Michigan's Grant Perry (88) dives past Cincinnati's Blake Yager (73) and Carter Jacobs (20) on the run to score during the third quarter of the Saturday matchup at the Big House. The Wolverines won, 36-14. THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
ANN ARBOR — The journey from October to now has been painful for Grant Perry.
He’s undergone a character diagnosis after a contemptuous act in fall, 2016, in East Lansing. Perry was accused of grabbing a woman in the groin and buttocks, an accusation that resulted in a plea deal. He was sentenced to a year of probation and 60 hours of community service.
After an indefinite suspension, which included missing multiple games last season and UM’s trip to Rome, Perry was reinstated to the team. But the receiver garnered attention for a different reason Saturday.
In Michigan’s 36-14 win against Cincinnati, Perry’s four receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown seemed to indicate he had become Wilton Speight’s bailout option. Perhaps the biggest question regarding the loss of last season's receiving corps was who would be targeted in crucial passing downs? For at least one game, it was Perry.
“It started back in summer when coaches weren’t allowed to be around,” Perry said. “We went two, three, four times a day. Eventually, it graduated into camp, and then the season it started to show that the work we put in is paying off.”
Cincinnati inexplicably pulled within three points of Michigan, a 34½-point favorite, in the third quarter. With the Wolverines in desperate need of points, it was Perry who Speight sought in the middle of the field, connecting on a 33-yard touchdown pass with Perry sprinting away from the defense.
“Pre-snap, I actually thought the ball was going to go to Ian [Bunting] who was inside of me because that route had been open for most of the game,” Perry said. “And then it just cleared out, and me and Wilton made eye contact, he threw it, and there was nothing but yards.”
Said Speight: “He took a pass to the house and made me look good.”
At 6-feet and 196 pounds, Perry doesn’t give off the vibe he’s attractive in the passing game. But he makes up for a lack of height with blazing speed, sure-handedness, and an ability to elude defensive backs. Four times Speight locked in on Perry on third down, and Jim Harbaugh opted to replace Donovan Peoples-Jones with Perry on punt returns.
“There’s experience that needs to take place there,” Harbaugh said, “We felt like we wanted to go with the guy who had a little bit more time on task and a little more experience. It was just that simple.”
Perry was the team’s leading returning receiver this year, but that term can be used loosely. He had all of 13 catches for 183 yards and one touchdown. But don’t discount even the slightest amount of playing time. Perry noted the mistakes he made during his freshman year in 2015 provided him with a blueprint on how to be a Division I college football receiver.
“Now when I’m on the field as a veteran, I see those [mistakes] before they happen, and I’m able to work in the offense and do what I’m supposed to do,” Perry said. “When it comes to being the ‘veteran of the group,’ I take pride in that. We stay after practice, we watch extra film, we do extra work. I’ve got to credit Jehu [Chesson] and [Amara] Darboh for putting that on me because they were great leaders before they left.”
The praise for Perry comes from all corners. Running back Ty Isaac complimented his football savvy, safety Khaleke Hudson said Perry will be huge this season, and fellow receiver Kekoa Crawford identified speed as Perry’s best asset.
In his statement to announce Perry’s reinstatement, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said Perry has met every institutional expectation. With an ugly chapter behind him, Perry is now meeting the needs of his quarterback.