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Season In Review: Revisiting TheWolverine’s Preseason Receiving Predictions

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Sophomore wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones’ 39 receptions led the team this year.

Brandon Brown

Before the 2018 season began in August, TheWolverine staff made several predictions about the upcoming campaign, including which wideout would lead the team in receiving yardage.

We’ve decided to take a look back at some of those projections, and revisit how accurate (or in some cases, inaccurate) they were, focusing on the aforementioned question above:

What TheWolverine Staff Said in August:

Chris Balas: “Tarik Black was on pace last year, and he’ll be the guy this year. Black was on pace to eclipse 600 yards as a freshman and might have been the Wolverines’ top frosh receiver in history had he remained healthy; instead, he had to sit the last nine games after breaking his foot.

“But this receiving corps is talented and deep, and there are a number of options at tight end, as well. Zach Gentry and Sean McKeon both caught 300-plus yards in passes a year ago, while Nick Eubanks is also going to be a mismatch at the position this year. Sophomore Donovan Peoples-Jones has elite potential, and there are three other very capable receivers in Oliver Martin, Nico Collins and Grant Perry. Black’s going to be the guy, though, and he’ll set the pace with 750-plus yards.”

Brandon Brown: “I actually think Donovan Peoples-Jones is going to lead the way in 2018. He’s the most talented wide receiver on the team and with another year of lifting, learning and connecting with the quarterbacks, he’s going to turn his massive level of talent into big time production. Shea Patterson is expected to start and he has proven that he can throw the deep ball with a lot of accuracy and Peoples-Jones will benefit from that more than anyone. He’s got the athleticism, speed and leaping ability to be a true deep threat in Michigan’s offense and should have more chances to get his hands on the football than he did last year.

“Between Black, McKeon, Gentry, Perry and Peoples-Jones, Michigan’s quarterback is going to have a ton of talented options to throw the ball to. If it’s Patterson, like most assume it will be, he brings an ability to extend plays that we haven’t seen at Michigan in recent years. That also bodes well for guys like Black and Peoples-Jones downfield and could result in a lot more big plays than we saw in 2017. This one is really tough to predict because so many players are going to reel in a significant amount of catches. Perry led the way in yardage last fall with 307 but McKeon paced the pack in receptions and touchdowns with 31 and three, respectively, and was right there with 301 yards of his own. Zach Gentry was also in the mix with 303 yards receiving.

“In 2018, it’s going to be Peoples-Jones. He’ll have around 45 receptions for at least 600 yards and will find the end zone at least four times. Black will be right there and Perry will get his catches but won’t have as many big plays, yards or scores. Both tight ends should also be very productive making for a very diverse offensive attack.”

Austin Fox: “Redshirt freshman Tarik Black and sophomore Donovan Peoples-Jones are both safe bets for this pick. Black was clearly further along than Peoples-Jones was last year when the two were both freshmen, so we’ll give the nod to Black for that reason. It’s fair to expect the two to be neck-and-neck though.

“Michigan should have a plethora of options to distribute the ball to in the passing game, so the team’s leading receiver may only wind up with 600 or so yards as a result. A lot of people seem to think one of the tight ends — either junior Sean McKeon or redshirt junior Zach Gentry — could lead the team in yardage, but one of the wideouts seems more likely.

“It’s important to remember how much Michigan’s passing game struggled last year, so even though junior quarterback Shea Patterson has been added to the mix and Black has returned from injury, there could still be some growing pains. With that being said, Michigan will have one of the most talented groups of receivers in the Big Ten, and improved quarterback play should allow its passing attack to be heads and tails better than it was in 2017.

“We’ll say Black finishes with 650 yards, and Peoples-Jones winds up close behind at 550.”

The Final Verdict:

Black’s injury in fall camp threw these predictions off a bit. The redshirt freshman injured his foot in August and didn’t return until Oct. 20 at Michigan State, playing sparingly the rest of the way.

All three staffers projected Black to play a huge role this season, with Balas and Fox (myself) projecting him to lead the team in yardage, while Brown picked him second to Peoples-Jones.

No one chose the team’s actual receiving leader — Collins — to finish at the head of the pack, even though he wound up with 552 yards.

Peoples-Jones finished just behind him with 541 yards, but obviously has a chance to overtake Collins in the Dec. 29 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Florida.

Peoples-Jones’ success was not a surprise, with all three staffers picking him to make a significant impact, and Brown actually pegging him to finish as the team’s leading wideout with ‘around 45 receptions for at least 600 yards.’

Heading into 2018, Gentry and McKeon were seen as basically 1A and 1B at the tight end spot, after they each hauled in just over 300 yards last year.

Gentry separated himself from the pack, however, by hauling in 475 yards on 30 receptions, with both statistics checking in third most on the team.

Eubanks actually finished with more yards than McKeon did, reeling in 157 while the latter only brought in 122.

One wideout who did not live up to expectations, meanwhile, was Perry. His 307 yards in 2017 actually led the roster, but he took a major step back and only accumulated 131 yards on 18 receptions in 2018.

One pass-catcher who surprised in a positive way, on the other hand, was freshman Ronnie Bell.

He wasn’t even mentioned on the preseason predictions above, but managed to compile 145 yards and two touchdowns, with the yardage total being the fifth most on the team.

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