Script by Geoffrey Chiles, Inside The Huddle.
Amara Darboh grew exponentially as a wide receiver from his redshirt sophomore to junior seasons. The 6-2, 215-pound wideout went from Michigan’s No. 2 receiver in 2014, to one of Michigan’s best in 2015, increasing his catches from 36 to 58.
Darboh’s 58 grabs landed him in a 17thth-place tie for a single season with speedster Steve Breaston—Darboh actually accumulated more yards in 2015 than Breaston did in 2006, finishing with 727.
Darboh’s role is not flashy. He is not an immediate deep threat, nor will he wow you with his speed. His bread and butter is in the middle of the field, making the catch off a slant route while knowing the hit is coming. Darboh also displayed a great set of hands and field awareness to haul in high throws and still stay in bounds, as in the BYU win when he made a spectacular one-handed leaping grab.
In the annals of Michigan football history, whose surehandedness and propensity to make difficult catches most closely resemble Darboh’s? That would be football vacuum, Jason Avant.
Avant’s sure hands and leaping ability enhanced his reputation as a playmaking receiver. He stood at 6-1, 210 pounds—not quite as tall as Darboh, but consistently made miraculous catches look easy with his field awareness, reaching out to snatch passes at the very last moment, or managing to get both feet in bounds on the sideline.
Avant became one of Michigan’s go-to targets in 2005 after Braylon Edwards left. He was not blessed with Edwards size or speed, but could more than make up for it with catches in traffic or picking up crucial first downs.
Avant’s numbers exploded his senior year, accumulating 45 more catches than his junior campaign. Avant posted seven games with seven or more catches, including memorable performances against Michigan State and Penn State. In the latter, Avant’s crucial catch on the sideline—that stood after video review—kept the game-winning drive alive against the Lions. He finished with 82 catches, 1,007 yards, and eight scores on the year.
The shifty receiver out of Chicago was voted captain by his teammates prior to his senior season, and added to his list of accolades with an All-Big Ten season his final go-around in Ann Arbor.
Avant played all four years, and Darboh will do so as well. Darboh’s propensity to haul in a timely catch endears him to fans, but the question is whether or not everything will come together for an All-Big Ten type senior year similar to Avant. Whatever the result, Darboh hopes to leave campus on an emphatic note.