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Posts Tagged ‘Wide Receiver’

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.

Derick-banner

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.

_________________________________________________________________________________

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.

New in Blue: Wide Receiver Brian Cole

Saturday, July 26th, 2014


Brian Cole(Jeff Schrier, MLive)

Brian Cole – WR | 6-2, 190 | Saginaw, Mich. – Heritage
ESPN: 4-star, #8 ATH Rivals: 4-star, #7 ATH 247: 4-star, #2 ATH Scout: 4-star, #5 WR
Other top offers: Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Tennessee

Michigan’s annual BBQ at the Big House kicked off with a bang on Saturday afternoon with the commitment of the state of Michigan’s top-rated prospect, wide receiver Brian Cole. Cole announced his commitment shortly after 1 p.m. EST via Twitter.

Cole is a consensus four-star recruit in the 2015 class and rated in the top 150 nationally by each of the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks Cole the highest, listing him as the No.2 athlete in the class and 42nd overall. Rivals has him as the seventh-best athlete and 106th-best overall prospect, while Scout lists him as the fifth-best receiver, and ESPN has him as the eighth-best athlete and 137th-best overall prospect.

Heading into his senior year of high school, Cole already has ideal size. All four sites list him at 6’2″, while there is some disagreement about his weight. 247 and Rivals list him at 190-pounds, ESPN at 199, and Scout at 210. Regardless, by the time he shows up in Ann Arbor around this time next year, he’ll have the size to contribute immediately. And while he could play defensive back, Michigan has been recruiting him at receiver all the way.

Scout’s Allen Trieu had this to say about Cole: “Good sized kid who carries his 200-plus pounds very well. Shows very good ability in space and change of direction for a bigger kid. He is a good open field runner with legitimate speed. He has played a lot of tailback and safety, but shows good natural hands and ball skills. Having not played as much receiver, refining his route running is key but he has the tools to project to multiple positions in college.”

As the top-rated prospect in the state, this was thought to be a head-to-head battle between Michigan and Michigan State all along, even though he also held an offer from Ohio State. He had been considered a Michigan State lean up until this weekend. But when word broke earlier in the week that he would be on campus over the weekend and fellow in-state commit, quarterback Alex Malzone, would be with him, it was a good sign for the Maize and Blue.

Cole is the first wide receiver in the 2015 class, but joins the last commitment Michigan received, tight end Chris Clark, as highly-rated pass-catchers in the class. He’s the ninth commitment so far, the fifth on the offensive side of the ball, and is now the highest-rated commit in the class.

With dozens of other recruits on campus this weekend for the BBQ at the Big House, Cole may not be the only commitment of the weekend. Stay tuned for more updates.

2014 Big Ten football position rankings: Wide receivers (part one)

Thursday, June 19th, 2014


Big Ten position rankings header-WR

This is the third installment of Maize and Go Blue’s series that ranks the best Big Ten football players at each position for the upcoming season. Each week until Michigan’s opener, one position will be previewed, looking at the players who will excel in 2014, not necessarily the ones who did so in previous years. The analysis provided in these posts will be thorough and in-depth, so each position preview will be split into two parts. I have already covered the best Big Ten quarterbacks and running backs. This week, I rank the top wide receivers. Here is Part One:

Previously:
Quarterbacks: Part One, Part Two.
Running Backs: Part One, Part Two.

10. Dontre Wilson, Ohio State | Sophomore – 5’10”, 185 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 22 210 2 9.5 32 15.0
Career Totals 22 210 2 9.5 32 15.0
(Dan Harker, TheOzone.net)

(Dan Harker, TheOzone.net)

Last week, I confessed that making the cuts for the best running backs in the Big Ten was challenging. This week, I admit once again that making the cuts for the best wide receivers in the Big Ten was taxing. But, this time, it is for a completely different reason. Whereas proven tailbacks were excluded from the top 10 because the Big Ten has a deep stable of ball carriers, there were too many question marks at wide receiver to easily fill a top 10. This is no surprise when eight of the nine Big Ten wideouts with the most receiving yards last season graduated or declared early for the NFL Draft. Therefore, speculation regarding which returning receivers will become the best of the Big Ten is rampant.

One candidate was Iowa’s Kevonte Martin-Manley. Martin-Manley led the Hawkeyes in receptions and receiving yards each of the past two seasons. Plus, among the Big Ten’s returning receivers, he has the eighth-highest target rate (19.1 pct.). However, despite being Iowa’s leading receiver, Martin-Manley averaged only 479.5 receiving yards per season and a subpar 10.42 yards per catch in 2012 and 2013. His production is limited by Iowa’s conservative offense, which relies on the run and short receiver routes. This will not change next season, which is why Martin-Manley missed the cut notwithstanding his extensive experience.

Two dark horses that almost appeared on this list were Purdue’s DeAngelo Yancey and Rutgers’ Leonte Carroo. Both proved to be big-play threats last season as each averaged over 17 yards per catch. Yancey was more involved in the Boilermakers’ passing game, earning a team-high 70 targets, while Carroo needed only 27 receptions to score nine touchdowns. Both should be the top wideout on their respective roster next year, but failed to make this list because they have unreliable quarterbacks. Presumed starters Danny Etling for Purdue and Gary Nova for Rutgers completed only 55.8 and 54.5 percent of their passes, respectively, in 2013. Accordingly, neither Yancey nor Carroo had a catch rate, which calculates the percentage of passes a receiver catches that are thrown towards him, higher than 53 percent. This is well below average. It is hard-pressed to see either Yancey or Carroo as top-10 wide receivers if their quarterbacks cannot throw accurate passes to them, but the potential is evident.

This paves the way for Ohio State H-back and slot dot Dontre Wilson to enter the top 10. Wilson was a highly-coveted all-purpose back in high school, ranked in the top-100 nationally and top-five at his position according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings. As soon as he signed his letter of intent with Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes, it seemed every scout and recruiting analyst compared him to Meyer’s former star at Florida, Percy Harvin. Because of his speed, agility, and versatility, Wilson is believed to the perfect fit for the “Percy Position” that Harvin inspired. This means he will line up at receiver, tailback, and in certain hybrid spots where he can catch passes or take pitches from quarterback Braxton Miller. Wilson test drove this role as a true freshman last season, catching 22 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in limited snaps. This season, however, he will be a permanent fixture on the field. With his explosiveness and better understanding of Meyer’s offense, a season similar to Harvin’s sophomore campaign—59 catches, 858 receiving yards, and four receiving scores—may be on the horizon.

9. Tony Lippett, Michigan State | 5th-yr Senior – 6’3”, 190 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 44 613 2 13.9 48 43.8
2012 36 392 2 10.9 46 30.2
2011 4 44 0 11.0 15 3.1
2010 0 0 0 N/A N/A N/A
Career Totals 84 1,049 4 12.5 48 12.6
(Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

(Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

In 2012, Michigan State’s passing attack was in disarray. Then-starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell completed only 52.5 percent of his passes, averaged a ghastly 5.8 yards per attempt, and threw only 13 touchdowns to nine interceptions. However, much of the blame for these troubling numbers lied at the feet, or should I say hands, of Maxwell’s receivers, not his. His receivers somehow managed to drop an astounding 66 passes that season. While drops are not a statistic kept or tracked by the NCAA, it is safe to assume this was among the worst in the nation. And, with all of MSU’s receivers returning for the 2013 season, there were question marks abound regarding whether this position group could recover.

After a shaky start to the 2013 campaign, the Spartans’ wideouts demonstrated that they would not allow another season to “slip” away. This included Tony Lippett, who stepped into the role as MSU’s No. 2 wideout behind Bennie Fowler. Lippett grabbed 66.7 percent of the passes thrown in his direction, which is the fourth-best among returning Big Ten wide receivers. Lippett’s high catch rate allowed him to shine as Michigan State’s season hit the home stretch. In his final six games, he averaged 4.17 receptions and 70.5 receiving yards per game, calculating to 16.92 yards per catch. And, during this six-game span, Lippett never recorded less than three catches or 62 yards in a contest. By season’s end, he had 44 receptions for 613 yards and two touchdowns and became starting quarterback Connor Cook’s most reliable target. With Fowler gone due to graduation, it only makes sense that Lippett likely will be promoted to MSU’s No. 1 wideout in 2014.

However, this does not mean there will be a wide gap between Lippett and the No. 2 wide receiver. In fact, there likely will not be much of a gap between Lippett and the No. 3 wideout. With Cook under center, Michigan State shares the wealth well among its top three receivers. In 2013, Fowler led MSU with a target rate of 18.7 percent, while Macgarrett Kings’ target rate was 17 percent and Lippett’s 16 percent. In 2014, with Fowler’s departure, Lippett and Kings will see slight upticks in their target rate, but it is unlikely either will earn near a quarter of their team’s targets like others in the Big Ten. Instead, Aaron Burbridge or Keith Mumphrey—who are both quality veterans—will step in as the No. 3 wideout and increase his target rate to above 15 percent. This is fantastic news for a Spartans offense that desires to remain balanced and keep opposing defenses guessing. But it will limit Lippett’s production as a No. 1 wideout—no matter how high his catch rate is. He will be the reliable receiver who averages four to five receptions per game, but not the one who takes over games.

8. Kenny Bell, Nebraska | 5th-yr Senior – 6’1”, 185 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 52 577 4 11.1 42 44.4
2012 50 863 8 17.3 74 61.6
2011 32 461 3 14.4 50 35.5
2010 0 0 0 N/A N/A N/A
Career Totals 134 1,901 15 14.2 74 47.5
(Eric Francis, Getty Images)

(Eric Francis, Getty Images)

Nebraska’s Kenny Bell is one of the few well-known Big Ten wide receivers still hanging around. If anything, Bell seems like one of those seniors who has been playing college football for eight years and will never graduate. This is because he put himself on the map as one of the Cornhuskers’ best wideouts as soon as he stepped on the gridiron as a redshirt freshmen. In each of his first two years, Bell led Nebraska in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. The second of those two years was his breakout season. As a sophomore in 2012, he tallied 50 catches and finished second in the Big Ten in receiving yards (863) and touchdown receptions (eight). His 17.26 yards per catch were the third-best in the conference, too. Consequently, he was named to the All-Big Ten second team, while other media outlets placed him on the first team. Bell undoubtedly was Nebraska’s No. 1 option at wide receiver and expected to be once again the following season.

However, this was not the case. Instead, Bell reverted to the No. 2 wideout as Quincy Enunwa became Nebraska’s leading receiver in 2013. Bell did not have an awful season by any means, recording 52 receptions, 577 yards, 11.10 yards per catch, and four touchdowns. But Enunwa posted 51 grabs, 753 yards, 14.76 yards per reception, and a Big Ten-best 12 touchdown catches. And, if any further evidence was needed, Enunwa had a higher target rate than Bell, finishing with the fourth-best rate in the Big Ten at 26.8 percent.

The reason for Bell’s statistical dip was the result of losing star quarterback Taylor Martinez to a serious case of turf toe and being burdened with an inconsistent tandem of Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong, Jr. to replace him. Bell piled up his numbers his first two seasons with Martinez on the throwing end of those passes. They oozed chemistry. But that was lost once Martinez was sidelined for the remainder of the season. And Bell struggled to find a groove with either of Martinez’s replacements, especially Armstrong, Jr., who completed only 51.9 percent of his attempts. Accordingly, Bell caught only 59.1 percent of the balls thrown towards him and saw six yards shaved off his average per catch.

This season, Bell will once again be the undisputed No. 1 receiver on Nebraska now that Enunwa has graduated. And, generally, a receiver with Bell’s career numbers would be higher on this list, especially given how watered down the Big Ten’s wide receiver class is this year. But there are two concerns that dropped his rank to No. 8. First, Bell has no supporting cast at wide receiver. The next best returning wideout is Jordan Westerkamp, who had only 20 catches and a target rate of seven percent as a freshman last year. Although this likely means a boost in targets for Bell, it also means defenses will be rolling over their coverages to his side of the field. Can Bell still get open? Likely. He is an above-average wideout.

But will the football still be thrown to him accurately in tighter coverage? This raises the second concern. Nebraska’s starting quarterback will be Armstrong, Jr. in 2014. Armstrong, Jr. likely will improve from a subpar freshmen season which saw him unexpectedly thrown into the fire. He has had the entire offseason to train, knowing he would be the starter in the opener. But will it be enough for him to a competent passer? Not certain. Armstrong, Jr. is a dual-threat quarterback with noted accuracy and technique issues. If Armstrong, Jr. does not work out those kinks, it will hamper Bell’s production and impact as a wide receiver. Because there is so little faith in Armstrong, Jr.’s arm, Bell is much lower on this list than most people would think.

7. Tony Jones, Northwestern | 5th-yr Senior – 6’0”, 195 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 55 630 4 11.5 47 52.5
2012 29 335 4 11.6 42 25.8
2011 0 0 0 N/A N/A N/A
2010 11 157 1 14.3 45 19.6
Career Totals 95 1,122 9 11.8 47 34.0
(Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

(Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

For the past three years, Northwestern has run a hybrid, two-quarterback offense. Why? It was tailored to the skill set of Kain Colter. Colter was one of the most versatile offensive players not only in the Big Ten, but also the nation. He demonstrated an ability to flash speed, haul in the football, and pass accurately with zip. So Northwestern implemented an offense that attempted to showcase all three of his talents, lining him up at running back, wide receiver, and quarterback. When Colter was at running back or wide receiver, Northwestern ran more of a passing spread, hoping to get Colter and its other playmakers the ball in space. When Colter was at quarterback, the Wildcats emphasized the read-option, utilizing his speed and agility to keep defenders on ice skates. It was a unique strategy to fully tap into one player’s talents.

However, when Colter was at quarterback, the passing offense was put on the shelf to a certain extent. Yes, Colter still would throw occasionally to keep the defense honest, but the wide receivers were out there to block for Colter and Northwestern’s running back, who usually was Venric Mark.

Further, with this two-quarterback system, the Wildcats’ passing quarterback, Trevor Siemian, was forced to frequently rotate series and struggled to develop a rhythm with his wideouts. It was a tough situation for Northwestern’s aerial attack. And the situation was not made any easier last year when the offense was shorthanded as offensive player after offensive player, including Colter and Mark, dropped with injuries.

Yet, despite all of this, Northwestern wide receiver Tony Jones put together a fine campaign last year. T. Jones was a constant option for Siemian all year with a target rate of 22.3 percent. Not only was this tops on the Wildcats last season, it also is the fifth-highest among returning Big Ten wideouts. Additionally, T. Jones did a splendid job bringing in those passes from Siemian. His catch rate was 68.8 percent, which is the third-highest among returning Big Ten wide receivers that had a minimum target rate of 10 percent last year. T. Jones’ ability to not only consistently get open, but also not drop passes led to his best season yet. He finished with a team-high 55 receptions, 630 receiving yards, 11.45 yards per catch, and four touchdowns.

And it will only get better for T. Jones in 2014. Colter graduated, which means there will be only one quarterback taking the snaps for Northwestern next year: Siemian. Accordingly, Northwestern will be transitioning their offense from a hybrid, two-quarterback system to a passing spread. One of the beneficiaries from this transition will be T. Jones. Although his target rate, catch rate, and yards per carry should remain stagnant, expect large spikes in his targets, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns because Northwestern will air the ball out much more this season. The averages will remain the same, but his volume numbers should increase. This should result in T. Jones’ best season as a Wildcat. However, he is only ranked No. 7 because of the next player on this list.

6. Christian Jones, Northwestern | Senior – 6’3”, 225 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 54 668 4 12.4 36 55.7
2012 35 412 2 11.8 47 31.7
2011 16 195 0 12.2 39 15.0
Career Totals 105 1,275 6 12.1 47 33.6
(Hans Pennink, AP)

(Hans Pennink, AP)

Tony Jones is not the only Northwestern wide receiver with the last name of Jones expecting a similar bump in his performance in 2014. Enter: Christian Jones. C. Jones and T. Jones are not related, but they certainly have formed quite the duo at wideout for the Wildcats.

Eerily, C. Jones’ numbers are extremely similar to T. Jones in 2013. C. Jones had 77 targets to T. Jones’ 80. C. Jones had 54 catches to T. Jones’ 55. C. Jones had 668 receiving yards to T. Jones’ 630. And C. Jones had four touchdown catches to T. Jones’ four. The slight differences in their statistics are that C. Jones was a bit more explosive and more sure-handed with his catches, while T. Jones got open a tad more often. But, in a nutshell, they were almost the exact same player.

So why is C. Jones ranked above T. Jones in these power rankings? What is the difference that will give C. Jones the edge in 2014? It is C. Jones’ size and playmaking ability. C. Jones is 6’3” and 225 pounds, while T. Jones is 6’0” and 195 pounds. C. Jones’ added size and strength makes him a bigger target for Siemian and allows him to use his body to box out cornerbacks while running routes more effectively.

Further, C. Jones has a tendency to make the bigger plays. In 2013, C. Jones tallied 40 catches for a first down, 17 that gained 15 or more yards, and five that covered at least 25 yards. On the other hand, T. Jones went past the first-down marker only 31 times and gained 15-plus yards only 11 times, but did have five 25-plus-yard catches, too. C. Jones also came up bigger on crucial third-down plays. All 13 of C. Jones’ third-down receptions earned a first down, but T. Jones failed to move the chains on three of his 14 third-down grabs. Ultimately, both receivers should have similar statistics yet again next season. Nonetheless, someone has to have the edge on this list.

However, although C. Jones should be one of the most reliable receivers in the Big Ten next season with his high target rate and catch rate, he did not crack the top five for the same reason T. Jones did not: the other receiver named Jones. Because they are such similar players, each cannibalizes the other’s opportunities. And, while C. Jones is a bit more of a playmaker than T. Jones, neither is rather explosive. None of the two have topped an average of 13 yards per reception each of the past two seasons. Odds are that, because they are so similar, neither will be able to crack 70 catches or 1,000 receiving yards. They would need to be more of a game-breaker, which is a featured trait among the Big Ten’s top five wideouts.

Part Two of Maize and Go Blue’s preview of the best Big Ten wide receivers in 2014 will be posted tomorrow. We will reveal the five top wideouts in the conference. Which wide receiver do you think will top the list? Do you agree or disagree with Nos. 10 through 6 thus far? Do you think a Michigan wideout should be in the top five? If so, which rank? Please let us know in the comments.