ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan football team’s corps of wide receivers will look decidedly different in 2017.
In 2016, the Wolverines had a 1-2 punch of Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, fifth-year seniors who combined for 1,362 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2016, and got reinforcement from All-American TE Jake Butt and his 546 yards and 4 scores.
All three have departed due to graduation, and likely to the NFL.
Now, with Michigan set to open spring practices Friday, the Wolverines have holes to fill at wide receiver, either with players who have minimal experience such as Eddie McDoom and Kekoa Crawford, or players with no college experience, including incoming freshmen Donovan People-Jones, Tarik Black and Nico Collins.
Some uncertainty also surrounds another one of Michigan’s receivers; Grant Perry remains indefinitely suspended from the program following his arraignment in December on four charges related to an alleged sexual assault from an incident in East Lansing last October.
The absence of seasoned receivers will bring an immediate challenge for Pep Hamilton, who was hired in January as Michigan’s assistant head coach and passing game coordinator.
“It is going to be fun to watch all these guys compete, go out there and play and replace the really good receivers that the Michigan program just lost in this past class,” Hamilton told Scout.com this week. “They’re working hard and they are asking a lot of questions. Everybody is sitting in the front row at meetings. It is like kindergarten where everyone is fighting to get to the front of the line and that’s what you want.”
The departures of Darboh and Chesson means younger players such as McDoom and Crawford will have the opportunity to immediately contribute to Michigan both in spring practices and in the fall; both played as true freshmen in 2016.
McDoom, who played primarily at slot receiver in 2016, is the leading true receiver in a position group that’s thin on experience — he had 5 catches for 59 yards as a freshman in 2016, along with 16 carries for 160 yards — and his speed is an asset.
Crawford added 4 catches for 47 yards and a touchdown, but played primarily as a blocking receiver in 2016.
Khalid Hill, who returns as Michigan’s top fullback, provides another experienced option as a receiver; Hill had 16 catches for 118 yards and 3 touchdowns.
But it also opens the opportunity for three freshmen — including two who have enrolled early — to immediately contend for playing time.
Peoples-Jones is a 247Sports Composite 5-star recruit who enrolled at Michigan in January. In his senior season at Detroit’s Cass Tech High School, Peoples-Jones caught 60 passes for 1,071 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Black, a 4-star recruit from Cheshire Academy in Connecticut, caught 40 passes for 703 yards and 11 touchdowns. Black is also an early enrollee at Michigan.
Collins, a 4-star recruit from Alabama who will enroll in the fall, had 43 catches for 865 yards and 9 touchdowns in his senior season at Clay-Chalkville High School.