One day after Donovan Peoples-Jones declared for the NFL draft, junior receiver Nico Collins announced he will return to Michigan for his senior season.
Collins arrived in Ann Arbor as the third-highest ranked wide receiver commit in the Wolverines’ star-studded 2017 recruiting class, but quickly established himself as one of their key offensive weapons. After catching just three passes as a freshman, Collins broke out as a sophomore, recording 38 catches for 632 yards.
On Saturday afternoon, junior receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones declared for the NFL Draft, electing to forgo his final season of eligibility.
It’s the second blow in as many days for Michigan’s offense, after junior center Cesar Ruiz declared for the draft on Friday. Peoples-Jones’ departure leaves the Wolverines without one of their top offensive weapons heading into 2020. Junior receiver Nico Collins has yet to make a decision.
“I think that there was a lot of value for our program and our team to be able to come and get a reward, first of all, for having a successful season,” Saban said. “I know most people would think that 10-2 was a good season. That's not necessarily our standard.”
For Harbaugh and the Wolverines, it is. In a good year.
Both Gattis and co-offensive coordinator Mike Locksley left Alabama in the offseason, leaving the offense in the hands of former Atlanta Falcons’ offense coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who has brought some NFL influences with him. The personnel is different too, even if quarterback Mac Jones doesn’t have the same dynamic playmaking ability that Gattis became familiar with under the injured Tua Tagovailoa.
The Wolverines are now a month removed from that afternoon. In the lead up to Wednesday’s Citrus Bowl against Alabama, their trademark confidence is back, with a proclaimed certainty that the Ohio State game is behind them.
Now, that streak is at eight, with Patterson’s two shots at the Buckeyes ending in blowout losses. Michigan’s traditional seniors at least had victory within their grasp as freshmen and sophomores, but they too leave winless. Only a meaningless bowl game now separates them from the end of their college careers.
Jim Harbaugh brought his hands to hips, an empty stare glued to his face.
If he had looked forward, he would’ve seen Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins leaping into the end zone, sparking pandemonium from the sea of red behind him.
Instead, Harbaugh looked down, training his eyes toward his playbook, seemingly in search of answers.
For the eighth-straight year — and fifth in Harbaugh’s five seasons — there were none. Just a 56-27 defeat, further cementing the balance of power in a rivalry that leaves Michigan searching for its soul every November.
When the shirts arrived, nobody on Michigan had any use for them.
Co-East Division Champions, they read on the front. On the surface, it’s a momento of an 8-1 conference record and the season that made that possible. But to the Wolverines, the shirts served as an visceral reminder of everything that could have been.
East Division Champions — no “co” needed — was the minimum expectation when Michigan entered Columbus last season on a 10-game win streak with everything to play for.
As Saturday afternoon faded into night, nobody in the Michigan locker room wanted to talk about Indiana.
The Wolverines were just minutes removed from beating the Hoosiers, 39-14, for their fourth-straight 25-point win, but nobody cared. Beating Indiana — something Michigan has done 24 straight times — does not define a season. It doesn’t erase the pain of a season that slipped away last November in Columbus, or the pain of Big Ten title hopes that vanished last month in State College.