ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Last winter quarterback Devin Gardner tweeted an image of a reaching, one-handed catch by then-freshman wide receiver Amara Darboh. Though Darboh had never caught a pass during the season, his reputation spiked and fans wondered if he could be a Roy Roundtree-like receiver for Gardner.
But Darboh isn’t the only receiver in his class who should be receiving hype. Jehu Chesson redshirted last year, but his physical ability, coupled with the fact he did in fact redshirt, have made him a player to watch this year.
“Jehu has learned the game of football a lot more now,” wide receiver coach Jeff Hecklinski said. “I think he’s settled down. I think he’s nice and relaxed now. He’s a great kid, you can’t ask for a better kid. … He’s understanding more what it takes to play and all the little details that it takes to play.”
Chesson said one of the realizations that many freshmen go through when they get to Michigan is that when coaches talk about all the “little details” that it takes to play, coaches aren’t just talking about the nuances of a position. Yes, those help a player see the field earlier. But a player also has to understand the little details off the field, in the locker room, in the classroom and everywhere in between.
His redshirt gave him the ability to understand all of that and meet with different people (including Dr. Greg Harden, who has mentored Michigan players such as Desmond Howard and Tom Brady) to help him understand all those “little things,” which he believes will pay dividends in his future.
“The main difference is me having an understanding of what Michigan is all about,” Chesson said. “You have a year under your belt. You’re able to understand what the coaches expect, what your teachers expect, what you expect. That’s the biggest thing from last year to this year.”
And with all those little things learned, Chesson is now fighting for a starting spot in this year’s offense.
Chesson brings a unique flavor to the wide receiver corps, which helps to distinguish himself among the group.
“He has the ability to stretch the field vertically,” Hecklinski said. “He’s long, he has long arms. He can go up and get the ball. The thing about him is he’s not just a straight-ahead kid. He can get in and out of breaks. He can go from 6-foot-4 to 5-foot-10 in terms of being able to shrink himself and get small.”
Another big part of the little things during his redshirt year was weight gain. Chesson came in at around 185 pound, and he has already felt how his 11-pound weight gain has helped him to be more efficient as a wide receiver and stronger in blocking.
But even with that weight gain, he has kept his top-end speed. As a high schooler, Chesson was a Missouri state champion in hurdle events and the 100-meter dash. Early in high school he might have even considered himself more of a track guy than a football player, according to Hecklinski, but that speed has helped him on the field.
“It’d be interesting -- in a straight race, he might be the fastest, I don’t know,” Hecklinski said. “Football field-wise, who’s the fastest, it’d probably be between him and Amara.”
Perhaps even in a photo finish. Maybe Gardner can get a snapshot of that one, too.