Michigan's offense has numerous talented athletes. Unfortunately, three of Michigan's best weapons, Roundtree, Odoms, and Koger, all play in the slot. The only time that all three play at the same time is when Michigan goes five wide but this formation is rarely used since it eliminates all running options besides a QB draw.
Roundtree broke out last year and had 32 receptions for 434 yards and 3 TDs but he really put almost all of those numbers up in the final 4 games where he had 30 receptions for 390 yards and 2 TDs. Odoms missed the final 4 weeks but still had decent numbers reeling in 22 receptions for 272 yards and a TD. His freshman year Odoms put up much better numbers with 49 receptions for 443 yards. Koger also missed 4 weeks but still put up decent numbers for a Sophomore TE. He had 16 receptions for 220 yards and 2 TDs. Besides those three guys the only other players that put up good receiving numbers last year were the now graduated Greg Matthews (29-352-1) and the often injured Junior Hemingway (16-268-2). Stonum showed promise but he didn't exceed 200 yards. I think the numbers show that Michigan's offense is at its best when Odoms, Roundtree and Koger are playing.
But this is where the problem is. Odoms and Roundtree are both slot WR. Koger is a TE. Michigan plays at most two slot players at one time. Sometimes, they go down to just one slot player. This really handicaps Michigan's offense so I was trying to come up with possibilities to get all three out on the field as much as possible. I came up with a handful of possibilities:
Option #1: Move Roundtree to the outside receiver position.
Option #2: Move Koger to more of an H-Back role.
Option #3: Move Koger to an outside receiver position .
Option #4: Rotate out 1 of the 3 every play.
I think each option has positives and negatives. Option #1 lets Koger play as a TE and lets Odoms play the slot but Roundtree is just 6 feet tall and he is more shifty then fast. Also, Roundtree is a key player on the offense and excelled in the slot. Why change something that worked so well? He clearly has a connection with Forcier and Forcier looked for him first at the end of last year. A full season of these two would be amazing to watch.
Option #2 lets the slot WRs stay in the slot. This is ideal since Odoms and Roundtree are better offensive threats then Koger, so if anyone should have to move it should be Koger. Koger in the backfield can help with the blocking, especially cutting back against the line, and gives Forcier another option when he is scrambling around. However, having a 6'4 250 pound TE in the H-Back role might slow down the offense (V. Smith running into Koger) and Koger's blocking skills aren't good enough to go 1 on 1 with a DE or OLB. Michigan experimented with Koger here last year and it had some success. Certainly when Michigan is running a lot of QB Reads having Koger there helps since he is fast enough to get outside the containing linebacker but on runs up the middle he seemed lost and useless.
Option #3 lets Odoms and Roundtree stay in the slot (which once again is key) and it helps fill a void at outside WR. Hemingway and Stonum didn't do much last year. Stonum showed some signs of breaking out but I don't trust him to be the #1 outside WR this year. Having Koger, Odoms, Roundtree plus a RB and QB that can run all on the field with Stonum should allow Stonum to flourish. He'd be the #1 deep threat and he'd almost never face double coverage since the safeties would have to be worried about the slot WRs.
Koger isn't slow but he's not a speedy outside WR that is going to stretch the defense. However, neither is Hemingway (especially if he did gain more weight). Koger seems to have as good of hands as Hemingway and he is much taller, which gives Michigan a jump ball candidate for endzones. Additionally, Koger is a better blocker then Hemingway and he can probably pancake a containing safety or a LB concentrating on the RB. Finally, this lets Michigan red-shirt Jackson and MIller and bring Stokes along slowly. Now if Stokes is solid this spring and ready to start I think he should play over Koger since outside speed is sorely lacking but if he needs to come in and start slowly gaining experience this plan could work.
I'm not saying Michigan should go to this every down but this could be a base formation. Now if Michigan is in 2nd and 10 or 3rd and long I'd suggest replacing Koger with a faster option but besides that I think having him out there most the time makes sense. When defenses go to zone (to help their LBs/S/DBs) cover Odoms and Roundtree this would let Koger run nice 3-5 step routes where he could set up in a whole in the zone. Having an elite speedster at WR would be great but it's not realistic this year.
Option #4: Odoms and Koger and Roundtree and Hemingway all have injury problems. Most likely in an average game one of these guys is hurt, which, eliminates most of the depth problem. Also, no way can Roundtree and Odoms play every snap. They will wear out and having Koger step in and replace them makes sense. However, with the lack of depth outside and the numerous depth at the slot, I really think Michigan should look elsewhere for a sub for Odoms or Roundtree. Michigan has numerous options at the slot like Terrence Robinson, Jeremy Gallon, Kelvin Grady, Drew Dileo, Austin White, DJ Williamson and probably Denard Robinson. I just think keeping that having all these guys on the sidelines doesn't make sense. I also think moving Roundtree or Odoms makes little sense since they are elite slot WR and why mess with a great thing?
That leaves me with moving Koger to either an H-Back role or outside WR. At first moving Koger outside made no sense but after thinking about it I now think it's possible. How much slower is he then Hemingway? I think his hands and size and blocking ability more than make up for Hemingway. Stonum is speedy and if he's on the opposite side of the formation the defense will still need to drop their safeties back and Michigan can always move Koger to H-Back when they need an extra blocker. Plus, when Michigan is in a 3rd and long they could always sub Koger out for a faster WR like Stokes or Denard.
Am I crazy for thinking this is possible? Do you have another solution? Let me know.