drafted 106th overall by Seattle Seahawks

Friday, April 28th, 2017


Michigan closed out the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft with a flurry of picks, capped off by receiver Amara Darboh being selected 106th overall by the Seattle Seahawks. He will join teammate Delano Hill, who was picked by Seattle just 11 picks prior.

Darboh was an All-Big Ten Second Team selection by both the coaches and media in 2016 and a Biletnikoff Award candidate. He lead the team with 57 receptions for 862 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished his career with 151 catches for 2,062 yards and 14 touchdowns while making 28 starts. He turned in the fourth-longest reception streak in Michigan history, catching at least one pass in 33 straight games.

In the second game of the season, Darboh caught five passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns against UCF, the first multi-touchdowns game of his career. A few weeks later, he scored the game-winning touchdown against Wisconsin, and he also caught the game-tying touchdown in overtime against Ohio State. Against Michigan State, Darboh caught eight passes for 165 yards. The highlight of his career was a turning, fully stretched out, one-handed snag against BYU in 2015.

Darboh is a feel-good American success story. He was born in war-torn Sierra Leone during the country’s civil war that saw both of his parents killed. He was taken in by relatives and adopted by an American family at the age of seven. In 2015, he finally became a United States citizen, and on Friday night he became an NFL player.

The Seahawks had a top 10 passing offense last season, lead by Doug Baldwin’s 1,128 yards and 12 touchdowns. But Jermaine Kearse saw a dip in production as the No. 2 receiver despite more targets. Tyler Lockett finished the season as the second-best receiver, despite breaking his leg in Week 16, but he’s a slot guy that fills a different role than Darboh. Still, Darboh will have to compete for playing time given that Seattle has now drafted a receiver in five straight drafts. Paul Richardson came on late last season with 15 receptions for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the final four games, while Tanner McEvoy, the former Wisconsin quarterback, is also in the mix.

The NFL Draft will continue on Saturday with rounds four through seven beginning at 12pm Eastern. Jake Butt, Ben Gedeon, Jehu Chesson, Ryan Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, De’Veon Smith, Ben Braden, Channing Stribling, Dymonte Thomas, and Erik Magnuson will all hope to hear their names called.

New in Blue: 2017 WR Nico Collins

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


Nico Collins – WR | 6-5, 195 | Pinson, Ala. (Clay-Chalkville)
ESPN4-star, #21 WR Rivals: 4-star, #17 WR 247: 4-star, #29 WR Scout: 4-star, 24 WR
247 Composite: 4-star #23 WR, #136 nationally
Other top offers: Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, FSU, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, Miami, Auburn

After plucking five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of SEC country on Wednesday morning, Jim Harbaugh won another highly prized recruit right out of the back yard of the big boys in the SEC on Wednesday afternoon. Nico Collins pledged to the Wolverines on National Signing Day, capping the best recruiting classes in program history. He then announced it via Twitter.

Collins is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services and they’re all pretty much in agreement about where he is ranked. Rivals ranks him the highest as the nation’s 17th-best receiver, while ESPN ranks him 21st, Scout lists him 24th, and 247 has him 29th. Nationally, Rivals ranks him 120th, ESPN 150th, Scout 178th, and 247 200th. According to the 247 Composite, he’s the nation’s 23rd-best receiver and 136th-best overall player in the class.

Collins chose Michigan over Georgia and his home-state Alabama Crimson Tide. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound receiver also held offers from most of the South’s top programs including Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn, Miami, and more.

Scout lists Collins’ strengths as catching in traffic, hands and concentration, red zone weapon, size, and toughness, while listing his area to improve as elusiveness with catch. Scout praises his ability to make plays and be a deep threat, something Michigan’s passing offense has sorely lacked in recent years.

“An outside wide receiver who has shown the ability to make plays down the field or across the middle. A very dependable wideout who catches the ball well in traffic. Has ideal size and length. Is more of a deep threat. Likes to run deep routes and can get behind defenders. A long strider who covers a lot of ground. Not elite quickness. Solid blocker and a very tough wide receiver.”

Collins joins a great receiving class that includes the nation’s top receiver, Donovan Peoples-Jones, as well as Tarik Black, Oliver Martin, and Brad Hawkins to round out Michigan’s 2017 recruiting class.

What can Michigan expect from Peoples-Jones? History is kind to nation’s top receivers — except at USC

Friday, December 16th, 2016


(Getty Images)

On Thursday night Michigan reeled in five-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, adding to an already impressive recruiting class. The Detroit Cass Tech star is the third receiver in the class but he’s also the highest-rated as the nation’s top receiver according to 247 Sports. So what can Michigan fans expect from Peoples-Jones in the maize and blue? A look at the history of the nation’s No. 1 wideout gives a lot of reason for excitement.

More than any other position on the field, receivers tend to produce the earliest when they arrive on campus. In a simplistic view, the position — more than any other — relies more on athleticism than a need to learn at the college level. Of course, route running, technique, strength, and a connection with the quarterback are important traits that can be developed in college, but an uber athletic receiver with good size and speed can produce right away.

Since 2000, the No. 1 receivers in the nation according to 247 Sports have produced an average of 34 receptions for 480 yards and four touchdowns in their first season of action. By comparison, as a senior, Jehu Chesson caught 31 passes for 467 yards and two scores as a senior this season (with a bowl game yet to play). That means that if Peoples-Jones performs just average as a true freshman compared to the past 17 No. 1 receivers, he would have been the third-leading receiver on Michigan’s roster this season. It gets better.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – by year
Freshman Season College Career
Year Name School Rec Yds TDs Rec Yds TDs
2016 Demetris Robertson Cal 50 767 7 50* 767* 7*
2015 Calvin Ridley Alabama 89 1,045 7 155* 1,772* 14*
2014 Speedy Noil Texas A&M 46 583 5 88* 1,134* 9*
2013 Laquon Treadwell Ole Miss 72 608 5 202 2,393 21
2012 Dorial Green-Beckham Missouri 28 395 5 87 1,278 17
2011 George Farmer USC 4 42 0 30 363 4
2010 Kyle Prater USC 1^ 6^ 0^ 71 654 2
2009 Rueben Randle LSU 11 173 2 97 1,634 13
2008 Julio Jones Alabama 58 924 4 179 2,653 15
2007 Terrence Toliver LSU 10 249 3 126 1,820 12
2006 Percy Harvin Florida 34 427 2 133 1,929 13
2005 Patrick Turner USC 12 170 2 138 1,752 17
2004 Early Doucet LSU 18 257 2 160 1,943 20
2003 Whitney Lewis USC 3 16 0 3 16 0
2002 Ryan Moore Miami 44 637 3 49 800 8
2001 Roscoe Crosby Clemson 23 396 3 23 396 3
2000 Charles Rogers Michigan State 67! 1,470! 14! 135 2,821 27
*Still in college
^Redshirted freshman season (redshirted due to injury)
! Sophomore season (academically ineligible for freshman season)

An anomaly among the previous 17 top receivers in the nation has been those who committed to Southern Cal. Four of them — George Farmer in 2011, Kyle Prater in 2010, Patrick Turner in 2005, and Whitney Lewis in 2003 — performed well below average. Those four averaged just five receptions for 58.5 yards and half a touchdown.

Farmer switched to running back, tore his ACL and MCL his sophomore season, and finished his career with just 30 catches for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Prater redshirted as a freshman due to nagging injuries and then transferred to Northwestern. He had originally committed to Pete Carroll, but didn’t stick it out with Lane Kiffin. Turner had the best freshman season of any of the four, catching 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and went on to a decent career and a third-round draft pick. Lewis — like Farmer — was switched to running back for most of his freshman season before moving back to receiver where he caught just three passes for 16 yards. He sat out his sophomore season while academically ineligible and didn’t catch another pass in his career.

With four of the five worst freshman seasons among the last 16 No. 1 receivers nationally coming from USC — the other was LSU’s Rueben Randle, who caught 11 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman –, it’s worth looking at the freshman year production average without the USC guys. If they had all not been from one school, we couldn’t do this. But when it’s isolated to one program, we can reasonably assume that it’s more of a reflection of the program than the player.

The 13 non-USC commits averaged 42 receptions for 610 yards and five touchdowns as freshmen. A performance like that would have been very similar to Jake Butt’s 43 receptions for 518 yards and four scores.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – averages
Receptions Yards Touchdowns
All 17 34 480 4
Jehu Chesson 2016 31 467 2
Minus USC commits 42 610 5
Jake Butt 2016 43 518 4

Three of the 17 No. 1 receivers since 2000 would have been Michigan’s leading receiver this season — Julio Jones, who caught 58 passes for 924 yards and four touchdowns for Alabama in 2008; Calvin Ridley, who caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven scores for the Crimson Tide last season; and Charles Rogers, who caught 67 passes for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2001. Last year’s No. 1 receiver, Demetris Robertson, had very similar numbers to Michigan’s leading receiver, Amara Darboh, catching 50 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns for California this fall.

Beyond just the freshman season, the nation’s No. 1 receivers have largely had outstanding college careers. Most of them didn’t stay all four years, but they averaged 102 catches for 1,461 yards and 12 touchdowns over their careers. Michigan State’s Charles Rogers turned in a two-year total of 2,821 yards, which would rank third in Michigan career receiving history. Jones’ 2,653 in three seasons would rank fifth and Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell’s 2,393 in three years would also rank fifth. Keep in mind that Michigan’s top four — Braylon Edwards, Anthony Carter, Jeremy Gallon, and Amani Toomer — all played all four seasons in Ann Arbor.

Of the 14 who are no longer in college, eight were drafted by the NFL — all in the top three rounds and four in the first round. Seven of them are still in the league.

Before Peoples-Jones’ commitment, the highest rated receiver Michigan had ever landed was Mario Manningham, who was the nation’s sixth-best receiver in the 2005 class. He turned in a 27-catch, 433-yard, six-touchdown freshman performance and ranks sixth in Michigan’s career receiving books.

Michigan’s top 10 receiver commitments in recruiting ranking era
Year Name Position Rank National Rank
2017 Donovan Peoples-Jones 1 11
2005 Mario Manningham 6 50
2001 Tim Massaquoi 7 47
2014 Drake Harris 7 67
2005 Antonio Bass 8 56
2008 Darryl Stonum 10 48
2004 Doug Dutch 10 71
2009 Je’Ron Stokes 10 90
2007 Toney Clemons 12 96
2002 Jason Avant 13 117

If recent history holds true, Michigan fans can expect a productive year from Peoples-Jones next fall and a solid career. He also comes in at the right time with the Wolverines losing their top three pass catchers to graduation. Jim Harbaugh has shown that he’s willing to play true freshman receivers as Grant Perry caught 14 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown in 2015 and Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom combined for 9 catches for 106 yards and one score this fall, in addition to McDoom’s success on jet sweeps. The roster is certainly wide open for a go-to outside receiver and Peoples-Jones seems primed to fill that spot.

A high ranking doesn’t always guarantee success, and some of the best receivers in Michigan history weren’t ranked highly, but the recent history of the nation’s top receivers are good news for Michigan fans.

New in Blue: 2017 WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

Thursday, December 15th, 2016


(Brandon Brown)

Donovan Peoples-Jones – WR | 6-2, 193 | Detroit, Mich. (Cass Technical)
ESPN4-star, #4 WR Rivals: 5-star, #2 WR 247: 5-star, #1WR Scout: 5-star, #4 WR
247 Composite: 5-star #1 WR
Other top offers: Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State, Florida, Alabama, Clemson, LSU, USC

Yesterday, Michigan pulled in four-star receiver Tarik Black of Cheshire, Conn. Today, Jim Harbaugh bolstered his receiving corps even further with a commitment from the top receiver in the country, Donovan Peoples-Jones. The Detroit Cass Tech star pledged his commitment to the Wolverines live on ESPN2 on Thursday evening.

Peoples-Jones is a five-star according to 247, Rivals, and Scout, and a four-star according to ESPN. Scout ranks him as the top receiver in the country, Rivals second, and Scout and ESPN fourth. All four have him among the top 32 overall players in the nation with 247 ranking him the highest at eighth. Rivals ranks him 13th, ESPN 27th, and Scout 32nd. According to the 247 Composite, he’s the top receiver and the 11th-best overall player in the 2017 class.

The 6-foot-2, 193-pound receiver committed to Michigan over a top five that also included rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, Orange Bowl foe Florida State, and 2017 season-opening opponent Florida. He also held offers from most of the other national powers, including Alabama, Clemson, LSU, USC, and Stanford, to name a few.

Scout lists Peoples-Jones’ strengths as body control, elusiveness with catch, and speed, while listing his area to improve as strength. Scout’s Allen Trieu raves about his potential.

“Exceptional athlete with above-average size, but top notch speed, explosiveness and outstanding leaping ability. Shows the ability to make tough grabs downfield with defenders on him, and has excellent body control and ball tracking skills. Must still get stronger and continue to polish his route-running, but has all of the physical tools to be a go-to receiver in college.”

Peoples-Jones joins Black and Brad Hawkins as receivers that will head to Ann Arbor in 2017. He’s the 22nd player in the class and the 10th on the offensive side. He doesn’t have quite the size of Black, but there’s a reason he’s rated higher across the board. While Black projects to be more of a possession receiver, Peoples-Jones has a chance to be a star go-to receiver. Together, they form a great receiving haul that will challenge for playing time after the loss of seniors Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh.

With two in the fold this week, Michigan will hope for more good news when five-star offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson announces his commitment at noon Eastern tomorrow.

New in Blue: 2016 WR Dylan Crawford

Saturday, January 9th, 2016


Dylan Crawford

Dylan Crawford – WR | 6-1, 186 | Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. – Santa Margarita Catholic
ESPN: 4-star, #23 WR Rivals: 4-star, #25 WR 247: 4-star, #21 WR Scout: 4-star, #23 WR
Other top offers: USC, Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, Oklahoma, ND, Tennessee, Utah

Michigan’s impressive recruiting class continued on Saturday afternoon with a commitment from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. receiver Dylan Crawford. The 6-foot-1, 186-pounder chose the Wolverines over home-state schools USC, UCLA, and Stanford during the first quarter of the US Army All-American Bowl.

Crawford is a consensus four-star by the four major recruiting sites. All four have him ranked between the 21st and 25th best receiver in the class. Although Rivals ranks him the lowest at his position (25th) they have him the highest nationally as the 115th-best overall recruit in the class. Scout and 247 both list Crawford 131st overall and ESPN has him 179th.

According to MaxPreps, Crawford caught 54 passes for 993 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2013 for St. Francis High School. He transferred to Santa Margarita Catholic for his senior season this past fall where he caught 51 passes for 822 yards and seven touchdowns from four-star Stanford quarterback commit K.J. Costello.

247 Sports ranks Crawford’s best skills as agility and route running, giving him rankings of nine for both, with yards after catch, change of direction, ball skills, and hands right behind with eight each. Size (six) is his lowest attribute, though he’s currently about the same size as Michigan freshman wide receiver Grant Perry, who caught 14 passes for 128 yards and a touchdowns this season.

With a loaded receiving corps returning for Michigan next fall, Crawford will have the opportunity to redshirt and learn from Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Perry before battling for a spot in 2017.

New in Blue: 2016 WR Brad Hawkins

Friday, July 3rd, 2015



Brad Hawkins(NJ.com)

Brad Hawkins – WR | 6-1, 202 | Camden, N.J. – Camden
ESPN: 4-star, #25 WR Rivals: 4-star, #42 WR 247: 4-star, #37 WR Scout: 4-star, #38 WR
Other top offers: Auburn, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Arizona State

June was a big month for Michigan recruiting but it didn’t take long for Jim Harbaugh’s staff to land their first July commitment. Camden, N.J. wide receiver Brad Hawkins announced his commitment to the Wolverines on Friday afternoon.

Hawkins is rated four stars by all four of the major recruiting services. ESPN rates him the highest as the 25th-best receiver in the 2016 class. 247 Sports has him 37th, Scout 38th, and Rivals 42nd. ESPN ranks him the 191st-best overall player in the class, while 247 has him 198th, Rivals 206th, and Scout 224th.

Scout lists his strengths as body control, route-running, and size, while noting his areas for improvement as downfield threat and speed. Scout’s Brian Dohn liked what he saw.

“Hawkins is one of the top receivers in the East’s 2016 class because of his combination of size, acceleration off the of scrimmage, his ball-tracking skills and his ability to use his body to shield defenders. He is physical and catches the ball at its highest point. He goes over the middle and can out leap defenders to make catches, and he is tough to bring down after the catch. If his speed improves, he will be the total package.”

Hawkins held a who’s who of offers including Oregon, Auburn, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame to name a few. He unofficially visited Michigan on March 27 and again last weekend with a large group of New Jersey recruits, including teammate Ron Johnson, who committed to the Wolverines last Thursday.

He’s the 21st commitment in the class and the first receiver, moving Michigan up to sixth in the 247 Sports team rankings, behind only LSU, Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama, and Miami. Michigan jumped fellow Big Ten foes Michigan State and Penn State.

New in Blue: 2015 wide receiver Grant Perry

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015



Grant Perry(Jarrad Henderson, Detroit Free Press)

Grant Perry – WR | 6-0, 185 | Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – Brother Rice
ESPN: 3-star, #128 WR, 76 grade Rivals: 3-star, #80 WR 247: 3-star, #133 WR Scout: 3-star, #59 WR
Other top offers: Northwestern, Bowling Green, Ball State, Nevada, Buffalo

Two days after it was reported (and then debunked) that Michigan had received a commitment from three-star receiver Deontay Burnett, the Wolverines picked up a commitment from another receiver, and this time the news came straight from the mouth — or tweet — of the commit.

Perry is rated very similar to Burnett, a consensus three-star by the four major recruiting sites. Scout rates him the highest as the 59th-best receiver in the class, while Rivals is next at 80th. ESPN has him as the 128th-best with a grade of 76 and 247 comes in last as the 133rd-best. Scout’s Allen Trieu praised his route-running, ability to get open, excellent hands, and sound fundamentals, while listing his only weakness as size. Sounds an awful lot like Jeremy Gallon. Although Gallon was rated slightly higher coming out of high school, he was three inches shorter than Perry.

Perry was a high school teammate of Michigan quarterback Alex Malzone and was Malzone’s top receiver, catching 105 passes for 1,727 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. In his varsity career at Brother Rice, Perry caught 176 passes for 2,771 yards and 27 touchdowns. He camped at Michigan each of the past two summers but did not receive an offer, then committed to Northwestern on Dec. 8. But he received an offer on Sunday, and on Monday night tweeted out his de-commitment from the Wildcats.

As the 10th player to join the 2015 class, he likely won’t be the last with National Signing Day approaching tomorrow and a few spots left to fill. Stay tuned for more commitment news over the next 24 hours.

New in Blue: 2015 wide receiver Deontay Burnett

Sunday, February 1st, 2015


Deontay Burnett(uscfootball.com)

Deontay Burnett – WR | 6-0, 166 | Gardena, Calif. – Junipero Serra
ESPN: 3-star, #139 WR, 76 grade Rivals: 3-star, #59 WR 247: 3-star, #97 WR Scout: 3-star, #82 WR
Other top offers: Washington State, Arizona State, Utah, Miami, Colorado State

With three days remaining until National Signing Day, new head coach Jim Harbaugh secured his fourth commitment since taking over in Ann Arbor. Gardena, Calif. receiver Deontay Burnett committed to the Wolverines during his official visit on Sunday afternoon, flipping from Washington State.

Burnett is a consensus three-star recruit by the four major recruiting sites. Rivals ranks him the highest as the 59th-best receiver in the class. Scout is next at 82nd, while 247 ranks him 97th and ESPN 139th. The 247 Composite ranks him as the 690th overall player in the class. 247 lists his best skill as yards after catch (nine) and gives him an eight for change of direction and speed. Route running (six) is his lowest attribute. Scout’s Greg Biggins praises his route running and ability to stretch the field as a deep threat, while listing his weakness as strength.

Burnett had been committed to Washington State since July 14, but received a Michigan offer on Wednesday and immediately scheduled a visit. On Saturday, he tweeted out a picture from the Michigan locker room. He received an offer from Arizona State on Thursday and holds offers from Miami, Utah, and Colorado State as well.

Michigan now has 10 commitments in the class and will hope to secure a few more before Wednesday.

Edit: Per Burnett’s Twitter account, he did not, in fact, commit today.

Stay tuned for more to come.

M&GB Roundtable talks freshmen, but not THAT freshman

Friday, August 1st, 2014


Roundtable-Freshmen

Canteen

So far this offseason we have discussed the status of Hoke’s hot seat (we pretty much all agreed this is not a make or break season for him) and the Michigan Football Legends jerseys program (we’re all in agreement that we like them, but they need a few guidelines). As we continue our offseason staff roundtable series today, we’re providing our thoughts on freshmen. You may have heard about this incoming defensive back named Jabrill Peppers, but we’re not talking about him. Here’s the question:

Which freshman — true or redshirt — are you most excited about this season, not named Jabrill Peppers? Who, other than Peppers, do you think will have the biggest impact this fall, and why?

Justin-banner

Jabrill Peppers is undoubtedly the freshman everyone is excited about. At Big Ten Media Days, it seemed that every other question for Brady Hoke, Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan, and Frank Clark was about Peppers. The amount of hype for an 18-year-old kid that hasn’t played a down of college football yet is unreal, and while we all hope it’s warranted, it was clear that Hoke and Michigan’s player representatives were tired of talking about it.

The only other freshman that has received a good amount of hype is receiver Freddy Canteen, and he’s who I’m most excited about. He was the talk of spring practice, showing off great speed, agility, and explosiveness — a combination Michigan has lacked at receiver for years. Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree, and Junior Hemingway have been very good receivers the past few years, but they were all different types of receivers than Canteen. Michigan hasn’t had the Mario Manningham or Steve Breaston type of receiver (yes, I know Manningham played outside) that can complement the bigger possession receivers. And with the 6’5″, 230-pound Devin Funchess out wide, a speedy Canteen in the slot would be the perfect complement.

The big question mark for the receiving corps is redshirt sophomore Amara Darboh, who was the offseason hype machine and in line to start last season before breaking his foot in fall camp. That allowed Jehu Chesson, who was behind Darboh at the time, to work his way into the lineup. Chesson had an okay season (15 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown), but didn’t show the consistent playmaking ability. He flashed it — a catch-and-run across the middle touchdown against Akron and a jump ball in double coverage at Michigan State — but averaged barely over one catch a game. His blocking ability — a very important trait for a receiver, especially in Michigan’s offense — will keep him in the rotation, but he’ll likely battle with Darboh for the second outside spot opposite Funchess.

Canteen will likely battle with Dennis Norfleet for the slot job, and if they spring hype is accurate, has the leg up. Norfleet is just 5’7″, 169-pounds, and although shifty, has yet to fulfill the hype many expected of him. He was used sparingly on offense last season, and to mild success, because when he was on the field, it was a tell-tale sign that he was getting the ball on a trick play. Canteen’s size and game-breaking ability will allow him to stay on the field and be available for those trick plays without giving them away.

With Funchess playing the Gallon, Roundtree, and Hemingway role as The Man, Darboh and Chesson providing consistency and reliability on the other side, and Canteen giving big-play potential in the slot, this could be a very good receiving corps. There are a lot of ‘ifs’ but the potential is there, and for the first time in several years, there doesn’t appear to be a weak link in the group. The ideal situation would be for Darboh to return to the level he was pre-injury and start opposite Funchess with Canteen in the slot and Chesson rotating in for Darboh. Of course, the possibility exists that Canteen grabs the No. 2 receiver job on the outside — opposite Funchess — but that would leave Norfleet in the slot and both Darboh and Chesson coming off the bench, so that’s not ideal.

Drew-banner

There really are only a few legitimate candidates that can be considered. For the first time in a few seasons, Michigan finally will have experienced depth at most positions this fall thanks mostly to Brady Hoke’s work on the recruiting trail. In 2012 and 2013, the years he brought in his first two full recruiting classes, Hoke received commitments from 53 prospects. Currently, 52 of them still are on scholarship at Michigan, with only linebacker Kaleb Ringer transferring after he suffered a significant knee injury. The superb retention rate and lack of attrition in the 2012 and 2013 classes have allowed talented juniors and sophomores to flood Michigan’s depth chart. Accordingly, there are very few spots where Michigan needs freshmen—true or redshirt—to contribute immediately.

The only freshmen—other than Jabrill Peppers—that have an opportunity to start or see extensive playing time on either offense or defense are wide receiver Freddy Canteen and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Jr. There are a few other freshmen that could make notable contributions, though. Tight ends Khalid Hill and Ian Bunting may be valuable assets early in the season while Jake Butt completes his recovery from an ACL tear. Defensive tackle Bryan Mone, an early enrollee, may work his way into the defensive-line rotation by season’s end. And there are multiple offensive linemen with freshman eligibility that may be promoted to first string if the presumed starters—four sophomores and a junior—cannot improve upon what was arguably the nation’s worst offensive line last season, but Michigan fans are hoping this development does not come to fruition. Nevertheless, no freshman other than Peppers will have the impact that Canteen or Hurst, Jr. will have.

Although Hurst, Jr. may have a bigger impact as a plausible starter on the defensive line, the freshman not named Peppers that I am most excited about undoubtedly is Canteen. Canteen was a complete unknown when he committed to the Wolverines shortly after participating in Michigan’s summer camp in 2013. However, it was clear that he was unheralded only because his high school team played just three games his junior season. Once Michigan fans saw his game film and Vines of his terrific footwork, they started buzzing. Then, after he enrolled early last January, the coaching staff and his teammates began buzzing, too. Canteen provided a small taste of what he is capable of in the “spring game” when he flashed his swift speed and brisk footwork for what should have been two long completions, including one where he burned All-Big Ten first-team cornerback Blake Countess deep. With his crisp routes, he has the ability to be a playmaker immediately.

Canteen may not start, but he will play many snaps as a true freshman. Michigan lost four wide receivers, including record-setter Jeremy Gallon, to graduation in the offseason. Although the Wolverines still have arguably the Big Ten’s best wideout in Devin Funchess, they will need the younger guys to step up as the No. 2 and No. 3 options. Canteen will compete with sophomores Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson for those spots and already may have the edge on both. Plus, Michigan always could slide him in at slot receiver ahead of Dennis Norfleet. Either way, few freshmen will earn as much playing time in 2014 as Canteen, and he should dazzle all of us with his moves.

Josh-banner

In a perfect world we wouldn’t be asking this question. Personally, I would like to see ALL first year players get redshirted, sit and learn and pack on some weight without any pressure to perform. Sadly we don’t live in that world and so here we are. At first I wanted to say Freddy Canteen after his spring game showing. I mean c’mon it makes perfect sense, with Jeremy Gallon in the NFL and Jake Butt sidelined, someone has to catch the balls not thrown to Funchess. But after I thought about it a while a certain press conference came to mind, and to paraphrase of one of the greatest sports rants ever; “We talkin’ bout practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game, we talkin’ about practice.”

I’m going to head to the other side of the ball and go with Bryan Mone. The defensive line struggles, as with all of Michigan’s struggles in ’13, were well documented. They didn’t generate sufficient pass pressure, didn’t stop the run (to put it lightly) and overall were just, well not that good. Mone is a big boy, a very big boy, and by all accounts the kid can move quite well. A guy who can eat up space and occupy more than one blocker can be devastating, and if he can get into the backfield all the better. Now I won’t go so far as to say I think he’ll be Vince Wilfork, he’s a once in a lifetime player, but I do think given the chance Mone can make some noise and help get Michigan’s defense back to being a Michigan defense.

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I’m hoping I don’t jinx him by choosing another wide receiver this year (Darboh didn’t exactly break out last season), but how can fans not be excited about Freddy Canteen? The freshman wide receiver stormed onto the stage during the Spring Game, offering one of the few bright spots in what turned out to be a sloppy performance.

Canteen separated himself from a loaded group of young wide receivers and should line up with the starters along with captain Devin Funchess. His speed will give the offense another dimension that it badly needed after the loss of both Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo to graduation.

Canteen isn’t the most talented freshman receiver in Ann Arbor, but unlike classmates Drake Harris and Maurice Ways, the youngster has the offensive coaching staff buzzing about his ability as the calendar turns to August. Look for Canteen to give quarterback Devin Gardner a second option to Funchess early in the nonconference season.

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So what do you think? Is Canteen your guy as well, or are you more excited about another freshman? Do you think any other freshmen will make a big contribution to the team this fall? We’d love to hear your thoughts.