Former Michigan star wide receiver Nico Collins said Tuesday that while it would be "bittersweet" to watch his former team open the season at Minnesota on Saturday, he was focused on getting ready for the NFL combine.
On "The Adam Schefter Podcast" on Tuesday night, Collins talked about his decision to opt out when the Big Ten postponed the football season in August, after deciding to return for his senior season.
"Everything was going smooth, just as planned, until this virus outbreak," said Collins, who is currently training in Pensacola, Florida.
"They canceled the season and that was heartbreaking for me," he said on the podcast. "They were saying in the spring, Thanksgiving, it was too many unknown questions to be answering. Nobody really had an answer to it.
"I sat down with my family, and I just made a business decision because I felt like I was in no man's land for a minute, because I came back to play my senior season and they canceled it."
Citing daily coronavirus testing capabilities and a stronger confidence in the latest medical information, the conference announced an eight-game season in September. Collins said he considered opting back in, but that the timing wasn't right.
On Monday, coach Jim Harbaugh said he didn't have "a crystal ball" as to whether Collins would change his mind. "I know he's not currently on the team," Harbaugh said.
"Getting my mind right and prepared for the combine was the right decision for me," Collins said Tuesday.
Still, he said, "it will be bittersweet" watching as No. 18 Michigan opens Saturday at No. 21 Minnesota.
"I want to be out there competing on the football field with my brothers, my teammates, going out and having fun with them. I'll be rooting for them 100 percent," he said. "I'm excited to see, hopefully they win -- they will win. I believe in them. The grind they put in throughout the summer, I know they worked really hard and I know it's going to pay off Saturday."
Collins had 78 receptions for 1,388 yards and 13 touchdowns over his three-year career. He had 37 catches for 729 yards and seven scores last year.
Losing Collins was significant for a team that also had to replace quarterback Shea Patterson, four starting offensive linemen and receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who decided to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Harbaugh on Monday said his other receivers have been "really good" this offseason, specifically giving praise to Giles Jackson, A.J. Henning, Cornelius Johnson, Ronnie Bell, Roman Wilson and Mike Sainristil.
"One of the really good things about our offense's growth has been the receiving group," Harbaugh said. "Their ability to get separation, to gain separation, create separation, and to catch the contested catches."
The question is who will be throwing for Michigan.
While Harbaugh said Joe Milton, a redshirt sophomore, has been practicing with the first-team offense, the coach declined to confirm who would start on Saturday. Harbaugh said quarterback Cade McNamara has "closed all gaps as well."