Tarik Black has a fractured foot and will miss “some weeks,” according to Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Black was Michigan’s leading receiver as a true freshman in 2017 before suffering the same injury to his other foot in Week 3.
As of Monday afternoon, Michigan is a 1-point underdog at Notre Dame in Saturday’s game. The Wolverines were a 1-point favorite until late Sunday night.
That puts Black’s injury in the spotlight, and might make some bettors reconsider betting on Michigan this weekend. Here are two reasons why you shouldn’t worry:
Michigan’s depth at WR
The Wolverines’ depth isn’t in volume, as Michigan lost two receivers to transfers in Eddie McDoom (USF) and Kekoa Crawford, leaving seven receivers on scholarship and only six healthy wideouts.
Michigan’s depth comes in talent. Not including Black, three of the six receivers were Top 300 recruits. Donovan Peoples-Jones was the No. 1 WR in the country in 2017. He and Oliver Martin were U.S. Army All-Americans (so was Black).
And if it’s the loss of Black’s 6-foot-3 frame that bothers you, meet 6-foot-4, 218-pound Nico Collins, who passed on Alabama and Georgia for the Wolverines as a 4-star prospect in the Class of 2017.
The three non-coveted prospects aren’t slouches, either, especially senior Grant Perry. Michigan’s camp believes Perry is destined for a huge 2018. He had 25 receptions in nine games last season.
There’s plenty to work with past Black, but is there a player of his caliber? The Wolverines hope they have it in Collins.
An overlooked sophomore who has excelled in camp
During a player availability session after Harbaugh’s presser, it was evident who Black’s replacement will be: the aforementioned Collins.
The product of Alabama received high praise all across the board from his peers during the media session.
Collins came on late in his true freshman season in 2017, seeing significant snaps in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina.
Although, going back on the tape, it was a play earlier in the season that stands out most for Collins, even if it doesn’t look like much.
A receiver can have all the height and wingspan in the world, but if he can’t run routes effectively, it’s probably not going to work out — especially against an experienced Notre Dame defense. Or against the other conference foes with formidable defensive backs.
Echoing the statement by Perry, Michigan captain Ben Bredeson sees Collins in a good light, too.
“(Collins) seems to catch everything,” Bredeson said. “I’m no receivers coach, but it seems every time we’re in the red zone, Nico’s the one getting us the touchdown.”
The loss of Black hurts. There’s no doubt Harbaugh would rather have both at his disposal. So would every Michigan bettor.
But the X-factor that will push Michigan to a playoff bid isn’t who’s catching the ball, it’s who’s throwing it.
Shea Patterson remains the reason to trust this team to outdo its expectations that its nine-win total line reflects.