Bob Wojnowski and John Niyo break down Michigan and Michigan State for the 2017 college football season.
Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said way back in February he could not watch when Donovan Peoples-Jones, the nation’s top-rated receiver out of Detroit Cass Tech, was about to make his college selection on television.
Now he sees him plenty.
Harbaugh has worked with Peoples-Jones, an early enrollee freshmen along with receiver Tarik Black, during spring practice and through camp, and he can’t contain his enthusiasm for both receivers.
“Right from the beginning, they’ve been fast friends, roomed together when they first got here in the winter,” Harbaugh said this week on the Big Ten conference call. “They’ve remained close and they’ve also pushed each other. I noticed that. They both strive to be as good as they can be and make each other good and better.
“Two guys that are mature beyond their years in terms of talent and effort and focus, really. That’s also a key ingredient there in why they’ve been so successful. Outstanding players and youngsters to be around. Two of my personal favorites on the team.”
Both will play an active role in a youth-laden receiver group that also includes freshmen Oliver Martin and Nico Collins. Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom are sophomores, and Grant Perry, Jack Wangler and Moe Ways are upperclassmen.
Black and Peoples-Jones have attracted plenty of attention, in part, because they played during the spring. They continued to impress throughout camp.
“They’re just very explosive,” Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said Wednesday. “They’re very good when people play man-to-man on them. Their ball skill, how they track the ball in the air, how they catch the ball out in front of them. They pluck it with their hands. Big strong-handed guys. How they can go up for the ball. Their explosiveness from the ground up.
“Everything you look for in a skill set in a receiver, they really shine when they do it.”
Quarterback Wilton Speight has referred to the young receivers as having “freaky” talent. He worked with them all summer, as did the other quarterbacks, to develop timing.
“These freshmen skill players we have are going to be unbelievable,” offensive lineman Mason Cole said. “Some of the plays they’ve made this camp have really just kind like wow. They really wow you. I’m excited to see them go out and play.”
About midway through camp, Harbaugh raved about Peoples-Jones and Black, as well as Martin.
“DPJ and Oliver Martin and Tarik Black are making a lot of plays,” he said at the time. “They’re making superb athletic-types of plays. I’ve never really seen freshmen do it the way they’re doing it.”
While Peoples-Jones has been the big-name attraction, Black was impressive during spring practice. He had a strong showing in the spring game.
“A lot of people took notice,” Black said this summer of his spring-game performance. “I think I might have been slept on a little bit. But I’m just going to continue to work hard and play football and do it how I know how to do it.”