Michigan Football Position Preview: Wide Receiver
Kickoff is less than two months away and we are in the dead period for any news on the team and in college football in general. With that being said, let’s look over each position on the team and who is competing for the starting position and predict who will win each position. Today I will look at the wide receiver position. This position has 13 guys fighting for the top spot as Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson were the best receivers on the team last year and they look to keep those spots. Grant Perry, Drake Harris, and Maurice Ways are looking to get more playing time and get on the field to fight for those top two spots. Michigan has five incoming freshman in Ahmir Mitchell, Brad Hawkins, Eddie McDoom, Dylan Crawford and Nate Johnson who will be fighting hard to just sniff the field. Three wildcards are Jack Wangler, Kenneth Sloss, and Austin Brenner as they very little to no playing time and they will see this as a chance to step up and get on the field more often or at least once. These 13 men are going to fight like hell to prove to coach Harbaugh that they are the starting wide receiver at Michigan. Let’s breakdown each candidate.
The number two receiver on the team last year could contend for the number one spot. Darboh had a good year last season, getting 58 catches for 727 yards and five touchdowns, making his career totals at 94 catches for 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns. The picture above is the best catch of the year last season, an O’dell Beckham Jr. type of snag and that just explains how Darboh did last year. While he didn’t have spectacular numbers, he did step up with Devin Funchess leaving. Darboh could hit 1,000 yards if he continues what he did last season.
The leading receiver last year is looking to keep that up and make scouts in the NFL know his name. Chesson had 50 catches for 764 yards and nine touchdowns last year, making his career total up to 79 catches, 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns. He can also run on the ground, with his career numbers being 10 carries for 156 yards and two touchdowns. He can also return kicks, having six total for 202 yards and a touchdown. Chesson is the fastest player on the team, even beating Jabrill Peppers in a race, who is already fast. Chesson has the ability to give up his body for plays and he can snag the long ball. Chesson is a true deep threat and a jet sweep threat for Michigan, and with his kick return abilities he gives Michigan three ways to use him. This could be a 1,000 yard season for him if he continues to play at his level.
The injury bug has bitten Drake Harris hard during his career. He broke records in high school and since coming to Michigan he hasn’t been healthy for a full season. He has had two injuries to his hamstrings, the right one affected his senior year in high school, the left one his freshman year at Michigan. Last year his hamstrings were healed, but an ankle injury limited play again. Harris only was able to play in five games, getting six catches for 39 yards. Harris is looking to be 100 percent healthy in 2016, and if he can be what he was in high school, he could easily get more playing time. Harris had two catches for 38 yards during the spring game this year, so he seems to be doing well so far. A healthy Harris would be huge for Michigan in 2016.
Last year as a freshman Perry had some good playing time. He appeared in six games, having 14 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Perry showed his freshman mistakes by messing up a route against Utah week one, turning the play into an interception, but after that dark moment, Perry improved throughout the season. Perry had three catches for 30 yards at the spring game this year, seeing a little more playing time during so. Perry should see an increase in playing time once the regular season kicks off after having an impressive first year at Michigan.
The first freshman to take a look at is Dylan Crawford. The 6’2 receiver from Santa Margarita Catholic put up 51 catches for 822 yards and seven touchdowns. Crawford could be looking at possible playing time, but with many receivers already on the team right now and four other incoming freshman, he could get a redshirt this season.
The next freshman to look at is from Cedar Creek High School has a good chance to get some playing time in his first year. In his career at Cedar Creek, Mitchell has 92 catches for 1,620 yards and 21 touchdowns. He can also attack on the ground and on kick returns, getting 682 yards on the ground for 14 touchdowns and two kick returns for touchdowns. Mitchell is 6’3 so he has some height on him and with his quickness and speed he could be able to jump over some upperclassmen and get a few reps in his first year in Ann Arbor.
Wangler is a senior from De La Salle and has only appeared in three games in his career. He was on the 2015 Academic All-Big Ten team as well. Wangler could have a shot in appearing in more games this year if he can impress in practice or an injury occurs.
The third freshman is Brad Hawkins and he has put up some numbers in the three years he was on the varsity team at Camden High School. He ended with 137 catches for 2,097 yards and 32 touchdowns. Hawkins will not be enrolling at Michigan this year, as he is going to a prep school for a year, so expect him to get a gray shirt or not be on the team until 2017.
The six foot receiver from West Orange will be battling to not be a redshirt this year. McDoom had 29 catches for 721 yards and 10 touchdowns, but with many people in front of him and with better stats, he could sit this year out.
Brenner is a junior from Saline High School who is 6’1 and has yet to hit the field to play. His chances to play will be slim with Darboh, Chesson, Harris and Perry still being on the team.
Sloss is the third player in a row who won’t have much of a chance to play. He is a senior from Monroe and he did appear in one game last year on special teams, so that could be his role again in 2016.
Ways played in three games last year, getting three catches for 40 yards. He has played in 11 games, starting in two of them. Ways has some experience under his belt, but with not much stats to prove it. Ways should get some more playing time this year if he can step up a little bit in practice. He was also on the Academic All-Big Ten team.
Another player with three years on the varsity team and boy did he put up some numbers. Johnson had 156 catches for 3,067 yards and 44 touchdowns in his four years at Independence High School. Johnson will have a good shot to move up on the depth chart. While he won’t be the X or Z receiver due to his height, he could still be a really good slot option behind Perry. Johnson has the stats to prove he can compete and Michigan would love for him to put up some numbers in that maize and blue jersey.
Who Will be the Starting Wide Receivers for Michigan Come Week One?
There are three different spots that receivers can get in, X, Z and slot. Each player could play each type of wide receiver, but I will put the players where they best fit in the predictions. Check them out below.
Wide Receiver X
- Amara Darboh
- Maurice Ways
- Dylan Crawford
- Eddie McDoom (red shirt)
- Brad Hawkins (gray shirt)
Wide Receiver Z
- Jehu Chesson
- Drake Harris
- Ahmir Mitchell
- Jack Wangler
- Austin Brenner
- Grant Perry
- Nate Johnson
- Kenneth Sloss