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June 19, 2012Spring is the time for putting together our annual football preview magazine, now on sale and days away from shipping. Summer is the time to digest the information, including even the leftovers. Here are a few notes on the receivers we picked up that won't make the glossy magazine, but are interesting nonetheless.
Receivers coach (and recruiting coordinator) Jeff Hecklinski confirms the Wolverines want to get "longer" at every position, including the one he coaches.
No, that doesn't mean they want to sacrifice speed - and no, they're not biased against the little fellas. Listen to Hecklinski talk about redshirt junior Jeremy Gallon for a few minutes and it's obvious.
That said, Hecklinski raves about incoming freshmen Jehu Chesson's and Amara Darboh's frames. Departed fifth-year senior Junior Hemingway might have had the prototypical receiver frame they coveted, but Chesson and Darboh are a bit taller (6-3 and 6-2, respectively) with room to fill out.
Darboh already has, resembling an outside linebacker. Chesson, meanwhile, might prove to be the steal in his class if he continues to progress, having won state titles on the track this spring.
"That length is an emphasis at all of our positions," Hecklinski said. "'Getting longer' is a common phrase used in football with personnel. We needed to get taller and lengthier, and we did that in our last class."
There's always a guy or two, however, who can change the way coaches think, even if only temporarily. Mike Hart was that guy for running backs coach Fred Jackson. Jackson admittedly loved the bigger backs, but knew after a few days of practice Hart might have the inside track to carry the load in his 2004 freshman season, even if veteran David Underwood was slated to get first crack.
Head coach Brady Hoke and staff broke the trend of recruiting "big" when they snagged four-star Detroit back/receiver Dennis Norfleet late last year. He'll get every chance to prove himself, Hecklinski insisted, or they wouldn't have taken him.
"One thing Coach Hoke puts a heavy emphasis on and filters down through coordinators and all of us is don't judge them until they put their body of work on the field," he said. "Don't judge them when they walk through the door, because sometimes the worst looking guys are the best players. Sometimes the guys that look so good can't go out there and function and play the game of football.
"We see that at wideout all the time, guys that have track speed but they can't catch, or can't catch in traffic - they can't catch with bodies on them because of contact. Track speed looks good, but there's another part to this and they've got to have both parts. We'll let them play, find out what they can do. Where they start is not always where they are going to finish, either. It's on us as coaches to build them and see where they fit."
Michigan needs two more receivers to emerge to field a flat out scary offense.
That's assuming the offensive line stays healthy, of course, and that fifth-year senior center Ricky Barnum fills in admirably for departed Rimington Award winner David Molk. Depth at tackle is still scary thin for another year, and Barnum only has four starts under his belt (none at center).
There's also a question mark at left guard, where unprovens Elliott Mealer and Joey Burzynski battled as the top two in the spring.
Receiver will be wide open like every other position this fall, but Hecklinski cited a pair who could really make an impact should they continue to progress.
"[Junior slot] Jeremy Jackson and [redshirt sophomore] Jerald Robinson, those are two kids that if they are playing well for us, we're doing very well offensively," he said. "Those are they types of kids we need. We know what we're going to get from Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon (on the outside), and we know what (junior) Drew Dileo is going to give us. Now you have Jerald and Jeremy who are going to be in a position to make plays. If they are making plays, now you've got a corps, a group of guys that it can be anyone at any time."
Others will if they don't, Hecklinski added. Like the fan base, he's interested to see how it plays out in the fall.