Receiver Nico Collins digs the details in Michigan's new offense
Ann Arbor — With a new offensive coordinator at Michigan and a new offense being installed in the spring, receiver Nico Collins had to figure out a way to stay mentally engaged while recovering from an injury that held him out of those valuable practices.
Collins, 6-foot-4, 222 pounds and the team’s leader in receiving yards with 632 yards last season, won’t say what the injury was, but he credited former Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree, now on the staff, for helping him keep up with offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ offense during the offseason heading into camp.
“Not participating and learning a new offense is kinda hard, because the way I learn, I like to do it,” Collins said recently. “During the summer, me and Coach Roundtree after workouts, we’d go in the classroom, and he’d call out the plays, and I’d draw them on the board. That’s how I learn it, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing that the entire summer.
“So first day of the camp, I knew what everybody was talking about. I feel if I didn’t do that, I don’t know what I’d be doing.”
What Collins learned quickly about Gattis’ up-tempo, no-huddle, pro-spread offense is its attention to detail. Collins has worked on his feet positioning, pad level, releases off the line. And just when he thinks he’s “got it," Gattis, who has always worked with receivers during his coaching career, reminds him of something that needs to be tweaked.
“You make a play, (he says) ‘That’s good, but you didn’t do this,’ ” Collins said. “You’ve got to love it.”
Collins and the receivers also have to love the potential of this offense, that is geared to the playmakers making plays. Michigan has depth at receiver with Donovan Peoples-Jones, who like Collins missed spring practice, Tarik Black, who had shown promise before foot injuries each of the last two seasons sidelined him, Ronnie Bell, who from all accounts has had the catch of camp, and freshman Mike Sainristil, who has impressed since spring practice. Peoples-Jones had a team-best 47 receptions last year for 612 yards and eight touchdowns.
Gattis said the injured receivers have been quick studies.
“Donovan is such a smart kid, such a smart football player — him and Nico — that they were able to pick it up,” Gattis said early during camp. “They haven’t really had any mistakes out there. So you’re just able to see those guys go out and execute.”
Gattis was co-offensive coordinator at Alabama last season and helped the Crimson Tide develop one of the top passing offenses in the country. They averaged 323.6 yards a game, sixth-best nationally. And the Alabama receivers, particularly Jerry Jeudy, the Biletnikoff Award winner last year as the nation’s top receiver, were highlighted in a big way.
The Michigan receivers know what Gattis and the receivers did at Alabama last year, and that excites them.
“Guy’s coming from a big program and the success he had, I’m hoping he can bring it here — I know he will,” Collins said. “The things he’s been teaching in spring and now in camp, you know, our details and technique, fundamentals are going to be great. Just keep working. We’ve got a long season. We’re going to be good.”
Good enough to have a Biletnikoff winner?
“Now (that Gattis is here), hopefully somebody here can win it,” Collins said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Collins is noted for his great hands and ability to catch anything. According to data-driven Pro Football Focus, Collins never dropped a catchable pass last season, and Peoples-Jones had a 2.1 percent drop rate. Both undoubtedly will play featured roles in the offense.
But that’s the thing, Collins said: The offense is designed for all the playmakers. He said quarterback Shea Patterson has been “making plays” and adjusted quickly to this offense, reminiscent of what he ran at Ole Miss his first two seasons.
“I love it,” Collins said of the offense. “Everybody in the offense is going to get the ball. It’s not just designed for one player. Everybody gets touches. Quarterbacks’ going through his reads, Shea making plays. Offense is clicking.
“A lot of opportunity. A lot of plays are going to be made. I just feel real comfortable in this offense.”