Michigan’s Tarik Black returns healthy, wiser

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Within a few days of returning to the football field this spring, Michigan receiver Tarik Black had shaken off the proverbial rust and was back to full health and ability.

Black, the leading receiver last season as a freshman until he broke his foot in the Air Force game the third week of the season, missed the rest of the year. He had 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown those first three weeks, including a breakout performance in the season opener against Florida when he caught 83 yards on two catches and scored a touchdown.

He admits to a bit of tentativeness at the outset of spring football, but that quickly went away. Black said he was fully healthy just before the start of spring practice. He said he could have been ready to play in the bowl but would not have been at his best.

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“I haven’t played football in six months,” Black said Thursday after practice. “I would say there was maybe a little bit (of rust), not too much. Maybe after a day or two I was straight. Came back and been doing what I’m doing.”

Black said he learned plenty while sitting out, but it couldn’t replace the game experience.

“It was very difficult just not being able to go out there and help your team,” Black said. “It was hard. It was very hard. I don’t know any other way to put it.”

He stayed busy watching film and took mental reps while his teammates practiced. Black says now that last year he just played without considering much about the defenses he was facing. Now, with the added film time, he is more cognizant when it comes to seeing what a defense is showing.

“I think that helps when it comes to reading defenses, because that’s what you need to do as a receiver to get open,” Black said. “Just being out, that’s pretty much what I did that entire time. I think it translated over to me playing now.”

Cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich has a unique perspective on the receivers and said the group, which Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh this week said has improved immensely, has been impressive.

Black, he said, hasn’t missed a beat.

“All of them have taken a step forward,” Zordich said. “I think it’s just the youth factor and having the year under their belt, the freshman year out of the way. They’ve been through camps, they’re here now into their second spring, and they’re very comfortable. Everything slowed down for them, as well. You’re just reacting, you’re playing, you’re instinctive and you can see their improvement.”

The receivers are working with a new coach this year. Jim McElwain, the former Florida head coach, is now on staff, and Black said he has offered a new vibe to the position group.

“He’s been great,” Black said. “He’s brought a positive energy into the receiver room that I think we really needed. He’s been coaching us up every single day really hard. He’s been great. I like him a lot.”

Black, listed at 6-foot-3, 206 pounds in the last roster, said while he was disappointed he could not play his entire first season, he maintains a chip on his shoulder that has motivated him.

“I had certain goals I wanted to accomplish,” he said. “It hurt. There’s no way you can accomplish them. I know God has a plan, so I’m going to come back this year and do everything I can to play really good.”