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September 04, 2018 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018 — 3B
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
SportsTuesday

Collins inspires confidence from his teammates in No. 2 receiving role

Amid fans airing grievances
after
the
Michigan
football
team’s 24-17 loss at Notre Dame,
it was difficult to focus on
anything but the negatives of the
Wolverines’ performance.
But with 48 hours to digest
Saturday night’s game, a big
picture outlook of Michigan
football is in order. Or in other
words, every cloud has a silver
lining.
It was Week 1, with new
offensive pieces, against a ranked
team, in the Fighting Irish’s
own stadium, nonetheless. The
defense, especially in the second
half,
was
mostly
consistent
and junior quarterback Shea
Patterson showed glimpses of
why he was already a fan favorite.
But no player took a leap and
inspired new confidence like
sophomore wide receiver Nico
Collins.
“He seems to be catching
everything,” said junior left
guard Ben Bredeson prior to
Saturday’s game, a foretell of
his expanded role. “I’m no wide
receivers coach here … but it
seems
like
whenever
we’re
getting into the red zone or
something like that — we need a
touchdown — Nico is usually the
guy getting it for us.”
The
6-foot-4
Collins
was
thrown into the No. 2 spot on the
depth chart after Tarik Black’s
foot injury. Hype swirled around
as chatter surfaced about what
the unproven Collins could do to
fill the void left by Black.
“Before he got hurt, we always
talked about what we would do in
a game together — celebrations
and whatever we had,” Collins
said. “When he went down, our
receivers got together and was
like ‘Alright, let’s do it for Tarik.’ ”
Collins didn’t find the end
zone on Saturday, but hauled in
three catches for 66 yards in his
starting debut — he tallied just

three catches for 27 yards all of
last season. The numbers don’t
pop, but Collins proved his worth.
On
the
Wolverines’
first
offensive drive of the season,
Collins caught Patterson’s first
passing attempt at Michigan
with
a
trips
screen
pass,
barreling eight yards after the
catch through junior tight end
Sean McKeon’s blocks.
To begin the second quarter,
Collins was split left, and caught
a six-yard slant for the first down
inside the red zone.
And for his final reception,

to start the second half, Collins
outran Notre Dame cornerback
Julian Love on a deep post
and snagged an underthrown,
52-yard heave.
“Loved the big play,” said
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
“Thought he did a great job of
running his route, burst of speed
and did a great job of tracking the
ball — and that fantastic catch.
“Blocked well and consistently
ran good routes the whole game.”
Added Collins: “It meant a
lot to this team. We made an
adjustment at the halftime. After

I caught that we were just like
‘Okay, let’s go score the ball.’
Made a little spark to the offense,
move the ball.”
For Collins, the promotion
was
quick,
but
seamless.
Another year corrected a lot of
mental lapses according to him,
and being the next man up is
something he’s been ready for
since the spring.
“Last year I wasn’t ready, didn’t
really know anything my first
year,” Collins said. “The playbook
is a whole different level than
what I was used to in high school.

Just having that first year under
my belt, learning from freshman
year, it kinda brought a little juice
to me in the spring.”
But it wasn’t Collins’ own
development that improved, but
his connection with Patterson.
According to Collins, Patterson
is unlike any quarterback he has
played with before, a proposition
that forced Collins to change his
attitude when running routes.
“With him, the play isn’t
over,” Collins said. “We’re all
trying to find ways to get open.
Scramble drill and find the open

spot. … He’s a really explosive
quarterback. He can find ways to
get the ball to you and find ways
to make plays.”
For an otherwise stagnant
offense, Collins’ consistency was
a flower in a dirt field. Losing
Black, of course, was painful. But
after 60 minutes of Collins in the
starting rotation, Black’s absence
did not seem like a make-or-
break loss. For a Michigan team
looking to rebound, it can be
thankful that it has at least one
less issue that doesn’t need
urgent help.

ETHAN WOLFE
Daily Sports Writer

Sophomore wide receiver notches three catches for 66 yards as one of the lone offensive bright spots against Notre Dame

KATELYN MULCAHY/Daily
Sophomore wide receiver Nico Collins says he “wasn’t ready” and “didn’t really know anything (his) first year,” but his leading receiving performance on Saturday shows how far he has come since.

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