Following the departure of senior wide receivers Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh, it is time for Jim Harbaugh to unload some of his young recruits. This talented class included one five-star and three four-star WR talents. Of these freshman, at least one will make a big impact in Ann Arbor this fall.
Donovan Peoples-Jones (6-foot-2, 193 lbs.)
Rated as the top wide receiver in the 2016 class, Peoples-Jones has already hyped himself up for a big season in Ann Arbor this fall, even as a freshman. Likely leaping over Maurice Ways, Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom as the number one WR on Michigan’s depth chart, Peoples-Jones is a one-of-a-kind freak athlete. In high school at Detroit’s Cass Technical, where he won a state championship in his senior year, Donovan simply overpowered his competition. He even excelled when facing fellow teammate Ambry Thomas, a graduate of Detroit King (Cass Tech’s cross-town rival). As the top WR in the nation, Peoples-Jones had offers from nearly every perennial power in college football. After narrowing his options to Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Florida, and Florida State, DPJ made his decision public on ESPN and Twitter on December 15, and announced his plans to enroll early at the program of his choice.
Peoples-Jones, a great route runner with excellent hands and athleticism, has a play style similar to Amara Darboh, who had breakout seasons as a junior and senior the past two years in a Michigan uniform. As a freshman, DPJ should leap the depth chart into the one or two deep slots on the chart, and contribute nicely this fall.
Tarik Black (6-foot-4, 208 lbs.)
Committing to Michigan just one day before Peoples-Jones, Black was also a highly coveted receiver by many top programs. Black took three other official visits to Alabama, Auburn, and UCLA, although at one time, Ohio State seemed to be the leader for the Connecticut native.
Black is a solidly built WR, and should be able to use his size to his advantage in the next few years in Ann Arbor. Throughout his development, Harbaugh and Co. should focus on increasing Black’s athleticism as a runner and his speed, as he has already developed his pass catching and route running at a top tier level.
Nico Collins (6-foot-5, 195 lbs.)
Perhaps one of the most suspense-filled recruiting processes for Michigan during the course of this recruitment period was standout WR Nico Collins. Collins, a native of Pinson, Alabama, was seen by some as an SEC lock. Heavily recruited by both Alabama and Georgia, it seemed unlikely at times that Collins would wind up committing to any school outside of the SEC. Roughly two weeks before his commitment to Michigan, Collins posted this tweet that truly threw off the Maize and Blue fanbase:
Collins is seen here posing with Georgia wide receivers coach James Coley and a recruiting specialist from the University of Georgia in the Collins home, which almost signed his letter of intent to UGA in the eyes of many. Little did anyone know, Collins had his intentions placed elsewhere.
Roughly two weeks later, Collins would shock the nation, and the Georgia fanbase as well.
As a high school player, Collins was ranked the number 23 overall WR in the nation, which perhaps underrates the Alabama standout. At a staggering 6-foot-5, Collins is the tallest body in Michigan’s WR class, and will nicely close out the big-bodied freshman trio along with Peoples-Jones and Black.
Oliver Martin (6-foot-1 188 lbs.)
With a late push by Harbaugh to add a last-minute talent to his recruiting class, the new QB’s coach and advanced offensive mind, Pep Hamilton, was sent out to visit Oliver Martin, an Iowa native who seemed to be a better swimmer than a football player. Martin, who has won 8 Iowa state championships in swimming, was a sort of “silent” 4-star recruit. Initially recruited most heavily by Iowa, Michigan State, and Notre Dame, the Wolverines have truly come away with a steal. Martin committed to Michigan less than two weeks after his in-home visit with Hamilton.
Martin marks Michigan’s first commit from the state of Iowa since Amara Darboh in 2012, who was a 4-star WR, similar to Martin.
With superb ball carrying skills and hands, Martin will definitely serve as a player who can pick up yards when desperately needed, as he should be able to catch anything thrown his way. While he is not the fastest or biggest player on the football field, he will certainly make his impact throughout the next four years.
With such an exceptional recruiting class at a highly-skilled position, Harbaugh and Co. have certainly set themselves up for offensive success over the next few campaigns.