ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Donovan Peoples-Jones had one thing on his mind the first time he touched the football against Florida.
“I wanted to score,” Peoples-Jones said.
The nation’s top-rated wide receiver in the recruiting Class of 2017 didn’t score when he fielded a punt by Florida’s Johnny Townsend. He only picked up 7 yards on that return but he showed he’s going to be a threat any time he gets the ball in his hands. As things turned out, the only time that happened in his college debut was the five times he returned punts but it was a successful first game for Peoples-Jones. It was a game to build upon.
“I think I played okay,” said Peoples-Jones Tuesday night during a player availability session at Schembechler Hall. “There’s always room for improvement, and with this team and the amount of talent we have, the sky’s the limit.”
Peoples-Jones was targeted once but played a lot on offense in the second half of Michigan’s 33-17 win against the Gators at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. He was one of nine freshmen to play against Florida. Fellow wide receiver Tarik Black started and had two catches for 83 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown from quarterback Wilton Speight in the first quarter that gave the Wolverines a 10-3 lead.
Black and Peoples-Jones came to Ann Arbor as early-entry freshmen in January. Peoples-Jones is a pre-med major as he plans on becoming an orthopedic surgeon like his father. He’s took Physics and Calculus classes in his first semester on campus. Not catching a pass in his first game is no big deal. Receivers have to do more than run routes and catch passes. Blocking in the run game is just as important.
Peoples-Jones ended the game with 40 yards in punt returns. His longest return was for 18 yards. He caught two of the returns inside the 10-yard line, in dicey situations given the field position and coverage around him, but he made positive yardage on all five returns. Head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to Peoples-Jones about making sure he’s aware of protecting the ball during returns. There are a lot of nuances for him to learn, but he’s got qualities that can’t be taught.
“As a punt returner, you’ve got to be relentless and fearless back there, so anything I can do back there to help this team win,” Peoples-Jones said. “Every time I get a chance to touch the ball, I want to score. I don’t look at it that way (playing safe). I just want to make a big play for my team.
“The number one goal is to get the ball for the offense in good field position. The second goal is to score a touchdown. I think I was close on a couple of them.”
The post Michigan freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones looking for the big play appeared first on Land of 10.
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