Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh announced Monday that freshman wide receiver Tarik Black suffered a foot injury against Air Force and will not play this Saturday in the Big Ten opener at Purdue. Black’s status for retuning at all this season is unknown.
The loss of Black takes the team’s leading receiver out of the lineup.
“He’s going to be out [vs. Purdue],” Harbaugh said in his weekly press conference at Schembechler Hall. “He’s going to need surgery. He’s got a crack in his foot, the outside of his foot.”
Harbaugh said “I don’t know” when asked if Black would be back this season.
Black is tops on the team with 11 receptions for 149 yards and 1 touchdown. He had 5 catches for 55 yards in the 29-13 win against Air Force, including a 24-yard reception late in the fourth quarter to convert a third-and-4 from the Michigan 33-yard line. It kept alive a drive that ended in Karan Higdon’s 36-yard touchdown run with 1:02 left to play. Black was not on the field for the six offensive plays that followed his catch.
Michigan’s passing game has hardly relied on one or two players this season, so while losing Black hurts, the Wolverines have options to compensate.
Junior Grant Perry has 10 catches for 124 yards and 1 touchdown, while sophomore Kekoa Crawford has 5 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. Ten different players have caught at least 1 pass from quarterbacks Wilton Speight and John O’Korn. Four of those are tight ends, led by Sean McKeon’s 5 receptions.
Options, options, options
There are multiple ways the offense can adapt to the loss of Black.
- Fellow freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones sees his playing time increase. Peoples-Jones caught his first 2 passes of the season last week against Air Force, totaling 52 yards. Freshman Oliver Martin was dressed against Air Force, although he did not play. Martin impressed coaches during preseason practices but was slowed by injury the first two games. He could make his debut sooner than later.
- Crawford has started all three games. He’s dropped a couple of passes that should have been caught, but he’ll keep getting opportunities.
- Sophomore Eddie McDoom was more involved in the game plan against Air Force, catching 2 passes for 14 yards and running the ball twice more for 6 yards. He was close to breaking plays for bigger gains, only to get tripped up or tackled.
- The aforementioned tight ends could see their roles expand. Zach Gentry and Nick Eubanks have caught passes for at least 36-yard gains, and McKeon has been a versatile player as receiver and blocker.
- While the run game may not get more emphasis placed on it, using running backs Ty Isaac, Chris Evans and Karan Higdon as receivers out of the backfield more is possible. Evans can be split out as a receiver as well.