Sunday, May 28, 2006

2006 Receiving Corps: Ready to Step Up

U-M will head into the 2006 season with a proven strong-thrower in Junior QB Chad Henne but for the first time in Henne's three seasons as the Wolverines signal caller the team will be starting the season without a clear-cut "go-to" receiver. In Henne's freshman season of 2004, Braylon Edwards was the #1 receiver in every sense of the term as he set school records for most receptions in a season (97) and most yards in a season (1,330). Last year, Jason Avant took over the mantle of being the top guy and he performed extremely well pulling in 82 catches which was the 4th highest single-season total in U-M history. In 2005, the second leading receiver in terms of catch production was Mario Mannigham with 27 receptions and Steve Breaston was right behind him with 26 catches. Thus, there was a steep drop-off between the #1 receiver and the rest of the receiving corps. With Avant gone it is now time for the remaining members of the receiving corps to step up and shine in 2006. Here is a preview of coming attractions:

  • Mario Manningham, So., (27 rec., 433 yds., 16.0 avg., 6 tds. in 2005) : The 6'0", 187 lb. receiver gave U-M fans a moment they will never forget as he caught the winning TD pass with no time remaining last year against Penn State. Mario led the team in all the major receiving categories last season among the players that are returning in 2006. I expect him to have a super sophmore season.
  • Steve Breaston, 5th/Sr., (26 rec., 291 yds., 11.2 avg., 2 tds.): The man whose body and talent resemble those of Anthony (AC) Carter is back for his final season. Oft-injured, Breaston has never become the break-out star that many had predicted. He has started only 13 games at WR in his previous seasons with his primary contributions coming on special teams. If he can stay healthy, and that is always a big IF, I expect him to contribute more this year at WR but don't look for any kind of Edwards/Avant type numbers. I think Breaston will continue to primarily contribute on special teams which is no small thing.
  • Carl Tabb, 5th/Sr., (12 rec., 96 yds., 8.0 avg., 0 tds.): The hard working 5th-year senior has appeared in all possible 37 career games over the 3 seasons he has lettered. He has not yet scored a TD in his career but I expect him to do so multiple times this season. I like the fact that this local product from Ann Arbor Huron H.S. brings some much needed experience to a youthful receiving corps.
  • Adrian Arrington, Jr./So., (did not play in 2005): Redshirt sophmore Arrington is returning after missing all of last season with an ankle injury sustained in the first game of 2005. Ankle injuries are tough to come back from and early reports are that he is not yet 100 percent. He made an impression in 2004 when he was one of only eight true freshman to earn playing time. I always take a wait-and-see attitude with players returning from a major injury but I'm rooting hard for him and you should as well.
  • Doug Dutch, Jr./So., (4 rec., 34 yds., 8.5 avg., 0 tds.): The redshirt sophmore provides good depth at the wide receiver spot. He may surprise some people as he is challenging the "top" guys for playing time/starting positions. However, he is returning from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery that forced him to miss some of the spring practices.
  • LaTerryal Savoy, So./Fr., (Redshirt in 2005): People are excited to see what the 6'2", 203 lb., Savoy can do but there is a lot of depth on this depth chart so he may have to wait his turn. Look for him to see limited game action in 2006 unless Arrington and/or Dutch can't bounce back from their injuries.
  • Antonio Bass, So., (8 rec., 64 yds., 8.0 avg., 0 tds.): "Mr. Versatility" was one of only six true freshman to see playing time in 2005. He will probably be using his redshirt year this season, however, as he sustained what is most likely a season-ending injury in spring conditioning drills. Knee surgery was performed on March 31, 2006 and the prospects for Bass' return this season are dim to none.

Overall, I think the receiving corps is talented but unproven. They have a good mixture of experience and youth. I don't believe that any one player will step up to be THE #1 receiver as in past years. I expect more of a receiver-by-committee approach which I don't mind because then you don't get into the situation of being stuck if your #1 (and only) option is taken away. Go Blue!

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