The situation here is similar to tailback, where Michigan doesn't exactly have a proven star but they do have a ton of options. Outside, Darryl Stonum could blow up, Junior Hemingway could stay healthy, and Martavious Odoms could be a quick blockin' bugger that springs other guys to big gains. In the slot, Roy Roundtree will act as team safety blanket and any of the three guys behind him could provide the woop-gone YAC Darius Reynaud gave West Virginia. At tight end, if Kevin Koger can catch the easy ones he'll be a lethal complement to the zone read.
The bottom here isn't bad, as it consists of a ton of throws to Roundtree and decent contributions all around. The top is enticing, with silly yards per catch possible on the outside and chain-moving consistency on the inside.
Greg Mathews has graduated, a couple kids left the program over the past couple years, and Junior Hemingway is destined to be hit by a meteor in week three, so Michigan's getting creative at outside receiver by moving slot-sized slot Martavious Odoms outside. Despite Odoms' diminutive stature, this makes sense given the situation. Below you can see Odoms doing some catching and all that, but you can also see him chop much bigger guys to the ground time and again. When my Florida recruiting source said Odoms was a "tough SOB" he was not kidding:
Last year everyone was down on Odoms despite his productive freshman year (he was Michigan's leading receiver) because of a series of fumbles late, when it was cold and he was wondering how many limbs he had because he certainly couldn't feel more than two. There was a pretty terrible diary around these parts that met with a strong response. People got strained. Futures were question. It was tense.
For my part, I was "skeptical any slot would beat him out" and "bet on a lot of hurried backtracking" after the year; one half out of two ain't bad. Odoms didn't exactly get beat out but no one's wresting Roy Roundtree's job from him after he blew up in the last third of the year, and while people claiming Odoms sucks are thin on the ground these days any backtracking was steady, possibly even languorous. Fumbles were reduced but not erased as Odoms lost his punt return job to Junior Hemingway. He faded into Bolivian at the end of the year.
So he's at a crossroads. The question is how effective will Odoms be on the outside. No one really knows since all we have to go on are some vanilla scrimmages from spring and fall during which deep passes were anomalies. Things we do know:
Odoms was 16/17 on easy catches last year (presumably these were a lot of bubble screens), 4/6 on moderately tough ones, and 1/3 on very tough ones.
He was a receiver for five(!) years at Pahokee after signing up in eighth grade and has played inside and out since.
He is really short.
We don't have a lot of information about his routes, but he did smoke Indiana safety Nick Polk on that game-winning touchdown. Limited touches after were probably not his fault. He certainly had decent enough hands, though a double-clutch here and there led to frustrating incompletions on the wheel routes he ran frequently.
By moving outside, Odoms has ceded most of the screens to Kelvin Grady and Roy Roundtree and will see his per-game production drop. He'll still be involved, though how much depends more on Roundtree, Stonum, the tight ends, and the tailbacks, all of whom seem to offer either more big-play ability or reliability than a 5'8" outside receiver. Odoms is likely to finish in the middle of the Michigan receiver pack with between 20 and 30 catches.
Darryl Stonum has been something of a disappointment his first couple years. Last year the conversation in re: Stonum was largely about pages and the benefits of getting on the same one with the coaches. When it wasn't, it was about dropped balls. When the season rolled around Stonum started every game but came up with such a paucity of highlights that I've got more on Patrick Omameh, an offensive lineman who played in three games, than him. HIs stats boggle the mind: 13 catches for 199 yards, one fewer catch than he managed as a freshman. End of stats.
As a result, Stonum came up for repeated psychoanalysis in UFR, most of it focusing on his inability to adjust to balls thrown downfield. Against Eastern this happened:
This occasioned a long section about how Forcier left this short but this was the week after ND, when 1) Stonum turned a very makeable deep catch into something almost impossible by turning inside when he had five yards of room to the sideline and 2) Mike Floyd turned Michigan cornerbacks into roadkill. The resulting consternation:
I'm grabbing this just so people can maybe talk about Stonum's adjustment to this. I think it's poor. He misjudges the ball and doesn't slow up enough and turn, which would probably have led to the DB running him over and a PI call. Mike Floyd [or Braylon Edwards] catches this, right?
This persisted; after the Wisconsin game I launched the "same old complaint" when Stonum failed to adjust to a poorly-thrown deep ball and allowed it to get intercepted when he really should have been able to at least bat it down.
Receivers often take time to break out, but the really amazing ones often get there their sophomore years (Braylon, Manningham, and Howard all blew up in year two), so expectations were busily being scaled back when… my gawd, that's Rick Vaughn's music!
Yes, for the second consecutive year Michigan has discovered one of their wideout needs glasses. You'd think that after the coaches discovered one of their wideouts was secretly blind as a bat they would have declared mandatory eye exams for all, but they didn't, so the above clips happened and everyone was very sad. Now? Well, Stonum's reportedly had an outstanding fall camp:
"This is the most consistent we've had Darryl on a day-to-day basis. He's going to be a big factor for us. He's a very talented guy that has a renewed sense of hunger."
As his recruiting profile suggested and kick returns showed, he has electric speed. The coaches seem to be on the same page with him. The quarterbacks are not going to be freshmen. He can now see the damn ball. He could totally blow up, or he could rack up 20 catches and have a version of that year Steve Breaston had after Edwards graduated where it became clear to all that he just didn't have it downfield. I have no idea what it will be, which makes Stonum the offense's #1 X factor going into the season. He can swing games by himself if he lives up to the chatter. A real live deep threat in an offense helmed by Denard Robinson can be preposterous: Chris Henry averaged 25 yards a catch(!!!) his freshman year at West Virginia.
That's Stonum's best case: not that many catches, but a lot of long ones and some game-swinging touchdowns. The worst case is more of the same.
Odoms's move outside pushes Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God's favorite target to the bench, at least nominally. After Junior Hemingway missed spring ball to go along with missing most of 2008 and spending 2009 at half-speed with an array of Minor-like injuries that were just tolerable enough for him to play, it seems like the Michigan coaches finally decided they couldn't rely on him to be around long term and placed him on the bench. Since receiver's a spot at which rotation is incessant he'll get his share of time, leaving the move mostly symbolic, but it is a symbol.
Surprisingly for a guy who barely outpaced Stonum last year with 16 catches, he's got a substantial highlight reel you can see at right. He was also named "first among equals" after the Western game. It's mostly deep stuff: burning Western Michigan, exploiting Illinois over-reacting to a play, burning Illinois and then getting caught from behind, etc. As recruit his rep was an explosive leaper who lacked top-end speed—I compared him to Marquise Walker—and that has been borne out. It's tough to tell if his meh career to date is underperformance or just three years of terrible luck. If he can stay on the field he should be a solid, useful addition to the receiving corps. He's 225 pounds, which makes him a slant threat not duplicated elsewhere on the roster, and last year he was 10/10 on easy catches and 2/3 on moderate ones. His hands are good.
He should have a role and improve on his 16 catches of a year ago, although possibly not by much.
The single other outside wide receiver with any experience is sophomore Je'Ron Stokes, a six-foot guy with excellent athleticism who could have played in the slot if that wasn't already being fought over by four or five guys. Stokes was just outside of top 100 lists as a recruit. Michigan snatched him away from Tennessee after their coach implosion. The takeaway from the recruiting profile:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
He's got a bit more size now, checking in at 193 at last report. He was another guy who blew his redshirt last year; his single highlight last year was digging out a low ball dubbed CONESTRAVAGANZA I in the late stages of the Baby Seal U game. He was injured in the spring and only came on late, but he was also pretty much absent from the fall scrimmage; another year mostly on the bench seems likely.
The third string is all freshmen. The only one to appear on the official fall depth chart was Jeremy Jackson (profile), the "lumbering" son of running backs coach Fred Jackson. Lumbering he may be but he's also the son of a coach and has the route running skills and hands you'd expect from such a gritty gritterson of a player. He'll play, likely sparingly. That should mean that classmates Ricardo Miller (profile) and Jerald Robinson (profile) are headed for redshirts.
Roy Roundtree's second catch as a Michigan Wolverine was a game-tying touchdown in the pouring rain against Michigan State. This was a good omen. Over the next few games his playing time increased, though his catches remained infrequent because he was seemingly targeted only when it was a terrible idea to do so. Then Odoms got injured. Roundtree announced his presence with that 77-yard catch-and-run against Illinois about which we will speak no more, then showed Purdue the true power of snake oil:
A good day from the receivers, and by "receivers" we mean "Roy Roundtree." The one drop didn't hurt much since it was on a screen that was going to get blown up anyway. Minor could have helped out by pulling in a low throw by Forcier, too. Other than that: Roundtree, Roundtree, Roundtree. The 1 he pulled in prevented an interception on Michigan's first drive of the day, converted a first down, and lead to a touchdown.
Plus he did this:
Martavious Odoms just saw his job come under howitzer fire. Odoms has been valuable, too, so he won't just go away, but Kelvin Grady's time just got eaten up and I think Roundtree is the starter even when Odoms is healthy. This might also presage some dual-slot formations that have been absent so far in Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan. Kid's pretty good, and quicker than you'd think given the Hawthorne incident last week.
Did I mention that Roundtree was last year's Rick Vaughn? All hail occasionally checking your receivers' vision. Someone check Denard Robinson right freakin' now.
Roundtree continued his rampage over the last two weeks of the season against Wisconsin and Ohio State, yielding this season breakdown:
First eight games: two catches, 44 yards.
Last four games: 30 catches, 390 yards.
Project the last four games over the course of a season and you get 90 catches, 1200 yards, and a season second only to Braylon Edwards's 2004 campaign in the annals of Michigan lore. So… yeah. That's probably not going to happen. But it would be pretty cool i it did, huh? More realistically, Roundtree should double his output from last year, ending up Michigan's leading receiver with 700-800 yards.
For the record, last year Roundtree was 16/16 on easy catches, 4/8 on moderately difficult ones, and brought in his only super-tough attempt of the year by wresting away a sure interception from a Purdue linebacker. He's not that big. He's pretty fast but not that fast. He's not that shifty after the catch. But he's open and he's where he's supposed to be, which is right in front of the quarterback, and he'll catch the ball. So they throw it, and he catches it, and yeah he's basically the apotheosis of the Purdue receiver.
EXCESSIVELY DRAMATIC KELVIN GRADY WALLPAPER FTW
Basketball refugee Kelvin Grady's found himself in an impressive position on the depth chart by warranting an OR with Roundtree. This represents progress; Grady's 2009 was cut short by frequent dropped balls. By Iowa one was enough to yank him or the game. Late in the year UFR noted that nine of the twelve flat drops on the year had been turned in by the tight ends and Grady. After the Illinois game, Roundtree was contrasted with Grady because when Roundtree "is thrown a ball that hits him in the hands it does not fall to the ground." You get the idea: hands not so good.
That's perhaps understandable after Grady thought he'd left football behind for good when he signed up to play point guard for Tommy Amaker. After two years on the basketball team he found himself behind walk-on, read the writing on the wall, and picked up the cleats again. The rust was evident.
But Grady just keeps making plays in practice. That was the reason he was given the opportunity to drop those balls early in the year even with Odoms in front of him and Roundtree nipping at his heels, and the reason he's listed as a co-starter on the depth chart despite Roundtree's stunning end of year breakout. He featured in more "Countdown to Kickoff" highlights than any other non-quarterback; in the fall scrimmage he certainly looked like a top-level option, once taking a reverse from Robinson to score on a one-play, 30-yard drive. A review of his high school highlights reveals the sort of explosive agility that Michigan's other slots seem to lack:
As a bonus, since he was a high school running back he'll be better suited to those spread 'n' shred plays where a slot receiver motions into the backfield to become a second running back. It's hard to imagine Roy Roundtree doing that, so adding Grady to the rotation adds pages to the playbook. He'll see time, and could even supplant Roundtree as the preferred destination for quick screens… if the hands come around.
The backup story remains the same, except older. Terrence Robinson's first two seasons at Michigan have resulted in an injury redshirt and one catch for 13 yards against Baby Seal U. He was fairly prominent in spring and fall, though not nearly as much as Grady was, and is in competition for the punt return job. His problem has always been hands—he was mostly a QB/RB in high school—and that's prevented him from seeing the field. With two guys in front of him it seems like it will be another season spent watching. He'll probably get some real playing time when Grady is tired and Michigan is looking for their slot to be one of those RB/WR flex guys in the mold of Dorrell Jalloh.
Freshman Jeremy Gallon (profile) took a redshirt last year after arriving late because of some academic issues. He should find the field some this year but reports from practice suggest that Gallon did not put in the same sort work some of the other wideouts did and that this will hamper his playing time. Also an issue is a foot issue that isn't severe enough to keep him out of practice but does warrant walking around campus in a boot.
Gallon was a (figuratively) big recruit from a couple years ago, a one-time member of the Rivals 100 and solid performer at the Army Bowl who is by far the most guru-approved of any Michigan slot receiver. With two older and more established options in front of him, his best chance for playing time will be taking return duties away from Odoms.
Kevin Koger started the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by reeling in 3/4 passes rated 2 (difficult but makeable) and 3/4 rated 1 (great googly moogly). He then finished the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by dropping every routine ball that came his way. The result was schizophrenic: by the end of the year Koger was 7/10 on tough catches… and 7/11 on easy ones. Matters came to a head against Penn State:
Koger's great start came to a clunky halt with an 0/3 day, and no one really helped out except for the running backs. Forcier's day wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad as the numbers suggest.
He added another "bad drop" against Illinois. That and backup Martell Webb's similarly frustrating hands is part of the reason Roy Roundtree blew up in the last three games.
Koger did not exactly bounce back from this over the offseason, dropping a couple passes in the fall scrimmage and being conspicuously absent from offseason chatter both above- and underground. With depth at slot looking healthy, the entire tight end position could see itself minimized if they don't perform.
There's a good chance they will, though, with all three players returning. Koger himself is entering his true junior season; as a highly sought recruit with a year and a half of starting experience under his belt he should improve considerably. The downers from last season do consist of four dropped passes, after all. Two fewer and everyone's talking about how it will be pick your poison underneath. Small sample size disclaimers apply. When you look at the stuff at right it's hard to envision a guy with that much talent finding himself minimized, especially when Denard-related freakouts see him hand-wavingly wide open frequently.
Senior Martell Webb has seen the most playing time to date. He was an infrequent target a year ago. The quarterbacks threw him six passes, one of which was uncatchable and the rest routine. He was only 3/5 on those routine balls, possibly explaining why he wasn't targeted on them more often. He put on 12 pounds from last fall to spring, then took a couple off during the summer and is now a solid 255.
Koger's blocking has been iffy, and while Webb didn't stick out in my memory as a crusher all but one of the clips at left are positive run blocks: he's likely to be the choice when Michigan goes to its I package. Unless he has an epiphany about having the ball in his hands (and Koger doesn't) his receiving stats are going to look a lot like they did last year. Throwing it to him is plan G when you've got three receivers, guys like Vincent Smith coming out of the backfield, and a considerably more dynamic starter at tight end. Webb's a fullback, basically.
The third and final scholarship tight end on the roster is redshirt sophomore Brandon Moore. He was a highly touted recruit with loads of offers when he committed to Michigan early in the hybrid Carr/Rodriguez class, but then dropped off with an indifferent senior year. Since his arrival he's been locked behind Koger and Webb—the only clip I have of him is a catch against Baby Seal U. Without any buzz otherwise, that will likely continue this year.
I don't think it's wild to think that getting contacts could lead to a very different receiver...I am nearsighted. I cannot track any kind of ball very well if I'm not wearing contacts. I can't pick up subtleties regarding ball rotation and velocity. I'm much better (not that Michigan misses having me out there) if I have contacts. My hope is that Stonum is the same.
"All of the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes."
I really hope Grady is able to be a great player this year. As a fellow Grand Rapids native, I had high hopes last year, only to see him spend most of the time on the bench. I think with another year in the system (and playing Football for that matter), he will be a solid slot in the system.
it really is amazing what glasses can do. before i got my glasses i played softball and popped up pretty much everything. after i got my glasses, that stopped, and also i realized that you're supposed to be able to see different bricks on buildings, not just a sea of red. here's to better in air adjustments by stonum.
you're supposed to be able to read signs and such. Granted, my eyesight is terrible - astigmatism, myopia, and presbyopia; it's awesome, whenever we play let's-trade-glasses I always win - but it's still an epiphany. "You mean normal people can read that?" (Of course by "that" what I meant was "the menu at McDonald's" or some other such thing.)
It's also amazing what talent can do ... because for the average player, a slowly-developing vision problem (or an under- or undiagnosed vision problem) would be readily apparent at some point, yes? I mean, eventually a ball would hit you smack in the head or something. (Did you know a properly-thrown Nerf ball can break old-school plastic frames? Yes, I found that out once.)
Hopefully it was all just a vision thing and Stonum will not need all of us to be frantically pressing the catch button as another rainbow lands in his hands.
As a side note, perhaps part of the problem is that UM doesn't have a School of Optometry? Or maybe not, given that there aren't many of them around. (We moved from Ann Arbor to Bloomington when I was 7, so our eye exams were courtesy of IU's School of Optometry. I guess I figured they were common ... which, duh, no they're not.) It does seem odd that RR can't just send them all to get eye exams over the summer or something.
On another side note, yeah, Roundtree is pretty much the kind of receiver Purdue has been recruiting for years and years. (I don't get the whole "I called it" thing Hope was braying about. It's recruiting, man, and in football, Purdue doesn't have the upper hand. Get used to it.) While the whole "basketball on grass" thing sounds revolutionary, all Tiller seemed to do was throw extra WRs on the field and spread everyone out so that at least one of the slow guys with good hands would get open and then be promptly tackled after the catch.
The talent never has seemed to be there; when you have guys like Brees throwing to you, you look better. (Purdue WRs drafted during Tiller's reign: 2. Career receptions: 3.) Keith Smith may be pretty good, but the rest of the corps is the same old same old, which means the real threat the Purdue spread poses is if you have DBs who fall down or such. Speed is what makes the spread a real threat, and I expect this will be the year that Rodriguez shows the capability of a scary spread offense ...
Looking at this group of receivers, with Stonem, Odoms and Roundtree out there, our offense should give all but the best passing defenses a real match-up problem. Few teams on our schedule (other than OSU and potentially PSU) will be able to adequately cover all three of these guys.
We may not be quite as scary as last year's ND offense with Tate and Floyd, but we might not be that far off when you factor in Denard's speed.
Isn't a 4 at TE is a bit overzealous and highly speculative? A low sample-size is still a sample size, especially when that sample size is expanded to include a drop-laden fall scrimmage. I've always been a fan of Koger's, but I've also been frustrated a number of times like I was Braylon's junior year. Apt comparison, by the way.
Of course I'm rooting for him, but it seems like a 3 is a better number due to the question marks...
"The Strength of the Wolf is the Pack, and the Strength of the Pack is the Wolf."
Man, I would love to see Stonum break out. That guy can run like a deer and has moves with the ball. I'm surprised to see these eye problems slip through the cracks. I would think one would go through a pretty extensive physical when they enter a program the size of Michigan. No criticism of the program- I just pictured something out of Stripes where you get off the bus, get a buzzcut, and get your tires kicked, basically.
Is fast. He might be a real weapon outside besides just a blocker assuming our qbs are able to throw it deep. He isn't as fast as Denard in the hundred, but did beat him in a forty yard dash in the spring (or was it the winter)
Michigan football for as long as I can remember. However, back in the day I could tell you the QB's name, the running back, a wide reciever or two and maybe a defensive guy or three - but it wasn't since I started reading this blog that I really became addicted to everything Michigan Football. It's so great to look at these reviews and be familar with every name on there now because of things I've read and learned on here.
So thanks Brian and all of the other great posters who provide the endless information - I can't get enough
I was the exact same way. I am even more addicted to UM football now, so much more that I am on this blog all day at work. Shh, don't tell the boss. I now know about the whole team, recruits we are trying to pull in, and everything else Wolverine football. Love it, just love it.
“What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve and those who stay will be champions.” - Bo
I'm really excited about our receiving corps this year. We have a lot of depth, speed, and play making ability. Couple that with experience at offensive line, quarterback, and TE, and I think we're looking at a really big season from this WR core.
One of my favorite parts about it is that the larger Western defender spends his time trying to sort of hulk over Odoms after Odoms completes the block and falls to the ground, rather than pursuing the play. You can see him sort of talking shit, as if not going down was some sort of victory, while Denard headds for the end zone. Priorities, man.
While I'd rather have someone with Odoms skills at 6'5, being short in college isn't that big of a deal, IMHO. Most #1 CBs Michigan will face will be between 5'10 and 6'1 but no teams #2 CB will be taller than 5'11 AND fast enough to cover him. Sure that means Odoms might need to out jump a CB once in a while but 1. his determination alone should cancel out any trivial height difference, 2. why would we throw a jump ball to Odoms when we have Jeremy Jackson and Koger and Webb and Hemingway and 3. I don't think any #2 CB in the Big 10 (or most #1 CB) would be able to run the routes that Odoms does.
His agility and route running will (should) scare most teams into either manhandling him on the LOS (which is what I'd to with a safety over the top) or cover him in a zone. Odoms, despite being tiny, loves the physical parts of football (as we know) and if he pushes off a CB and breaks free he might be gone for 6 if the safety isn't fast enough to cut him off along the sideline. If a CB drops into a zone he will be able to find a soft spot and just sit down in the hole. I think if he was our only option teams would be able to cover him with the help of 1-2 other guys sitting in zones around him but with Roundtree's hands and Koger's height/speed and Grady and Stonum and a QB that can run, I don't think any defense will make him the #1 guy to cover and/or have the extra bodies to cover him. They'll be too concerned covering everyone else. I really think Odoms could thrive playing between the safeties and LBs this year. Stonum stretches the defense deep. Roundtree and Grady/Koger/Slot keep the nickel & dime CBs/LBs around the LOS and the threat of Denard taking one to the house will make sure the secondary keep part of their attention on him. If the O-line does what it should AND the QB stays in the pocket Odoms could gash a defense apart with those 8-12 yard across the field runs. Worst case he gets tackled right away and we gain 8-12 yards. Best case he breaks 1 tackle and picks up a block from a WR/TE and is gone for another 10+ yards.
Alex: Backup QB is the best position in sports. In fact I get drunk all the time, I don't have to show up to class, and it's just like being a real QB but without all the pain.
Secondary = -2
Linebackers = -1
D Line = +1
Kicking = 0
OL = +1
RB = +1
Receivers = +1
Total = +1
Life should not be a journey to the grave to arrive safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What A Ride!" HST
Maybe its the G&T I poured myself after putting the kids too bed (yes, my friends, some of us MGoBlogaphiles are firggin old), but I thought this was the most enjoyable "Profile 2010" yet. Kudos to Brian for including that Roundtree block (which should be "block", by which I mean "destruction of West Lafayette-based humanity"). The video is interacting nicely with that G&T.