July 15, 2009

Position Preview: Receivers & Tight Ends

Greg Mathews was supposed to be the No. 1 threat at receiver last year but that title eventually went to Martavious Odoms. Both are back and are intent on leading a receiving corps with much more experience and talent than in 2008 …







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cellspacing="2">
style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235); text-align: center; font-weight: bold;">X
(outside)

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235); text-align: center; font-weight: bold;">TE

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235); text-align: center; font-weight: bold;">Y
(slot)

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235); text-align: center; font-weight: bold;">Z
(outside)

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">Greg Mathews

Sr. • 6-3, 209

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">Kevin Koger

Soph. • 6-4, 245

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">Martavious Odoms

Soph. • 5-9, 171

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">Junior Hemingway

Soph.-R • 6-1, 226

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">LaTerryal
Savoy

5th Sr. • 6-3, 213

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">Martell
Webb

Jr. • 6-4, 254

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">Roy
Roundtree

Fr.-R • 6-0, 174

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">Darryl
Stonum

Soph. • 6-2, 188


style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(0, 40, 79); text-align: left;">style="color: rgb(255, 204, 0); font-weight: bold;">Post-Spring Depth
Chart: WR/TE









Overall: Last year's overall numbers for Michigan's receivers and tight ends were disappointing - 128 receptions for 1,427 yards and six touchdowns (Braylon Edwards almost did that single-handedly in 2004) - but a good part of the corps' struggles can be directly traced to poor quarterback play.



"With the inconsistency at quarterback last year, it probably became frustrating for them to run their routes, but I just see improved consistency from them," offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said. "Those guys were disappointed with last year and really want to come back and get going and keep that tradition at that positive alive."



Michigan's receiving corps and tight ends are far more experienced than they were at this time last year. Odoms, Darryl Stonum and tight end Kevin Koger all saw extensive playing time in their true freshman campaigns, while fifth-year senior wideout LaTerryal Savoy and junior receiver James Rogers received their first significant taste of action. Mathews also took the next step in his development, moving into a prominent role within the offense (even though the opportunities didn't measure up).



For all that action, though, there was little production - again the quarterbacks merit a good portion of the blame but not all of it. This season, with a capable signal-caller under center, the corps intends to show what it can do and possesses plenty of ability to make things happen.



Michigan has big, tall, rangy receivers to play on the outside. Great pass catchers, speed to go down the field, competition at the slot with three capable performers offering different elements. And, the Wolverines are loaded at tight end where Koger and junior Martell Webb could each lay claim to the mantle of most athletic end in the Big Ten. They still have to go out and make good on that skill, but the skill is there.



"When I look at our depth and the quality of our depth, I get really excited," Magee said.



The Playmakers: Greg Mathews & Kevin Koger



Following his first two seasons - 44 catches for 434 yards and three scores - Mathews was on track to become the "Next Big Thing" at the receiver position for Michigan. But his career path encountered far more obstacles than expected in 2008 as his quarterbacks failed to locate him as often as Mathews would have liked (to his detriment he didn't quite respond to the challenge as one would hope).



Mathews finished his junior campaign with 35 receptions for 409 yards and two touchdowns. He was amazing when he had to be, making a highlight-reel, one-handed grab against Minnesota and a sprawling-touchdown grab at Notre Dame that wrongfully (and inexplicably) was ruled incomplete. But he was erratic too and didn't always rise to the occasion - see his zero-catch effort against Ohio State.



Mathews enters his senior season poised for his true breakout year, though. He has built a solid rapport with freshman quarterback Tate Forcier and can be every bit the consistent go-to target everyone believed he would be a season ago, with the right attitude.



"I told him, I don't care if you're a vocal leader or a leader by example, but you've got to live it, be it," receivers coach Tony Dews said. "You can't talk about it: you've got to be about it."



Koger was one of the bright and surprising stars of 2008. He ignored the past to play and start as a true freshman, at a position that redshirts as consistently as offensive line. And in his nine games, and three starts, he made six catches for 93 yards and a score. Those are hardly earth-shattering numbers but represent just three games worth of activity.



From what we've seen and heard, Koger had a sensational spring and is improving every facet of his game to become a far bigger contributor this fall. The coaches love his size, athleticism and blocking ability and will utilize him down the middle of the field far more often than a year ago (or during their careers at West Virginia).



The Breakout Performers: Darryl Stonum & Martell Webb



Stonum had a very good freshman campaign, catching 14 balls for 176 yards and a score. It's just that compared to classmate Odoms (a U-M freshman single-season record 49 grabs), it pales in comparison. Still, Stonum showed enough glimpses of freak ability to warrant considerable hype entering 2009, and if he continues to mature, the possibilities are endless.



Stonum has ideal size and speed for the outside receiver position. He stands at 6-2, 188 and runs a 4.4 40-yard dash. He has good hands, has shown an ability to add yardage after the catch and can jump. He did not excel as a blocker a year ago and also must improve his route running and determination after letting defensive backs push him around, especially in the first five yards.



"He's got to continue to grow, getting stronger, progressing field-wise where we thought he would be, keep things together and hopefully continue to improve," Dews said.



Webb was among a handful of Wolverines that proved the talk of the spring. The 6-4, 254-pound Pontiac, Mich., native hasn't always had the best outlook on his predicament, sulking through spring in 2008 and showing very little desire to improve for much of last fall. However, the light bulb went on in the offseason and Webb has begun to showcase the enormous potential that made him a four-star recruit coming out of high school.



"He can be a very, very good football player for us," Magee said.



The Understudies: Terrence Robinson & Brandon Moore



By most observations, Robinson was slated to play a major role for the Maize and Blue at slot receiver in 2008. He might have even beat out Odoms for the starting role. A leg injury in fall camp, however, put him on the shelf for the entire season. He was cleared medically in time for winter conditioning and attack his workout programs but showed some tentativeness in the spring and gave an underwhelming performance at the spring game.



He just wasn't ready mentally to really go 100 percent, but the coaches feel Robinson is getting closer to that state and are excited to see what he will bring this fall.



Moore arrived at Michigan weighing just 225 pounds on his 6-6 frame and needed to bulk up considerably. He has and now tips the scales at 246 pounds. However, the Trotwood, Ohio, native is still relatively raw as a tight end, working diligently to improve his blocking, pass-catching and route-running techniques.



He did showcase natural talent in the spring and a willingness to bear down in the trenches for some good old-fashioned one-on-one battles. The coaches love his enthusiasm but believe he's at least one year away from competing for playing time.



The Impact Freshman: Jeremy Gallon



Michigan did not recruit a tight end in the Class of 2009. U-M is welcoming three receivers, though - Cameron Gordon, Je'Ron Stokes and Gallon. The latter appears the best bet to play some sort of role this fall now that he has earned qualifying marks in school.



Listed at 5-8, 165-pound, Gallon is an electrifying athlete with NFL hands according to those that have worked with him most closely. He shined at the U.S. Army All-American Game in January and could leapfrog a veteran teammate or two this fall with a strong camp.



Brewing Battle: Koger vs. Webb



Koger is the returning starter but Webb is on a dramatic rise. Magee shows off a wide grin when he considers his good fortune at the tight end position. In the spring, he pegged Koger No. 1 but was adamant that Webb is right on his heels.

"That's a position that won't get figured out until the fall because I consider both Koger and Webb starters," he said.











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