ANN ARBOR, Mich — Ambry Thomas has something of a special view on Michigan’s young corps of wide receivers. While Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones are starters and Thomas isn’t at this juncture — with three players ahead on the depth chart who have served more time — he came in with the two as a fellow member of the 2017 recruiting class.
And he sees a big difference between how both players were when they arrived last year and how they’ve elevated their level of play since.
Peoples-Jones was expected to have a big jump given the amount of playing time he had in his first year, but Collins didn’t start to play until near the year’s end, and — honestly — he looked like a freshman receiver.
But how quickly things change.
Collins was frequently mentioned both on and off the record as the best receiver in fall camp, and its shown on game day. Through two games, he leads the team with 110 yards and a touchdown on just four receptions.
Thomas shares what he’s seen from the tall receiver, and why he’s been able to make such an early impact this season.
“Nico done got way better!” Thomas said. “Nico is very athletic. Probably his releases off the line, and he knows how to use his body. He knows how to make all his releases look the same throughout his route, so you can’t really guess on what he’s running. So yeah, he’s a bad – I know the word – but he’s a bad (blank).”
Peoples-Jones has been something of a different story, at least as far as Thomas is concerned.
Thomas, a cornerback, has been playing him for a long time, with their battles becoming must-see fare in high school, when Thomas was at Detroit (MI) King while Peoples-Jones was at rival Cass Tech.
The battles have been different now that the duo are on the same team, but Thomas sees a different player from the five-star prospect that was rated so highly based a lot off his potential.
“He got way more physical,” Thomas said. “I remember high school, he was always bigger than me, but he’s way more physical now. He knows that – he’s not scared to use his strength and his speed. He might act like he’s about to hit you and take off – and then, see ya.”
But it’s not just that which Thomas is impressed by.
Peoples-Jones has added another element to his game which Thomas says is somewhat — unnerving.
“He’ll talk trash, and then he’ll just be quiet,” Thomas said. “So you’re just talking to yourself and that gets back at you.”
Considering the type of player Thomas is, it adds a different element to those one-on-one battles. He explains his style of play at the line of scrimmage, and why those battles require a little bit something extra.
“I just like playing with people’s heads,” Thomas said. “That’s about it. It’s a mind game to me, honestly. I know I’m not the strongest on the field. Probably the fastest. Not the strongest for sure, so I’ve gotta work my tools.”