June 30, 2011

2011 Fall Preview: Wide Receivers

After two frustrating seasons, Michigan's wide receivers experienced a breakthrough 2010 campaign as Roy Roundtree (72), Darryl Stonum (49) and Junior Hemingway (32) each caught better than 30 balls. This fall, the receivers are expected to contribute even more in offensive coordinator Al Borges' pro-style scheme ...







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style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(0, 40, 79);">Overview
-- Wide Receivers

The 2008 and 2009 seasons were
not kind to U-M's wide receivers. In 2008, Martavious Odoms led all
targets with 49 receptions for 443 yards. His tally represented the
lowest total by Michigan's leading receiver since tailback Chris Howard
had 37 grabs in 1997.  A year later, 2009, was worse as
Roundtree's 32 catches were the most of any Maize and Blue wideout.



But as Michigan's offensive playmakers grew up and the players'
experience in the system matriculated, the receiving game became a
legitimate threat for the Wolverines in 2010. It certainly didn't hurt
that quarterback Denard Robinson was drawing safeties into the box,
creating tremendous opportunity for his wideouts to exploit opposing
secondaries. But regardless of the circumstances, the Maize and Blue's
receivers developed confidence and became integral to the success of
the offense.



This year, the scheme is different but the role of the wideouts remains
critical. In fact, Roundtree and Co. should make an even bigger
contribution as Borges believes in a downfield aerial attack as
one-half of a successful offense (a powerful yet game-breaking running
game is the other). A year ago, two San Diego State receivers went over
1,000 yards receiving and Borges would like to see the Wolverines
achieve an equally impressive feat.


Michigan
will also incorporate the tight end more often than it has the
past few seasons, but look for the wide receivers to carry the load.



The question is: are the receivers on the roster capable of shouldering
that responsibility?



"We have a bunch of good players but they still have a long ways to
go," receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski admitted.



Roundtree silenced any concerns about his hands (and his tendency to
drop balls) in the spring and will be the leader of the pack. Hemingway
could be an all-conference performer if he is willing to commit himself
100 percent to his conditioning while former slot receivers Odoms,
Kelvin Grady and Drew Dileo will be used in a variety of ways to create
mismatches.



The X-factor for this band of receivers is Stonum. Suspended
indefinitely in May after a second DUI arrest in his college career,
the Texas native may not be welcomed back to the team this fall by head
coach Brady Hoke. If he doesn't return, Michigan will look to unproven
youngsters Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson to fill the tremendous
void.
style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(0, 40, 79);">Proven
Performer -- Roy Roundtree

It took Roundtree 19 career
games to reach 100 catches. He hit that milestone quicker than any
other receiver in Michigan history, besting all-time leading receiver
Braylon Edwards (21 games), David Terrell (23) and Desmond Howard (23).
With 104 receptions, Roundtree has a very real shot of taking over
first place from Edwards (252 grabs from 2001-04) as U-M's all-time
leader in catches, though Edwards' records for yards (3,541) and
touchdowns (39) appear safe.



"This kid, if he continues to progress, can be something special,"
Hecklinski said. "He has size, he has speed. He has good hands. He's
physical, he's tough. He sticks his nose in contact. He goes and gets
the ball. You like everything about Roy."



Roundtree does not have imposing size at 6-0, 176 pounds - though he
will be bigger this fall - but he does play a physical game, and while
not blessed with breakaway speed, he is capable of picking up extra
yards.



The Trotwood, Ohio, native is the closest thing the Wolverines have to
a sure thing, though this fall he'll have to show that he's capable of
being a No. 1 receiver on the outside while lining up against an
opponent's best cornerback. In the past two years, Roundtree has
benefited from playing in the slot against a linebacker, safety or
nickel back.



"He has the athletic ability, the receiving skills and the mentality to
handle being the guy," Borges
said. "He proved that all spring."



style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(0, 40, 79);">On The
Rise -- Drew Dileo

When Dileo signed with Michigan
in 2010, there were some vocal critics who wondered whether he would
ever contribute anywhere but on special teams. But don't tell the 5-10,
171-pounder's current coaches he can't compete at wide receiver at this
level because they will throw you out of their office.



Hecklinski and Borges love the sure-handed Dileo, raving about his
ability to come up with important catches for the Maize and Blue this
season.



"He's a tough guy that does the dirty work," said Borges, grinning as
he spoke. "He'll go in there and catch the ball even when someone is
going to knock the tar out of him. He's not afraid. More of a
possession, Wes Welker-type. He's more likely to move the chains than
light of the scoreboard, but you need players like that so they buy you
more downs for players that can light up the scoreboard."



style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(0, 40, 79);">Keep An
Eye Out For -- Kelvin Grady

Grady has 27 career receptions
for 313 yards and a touchdown the past two seasons but almost no one is
talking about the 5-10, 176-pounder. Is that because he's a man without
a position or because he has been terribly inconsistent? Probably both.
But the mature 22-year old is seemingly on the verge of putting it
altogether and though he doesn't have ideal size, he will play both
outside and inside.



"If there is one kid that should be proud of himself for putting
himself in the mix, it's him," Hecklinski said. "He has speed. He has
good hands. He needs confidence and a belief in himself that he can do
this but he keeps growing and growing and he's going to be a good
football player. He's a kid you wish you had for two or three more
years."



style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(0, 40, 79);">X-Factor(s)
-- Jerald Robinson & Je'Ron Stokes

Robinson and Stokes are both
huge unknowns, but for different reasons. With Stokes, it's because in
two seasons he hasn't demanded a spot in the regular rotation despite
the talent of a top-two receiver. Robinson because for every great
thing he does, there are one or two things he does that equally
disappoint.



Stokes could feel the pressure to perform in the spring, trying a bit
too hard to impress his new coaches. When he finally settled down, he
showed capable of emerging next to Roundtree and Hemingway, but the key
for the 6-0, 193-pounder is to pick up where he left off in the spring.




"If he comes into fall camp and has to reinvent himself all over again
he's going to fall behind," Hecklinski said. "And he doesn't have to do
that. He knows who he is now and what it's going to take to be
successful."



Robinson might be the most athletically-gifted receiver on the team,
the one whose potential is through the roof, but he has to give his
best effort every day, in everything he does.



"He has huge upside," Hecklinski said. "You talk about a young kid that
has potential to be something pretty special - he does.



"He's physical, he's tough, he has natural speed and good hands, can
make tough catches, but he has to learn to do it every day, not only on
the football field but also in the classroom and every aspect of his
life."










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