This Week's Obsession: Downfield Threats to National Security

This Week's Obsession: Downfield Threats to National Security

Submitted by Seth on June 12th, 2013 at 8:50 AM

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Bryan Fuller

Hello and welcome to the second iteration of our new feature, where we ask the MGoStaff a question regarding whatever Michigan fans happen to be obsessing about. As before we appreciate any suggestions for future questions. Participation is at will since people occasionally have more important missions to attend to. The team:

Agent Brian Johnson: Team leader. Specialty: hair styling.

Agent Ace Johnson: Demolition expert

Agent Seth Johnson: Specialist in disguise

Agent Heiko Johnson: Deadliest man in the world with a knife. Also knows a zillion old jokes his grandfather, a vaudevillian, taught him.

Agent Mathlete Johnson: Master of Kung Fu

Agent Blue in South Johnson: Token redhead.

And this week's question:

How do you see the receiver group playing out this year? Where does Gallon fall among Big Ten/National guys, how much do you see the young guys contributing in '13, and what can we get out of seniors Dileo and Jackson?

BiSB: Before you answer this, Brian, check to make sure that Jehu Chesson isn't in the room.

DSC_1919

Heiko: Don't worry I told him not to come this time.

Brian: There is no room, there is only Zuul. This is the internet, man, so we know that both Chesson and the NSA are all up in here. anthrax pants This useless discursion is over. terrorism sandwich

Gallon is going to be the best dang tiny receiver Michigan's ever had. He's shifty enough to attract screens, jumpy enough to bring in fades, and quick enough to get over the top of guys trying to rein in his YAC. It's a conundrum if Michigan puts him to the boundary side of the field consistently  since most boundary guys aren't going to be able to keep up with him. I keep saying this, but extrapolate 5 games with Gardner against 4 pretty good pass efficiency defenses (and Iowa) and you get about 80 catches for about 1300 yards; he was already the #4 receiver in the league last year. That's probably a little optimistic, but he should crack 1000 yards and be All Big Ten in some capacity.

Past Gallon, it's about the redshirt freshmen. Darboh is the key. I like Chesson a lot but he needs one more year to pack on the muscle before he emerges. Darboh is ready now, and showed off his skill on the first play of spring practice. He should be a slant merchant, more of a possession threat. Ideally you'd like to wait another year on him, too, but it is what it is. Dileo will also be a useful piece; I want him to double his catches, because I don't think he dropped a pass last year and he has both a knack for crazy twisting catches and staying on his feet afterwards.

There is a slight lack of depth that I hope Funchess covers up for; other than that it should be a solid B+ unit. jihad bacon

Mathlete: If Gallon can put together a full season like he did in the Gardner starts at the end of last year. He should easily have a first team Big Ten caliber season and have an outside shot at some level of All American recognition. His five game averages would have been the second best receiving season at Michigan in the last decade (behind Braylon's Biletnikoff season). Whether that can continue remains to be seen, but at this point I think there is a high likelihood that Jeremy Gallon will slip into the Top 5 Career Receivers in Michigan history in both receptions and yards.

Beyond Gallon, Dileo is what he is. A dependable secondary receiver. The key question is whether anyone can step into a strong second spot. After 11 catches in three years, the evidence is against it being Jeremy Jackson. That leaves Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh as the most likely candidates. Assuming Gallons production holds Upchurch - 8193468909_3ab1bb05fe_oup at all, solid production from either of those two would be enough to make Michigan's wide receivers a great group in 2013.

BiSB: We probably all agree that based on the last half of last year, the leading receiver will be OMG Rocket Boots Cloaking Device Don Criqui Soul Eating McShortguy. Thing is, he's going to make 95% of his catches either within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage or 30+ yards downfield; I believe Brian termed this "hitch, hitch, hitch, see ya." The key is going to be finding an intermediate guy other than Funchess, and I think Darboh is that guy, but that's based on almost nothing other than specs. He looks more physically ready than Chesson to take over the role, and I see Chesson as more of a deep threat.

Dileo will probably do the same thing as last year; he'll vanish for a while, and then he'll come up big with a billion catches in some gritty game where no one can find open space unless they're my height. He'll also probably have a good amount of success getting lost in the secondary when Gardner goes on one of his crazy adventures in the backfield. Jeremy Jackson seems destined to battle Joe Reynolds for the Carl Tabb Memorial Totally Unsurprising Running Play After Personnel Change Award winner. Either Dukes or York will probably burn a redshirt for no apparent reason, because that is protocol. And as a wild guess, I'm gonna predict that whether we see DaMario Jones will depend on what happens with Justice Hayes. If he wins the third-down back role, we may see the frosh, but if there aren't gonna be enough snaps for Hayes (given the embarrassment of running back riches), we may see him back up Dileo in the slot.

Ace: I'm on break from writing words so here's a GIF that fits the general tenor of this discussion:
Inline image 1

Carry on.

Heiko: All I know is Borges is really excited about Darboh. Apparently Darboh got injured vs. Purdue last year (incidentally he was blocking on a bubble screen), so he wasn't able to show off his skillz the rest of the season.

BiSB: Bubble screens: weak-ass pansy Bieber-ball. Also WAY TOO DANGEROUS.

Upchurch -8646541780_451892731a_o - CopyBrian: For what it's worth, I've heard that (former?) walk-on Joe Reynolds is a real option as an outside receiver. Last year he graduated from Designated Guy Who Tips Run plays to pick up a few targets on long handoffs and the like; this year I bet he is the third option as an outside receiver (ie, slot Dileo is the #3 overall). I know the coaches like his blocking, and he showed some quicks on those screens. He's not likely to get any first-option snaps with Gallon/Dileo/Darboh/Funchess filling hypothetical four-wide formations, but between him and a developing Chesson there's some depth. dirty cat bomb

Seth: The NSA agents want to know why everybody's overlooking Jeremy Jackson. As you've probably guessed, the NSA works for Fred. I guess we are a bit optimistic that the other guys have finally distanced themselves from him that we won't see that one pass a game going his way.

Last year Marty Couvillan from cfbstats posted a megaload of receiver data based on how often they were thrown at. Football Outsiders' Bill Connellly made it into an end stat called RYPR (Target Rate x Yards Per Target x Passing S&P+ x Pass Rate). In this measure Gallon in 2012 was 14th in the country and tops in the conference:

Player Targets Catch Rate RYPR B1G Rank
Jeremy Gallon 79 62.0% 169.56 1
Roy Roundtree 58 53.4% 118.63 5
Drew Dileo 30 66.7% 67.70 17
Devin Gardner 37 43.2% 54.41 28
Devin Funchess 28 53.6% 47.86 34
Jerald Robinson 8 62.5% 14.11 90
Mike Kwiatkowski 4 100.0% 7.57 114
Denard Robinson 5 60.0% 6.34 127
Jeremy Jackson 12 33.3% 6.34 128
Joe Reynolds 5 60.0% 4.50 137

I've already made my bid for Gallon to wear the #1 jersey.

Since the middle of the offensive line is going to be really young this year it's unlikely Michigan will be able to get by mostly on its running game. There will be a lot more passes and three-or four-wide sets, and we're replacing not just Roundtree's underrated production but Gardner's. All told there's something between 150 and 200 targets to be given out after the returning starters repeat theirs, and while a chunk of them will go to Gallon, Darboh should get something like 75 passes thrown his way, and Chesson stands to get something like 50.

If those guys aren't bringing them in at a 50% clip or higher you'll start seeing Gallon's usage climb into Marquise Walker territory, and more frustrating balls going toward to too-covered Jackson. My prediction is Darboh becomes that Junior Hemingway we've been missing, and Funchess is split out to the slot and doubles his production from last year. Gallon will draw a lot of attention and a lot of balls, which will put him on top of the conference in the old stats but drop him back to 4th-ish in RYPR. I expect at least one of the incoming receivers to burn his redshirt but I'd really rather they not—Jones is the most ready but the least needed, and Dukes and York both are skinny leaping dudes who need to put on muscle. Whichever of those two can block better right now, I guess. Darboh eats up the passes that went to Roundtree and Gardner last year, with similar results. Chesson does some stuff that makes us get really excited for next year. And we head into 2014 predicting the group will look like Indiana's (that's a good thing). Anarchy echelon nuclear roswell Glock 26 Spetznaz hamburger assasssi- asassinn- assassinna- kill a guy.

Hokepoints: Time to Drop the Zero from Snoop?

Hokepoints: Time to Drop the Zero from Snoop?

Submitted by Seth on May 14th, 2013 at 10:38 AM

During a wee hours period break of a wee hours Wings game last weekend, I ended up in a conversation about the #1 jersey and who might be the next player to wear it. The guy was really high on Chesson or Drake Harris or some future giant; I was like thatsracist.gif because the best receiver since Braylon is on the roster RIGHT NOW

 IMG_5154

Upchurch

Unless you’re just categorically against changing numbers for seniors (which I totally understand in all circumstances but this), if we’re truly honoring elite receivers with the 1 jersey it could be time we give it to Jeremy Gallon. The case against: is 5’8, has always been just mediocre at returning punts and kicks, is 5’8, took some time to work his way up the depth chart, would ideally be a slot receiver because he’s 5’8. The case for: is secretly 8 feet tall, among his various Inspector Gadget peripherals is a cloaking device that saved Under the Lights I, and the WAR stat for receivers says he’s the best in the conference by a wide margin.

When I was doing the receivers pages of HTTV last week I went looking for some more advanced stats to put in tables aside from the usual Bentley things like receptions, yards, TDs, games played, and what you can get by dividing those things together. I remembered cfbstats’s Marty Couvillan last year made all of those targeting data available to the public, with an assist from Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall.*

What Marty did is took that play by play ticker information that the NCAA makes available, and through some ninja text-to-columns work, managed to pull out data for when each receiver was targeted. This is groundbreaking work in receiver stats, knowing what happens whenever a ball is thrown in the direction of a player. It still doesn’t say how well it was thrown, how deep if it wasn’t caught, or how many defenders had to be shooed off, but until we have official scorers UFR-ing every game this is about the best we can get. Guys like Bill began building their own stats out of the new data and came up with YRPR, which formula is:

  • The % of your team’s targets you receive
  • Times how many yards you average per pass thrown in your direction
  • Times an adjustment for the rest of your team’s passing game so we don’t just get the guys with great QBs and lines
  • Times an adjustment for how often your team passes, so that we don’t just award wide open receivers on run-heavy teams, e.g. Roundtree 2010.

And what it said was…

2012 Big Ten Receivers by YRPR:

Rk Name Targets Catch Rate School Rk (FBS) YRPR
1 Jeremy Gallon 79 62.0% Michigan 14 169.56
2 Jared Abbrederis 71 69.0% Wisconsin 22 149.32
3 Kenny Bell 77 64.9% Nebraska 34 134.55
4 Allen Robinson 126 61.1% PSU 36 133.27
5 Roy Roundtree 58 53.4% Michigan 51 118.63
6 Corey Brown 85 70.6% Ohio State 52 118.22
7 Devin Smith 58 51.7% Ohio State 73 109.21
8 Cody Latimer 65 78.5% Indiana 80 107.02
9 Shane Wynn 95 70.5% Indiana 124 86.15
10 Kofi Hughes 81 53.1% Indiana 129 84.95
11 A.J. Barker 46 65.2% Minnesota 150 79.71
12 Antavian Edison 92 63.0% Purdue 165 76.67
13 Quincy Enunwa 69 60.9% Nebraska 180 73.28
14 Keenan Davis 88 53.4% Iowa 193 70.45
15 Kevonte Martin-Manley 81 64.2% Iowa 196 70.20
16 Drew Dileo 30 66.7% Michigan 206 67.70
17 Jamal Turner 53 60.4% Nebraska 216 65.02
18 Jacob Pedersen 49 55.1% Wisconsin 221 63.33
19 Ryan Lankford 63 58.7% Illinois 237 59.96
20 Kyle Carter 52 69.2% PSU 240 59.30
           
27 Devin Gardner 37 43.2% Michigan 271 54.41
           
33 Devin Funchess 28 53.6% Michigan 324 47.86

I know what you’re thinking: that top five includes three of the receivers I drafted in last year’s Draft o’ Snark, and my fourth is in the Top 10. That and our tiny receiver who looks like Snoop was best in the conference and 14th in the nation. Not “one of the best after Allen Robinson and Kenny Bell and Jared Abbrederis and those Ohio State and Indiana guys,” but best-best.

Nationally Gallon was one spot behind West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, also a 5’8 mite, also the first receiver taken in this year’s NFL Draft. In fact most of the guys above Gallon were drafted this year—only USC’s Marqise Lee, SJ State’s Noel Grigsby, Bama’s Amari Cooper, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Mathews, and Fresno State’s Davante Adams return among those who finished above Jeremy Gallon in this metric.

When Brian gets to the receiver previews later this offseason he will undoubtedly point out that Gallon blew up after Gardner stepped in, projecting to Braylon-like numbers if you extrapolate the Gardner starts across an entire season. Well, the advanced stats guys took his entire year and said he’s Tavon Austin.

* [Where’s LSAClassof2000? Follow those links and stop writing personal diaries.]

[After the jump, how Gallon’s 2012 compared with those of past M receivers, and how the Big Ten has fared against the others]

Mailbag: Scrimmages, GA Strategy, Big WRs, Cute

Mailbag: Scrimmages, GA Strategy, Big WRs, Cute

Submitted by Brian on April 30th, 2013 at 12:21 PM

101709_SPT_UMvDelaware_MRM

this would have been far less awful to behold if it was officially an exhibition

brian,

i seem to remember that rodriguez had some idea about doing spring game scrimmage with d2 or d3 schools. after this year's boring spring game, is doing something like that becoming more appealing to either fans or dave brandon types? bring on slippery rock!

trppwlbrnID

RR's idea was actually to have a preseason game a la the NFL against a I-AA team to kick off the year a week early. It was his third-best idea ever, just behind inventing the zone read and recruiting Denard. I liked that idea for a lot of reasons:

  • More football.
  • …but of the sort that doesn't significantly increase injury risk since most starters will exit after a couple series.
  • Fewer bodybag games, nationwide.
  • An opportunity to have an interesting nonconference game along with ten conference games and still have seven home dates.

Excepting that one year the Mott Scrimmage was all punting drills I've happily paid near-game prices to watch Michigan practice. Maybe this makes me a freak. Even if it does, an annual exhibition game is more interesting stuff to watch because it gives teams an extra slot with which to schedule an actual opponent. If your objection is "you're adding more games and not paying these guys," I am with you on that.

That doesn't fix spring. Hoke has expressed a desire to have an actual game a la MSU, OSU, and ND, but he hasn't had the roster to do so—and neither did Rodriguez. Next year, you'd hope.

Dear Brian,

I'd like to hear your opinion as to what time you think students will need to show in order to get great sideline seats (sections 26-27, rows 30-50) for premium games like Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio in 2013. I'm a rising senior and I've shown up 45 minutes to an hour early for every game over the past three years, and up until this year's basketball season, I would have thought an hour would probably be enough time to secure a pretty good spot in GA football seating. But after showing up to the Ohio basketball game this year at 4:20 pm (9pm start time) and seeing that there were already 1500-2000 students ahead of me, I'm less optimistic about the situation. Ditto for the NCG viewing (by the time they started letting people in there were at least 4000 people in a line that stretched from Crisler all the way through the parking lot, around Keech, and up to Main).

For basketball, it seems like all of a sudden it has become "cool" to show up to premium games outrageously early even for fans who couldn't name a single player on the basketball team (seriously). It's about to become "cool" to show up to football games outrageously early too. I only see two semi-plausible arguments as to why the lines won't be as bad.

1. There's no clear border between good seats and bad seats for football. In basketball, there's a pretty big drop-off if you don't get in the Maize Rage, so there's a lot of pressure to get those first 500 spots.

I'm not so confident with this one. It's not as if we don't know where the good seats are in the football student section. People are going to want to be in the first 5 rows all around, as well as sections 26 and 27. Those will fill up fast. Show up less than three hours early for UTL or the Ohio game and you will be in the corner or the end zone.

2. There's pretty much no pre-gaming tradition for basketball games.
For this one, it seems to me like a pretty big assumption that all the people who were pre-gaming up until halfway through the first quarter will continue to do so now that there is a competition for seats. The game has been changed. People will go to great lengths to make sure they get better seats than everyone else at a marquee event. It confers a feeling of superiority, whether or not the person actually cares more about the event than everyone else.

Sincerely,
Alex

I guess it depends on what your definition of "good seats" is. Personally, I think you have to be nuts to want to sit in the first ten rows, especially in the endzone. The worst seats I ever had were on a trip to Iowa: temporary bleachers actually on the field. I had no idea what was going on most plays until I saw it on the replay boards. 

Others disagree; those will go quickly. From my experiences at other stadiums with GA student seating, if you're in the stadium 45 minutes before gametime you'll have your pick of seats outside the might-hug-Devin zone. I've been to plenty of Michigan State-Michigan games at Spartan Stadium where the student section is half-full 15 minutes before kickoff. When I went to the UGA-Tennessee game last year, Georgia students filed in at a desultory pace. The number of seats that are at least okay is an order of magnitude higher, so I do think that cliff you reference is a major control on fan insanity.

Another you don't mention is the average level of commitment of a football ticket holder versus a basketball or hockey one. Football has 10x the number of students that either of those sports do, and many of them get tickets not because they're hardcore sports fans but because it's part of the college experience to show up in the second quarter with HOTTT on your ass barely able to walk. (I was even more curmudgeonly about these people when I was in college, thank you very much.) A lot of people aren't going to care much about where they sit.

I'm confident that anyone who gets to the stadium when I do will be able to pick damn near any seat they want outside of the first ten rows. If Michigan's taking on OSU to go 12-0… I still think you're good, actually. If 50% of students aren't showing up on time, do they really care enough to secure better seats for themselves? By definition they don't really care about what they're watching. They're going to feel superior anyway. Their ass is HOTTT.

Brian,

I heard Hecklinski quoted as saying the speed in a WR is over-rated. Michigan's prototype now seems seems to be 6-3 strong WR with fair speed while OSU prototype is 5-11 inch burner. To me, I would rather have the burner. I do understand it is a different offense with need for blocking more important with pro style offense, but I cannot believe speed in a WR that you are hoping to stretch the field is unimportant in any offense.

Peter F

It's not necessarily the case that big receivers have to be slow. The fastest guys in the world seem about evenly split between outside receivers (Usain Bolt, for one) and slots. Michigan's brought in a couple of guys—Jehu Chesson and Drake Harris—that are both large and very fast. Most of the top receivers in any given year will be both large and fast, and Michigan will take those guys when they can get 'em.

When they can't, like most people most of the time, Michigan will take large over quick. Those guys stretch the defense in a different way: by being just too damn big for cornerbacks to consistently cover one-on-one. As long as they're quick enough to get on the right side of a cornerback, those midgets can have all the recovery speed they want, it's not going to help. Despite being just 6'1", Junior Hemingway was an excellent example of this style of deep threat. Notre Dame's been running them out for years: Michael Floyd—yeesh, that guy—Jeff Samardzija, hell, Tyler Eifert. None of those guys were close to burners, but they certainly stretched the field anyway.

Michigan does give something up in the quicks department by going this route. They're not going to be a great WR screen team. Al Borges is fine with this. He hates throwing behind the line of scrimmage. He also loves the deep ball. I mean, come on, this is Al Borges we're talking about, the offensive coordinator who wants to call a 30 yard pass every down.

Title: Dave Brandon run for Senate?

Me: Go away!
DB: "Go away?"
[DB laughs as I begin crying]
Me: I hate you, I hate you.
DB: Where would you be without me, dollar, dollar? I saved us! It was me! We survived because of me!
Me: [stops crying] Not anymore.
DB: What did you say?
Me: Hoke looks after us now. We don't need you anymore.
DB: What?
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
DB: No!
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
[DB screams in frustration]
Me: LEAVE! NOW! AND NEVER COME BACK!
[DB is silent]
Me: [looks around] We told him to go away... and away he goes, Precious! Gone, gone, gone! Michigan is free!

Sincerely,

Brian Hale

No comment.

Hey Brian,

It's been three and a half years since you posted a pic of my son as a 7 WEEK old in a post.

I made a "vine" of him Tuesday. He's keeping up with this "Mgoblog's biggest fan" moniker at the ripe old age of almost four.

Go Blue,

Rob Nakfoor

Your head might explode if you turn the sound on here.

Hokepoints: Three Questions I Can't Answer

Hokepoints: Three Questions I Can't Answer

Submitted by Seth on October 30th, 2012 at 12:00 PM

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Upchurch

So you saw Michigan's backup plan in case Denard gets knocked out early in a competitive game. The plan was Bellomy. And you saw Bellomy. With regard to the skills, talent, and preparation required to be a competitive Big Ten quarterback, Bellomy was terrible. The offense immediately imploded, Michigan's Rose Bowl chances dropped to "not likely" and we were left facing the bleakness of a Robinson-less future.

So long as nards were left to nard we were perfectly content to ignore things like an apparent lack of receiver talent, or whether the redshirt freshman backup QB we snake oiled away from Purdue could perform well enough in an important game scenario that nobody would think to ask about Jack Kennedy. We could even be blasé about what appears to be persistent offensive coaching mistakes. It was all masked by Wheeeeee!! Saturday the whee was taken away and we got our first real glimpse of the structure they're building underneath it. We've got questions.

1. When your freshman QB is 4 of 21 with 4 interceptions on the year, why not try the junior 5-star quarterback you've got playing receiver?

Everyone can pick a moment. For me it was Russell's first completion of the game, a 12-yard pass to Kerridge:

Alright open man! Get there! … It's still not there. Okay coverage isn't there yet either. But what's taking so long? Did it just sail? No it's on target. Okay here it comes. Catch! First down on the Utah thirty-eigh…oh dear god.

We already knew how bad it could get, but this suddenly looked like we had an outer bound for how good it could get. The feet weren't set, and a guy was coming toward his face, and he got rid of it to the open receiver for 12 yards. Except Kerridge had been open over there for several seconds. And then with that entire windup the ball delivered is a full Sheridan.

With the opponent blitzing their brains out there's going to be open receivers, and Bellomy can learn to find them quicker. But the guys can't stay open so long that defenders won't arrive sometime during the three seconds the ball's in the air. The weird dropsies when Bellomy is throwing the ball could be related to this as well. Accustomed to catching zippy Denard passes, the receivers I imagine are getting thrown off by the the extra half-second of waiting for the ball to arrive. They're losing focus, putting their minds downfield or setting off internal alarms that the coverage is arriving. You'll note in this game more than a few of Russell's open targets were lit up upon reception—the personal foul on Jackson is a good example. Simply the anticipation of such a hit is a known cause of drops.

The scary lack of arm strength raised a few questions, like why he was recruited in the first place if a cannon is a pre-req for Borgesian offense, but a more pressing and more dire query is how bad can Gardner be if they've got this dude under center instead of him?

He's playing receiver. In fact, for all his faults at receiver, he's better at that than our other options. It falls a little flat to say if he's not out there Jeremy Jackson would be, since Jeremy Jackson is out there all the damn time. More to the point, Gardner practiced all week at receiver, and sending him in unprepared would have been unfair, would undermine his confidence, and probably resulted in yackety crap like that which ended the 2011 Michigan State game.

Your brain as it watched Bellomy could not compute this because fan brains tend to hit the panic button and authorize the flinging of excrement in the hopes of finding anything that sticks. This is why it nodded sagely at things like "throw Cullen Christian in there" when the 2010 secondary was staggeringly bad. It cannot compute that things could possibly get worse. The thing is, things can possibly get worse. Obviously the coaches felt that putting an unprepared Gardner in to run "Gardner and stuff" wasn't an option.

Hoke made sure to stress the "if you don't practice during the week at quarterback you don't play" thing in his postgame presser, getting it in as a response to questions about Denard's readiness for Minnesota. I take that as a not-so-subtle reminder that this staff has more patience than the last one, and more patience than the fan-brain. Their plan seems to be if Denard goes down in-game it's Bellomy, but if we lose Robinson for a week or more, Gardner will be preparing for that game.

[More things I don't want to ask after THE JUMP]

Hokepoints: Big Ten Receivers Suck

Hokepoints: Big Ten Receivers Suck

Submitted by Seth on September 5th, 2012 at 10:52 AM

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Site notice: "Museday" (at times also known as "Musenesday" and other things), is now and hereafter "Hokepoints." Because football is about having more points. Get it?

So we noticed something when doing that pre-season draft-o-snark thing: The receivers in our conference kind of suck. More accurately I should say that there are precious few proven wideouts coming back this year. Here's what the receiver draft board looked like, not counting RBs, TEs, or moonlighting defensive backs and whatnot:

Player School Ht Wt Yr YPG YPC TDs Drafted
Jared Abbrederis WIS 6'2 188 JR* 66.6 17.0 8 20 (Brian)
Keenan Davis IOWA 6'3 215 SR 59.4 14.3 4 26 (Ace)
Antavian Edison PUR 5'11 175 SR 44.9 13.3 3 n/a
Kofi Hughes IND 6'2 210 JR 44.7 15.3 3 41 (Seth)
Kenny Bell NEB 6'1 185 SO 35.5 14.4 3 57 (Seth)
Kain Colter NW 6'0 190 JR 35.2 10.7 3 74 (Ace)
Jeremy Gallon MICH 5'8 187 JR* 34.9 14.6 3 65 (Seth)
O.J. Ross PUR 5'10 188 JR 29.7 10.8 3 n/a
Demetrius Fields NW 6'0 210 SR 29.4 11.9 3 n/a
Roy Roundtree MICH 6'0 180 SR* 27.3 18.7 2 97 (Seth)
Kevonte Martin-Manley IOWA 6'0 205 SO 24.9 10.8 3 84 (Brian)
Devin Smith OSU 6'1 196 SO 22.6 21.0 4 103 (Ace)
DeAnthony Arnett MSU 5'11 170 SO 20.2 10.1 2 22 (Heiko)
Kyle Prater NW 6'5 215 SO 0.6 6.0 0 11 (Heiko)
Devin Gardner MICH 6'4 203 JR - - - 19 (Heiko)
MarQueis Gray MIN 6'4 250 SR - - - 60 (Brian)
Michael Thomas OSU 6'2 193 FR - - - n/a
Bennie Fowler MSU 6'1 218 JR - - - n/a

They're listed here by yards per game, which Mathlete says is a better gauge for receivers than hype. But however you rank them, we took many transfers and QBs before even considering the myriad Keenan Davisii who played Avant to the Braylons of departed McNutts. And by the end of the draft most of the available options were assorted Boilermakers dudes with about 30 ypg.

Whence all the receivers in our once receiver-rich league? A few theories to test:

  • Higher than normal attrition: Graduations being a relative constant, were there more juniors departing of the NFL, transfers, etc. than usual?
  • Comedown from riches of 2011: Maybe the best receivers last year were inordinately productive, leaving little opportunity for the rest. Test by % of production not returning vs. previous years.
  • Cascade effect from recruiting shortfalls: Perhaps there was a league-wide lull in receiver recruiting in '09-'10 that we're not feeling the effects from.
  • Quarterbacks: the more they run the less they pass: This one's obvious but the conference has gone more spread-to-run, even at the top programs, meaning there's a lot fewer opportunities for WRs to show what they've got.

We dig in after THE JUMP.

Six Years of Crazy Detailed Michigan Receiving Stats

Six Years of Crazy Detailed Michigan Receiving Stats

Submitted by Brian on April 27th, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Recently, Football Study Hall provided a spreadsheet of epic length to anyone who wanted it detailing not only catches and yards for the 2005-2011 seasons, but "targets"—ie, the number of times a guy had the ball tossed in his direction. FSH did this for all of D-I. I sliced out the other 119 teams to focus on Michigan.

This data spans a fascinating period in Michigan history:

  • 2005-2007 are the last three years of the Henne era, except 2007 is a third Henne, a third Mallett, and a third injured Henne who shouldn't be playing but Mallett is insane.
  • 2008 is the Threet-Sheridan disaster.
  • 2009 is mostly Forcier.
  • 2010 and 2011 are mostly Denard, with 2010 RR's best shot at a great offense and 2011 the first year of Borges.

Here's the interesting stuff that came out.

YARDS PER TARGET

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The top 20 (min 10 targets). Bet yourself a dollar you can guess #1:

RK Year Player Targets Catches YdsPerTarget YdsPerCatch
1 2011 Junior Hemingway 58 34 12.1 20.6
2 2010 Martavious Odoms 20 16 12.1 15.1
3 2010 Kevin Koger 17 14 11.7 14.2
4 2006 Mario Manningham 64 38 11.0 18.5
5 2011 Jeremy Gallon 42 31 10.8 14.6
6 2010 Junior Hemingway 56 32 10.6 18.5
7 2006 Tyler Ecker 15 12 10.3 12.9
8 2009 Junior Hemingway 26 16 10.1 16.4
9 2010 Kelvin Grady 21 17 10.0 12.4
10 2010 Sam McGuffie 39 39 9.8 9.8
11 2007 Carson Butler Jr. 25 20 9.8 12.3
12 2009 LaTerryal Savoy 17 12 9.6 13.6
13 2009 Roy Roundtree 46 32 9.4 13.6
14 2006 Adrian Arrington 58 40 9.4 13.6
15 2005 Mario Manningham 48 27 9.2 16.4
16 2009 Martavious Odoms 30 22 9.1 12.4
17 2011 Vincent Smith 17 11 8.8 13.5
18 2010 Roy Roundtree 107 72 8.7 13.0
19 2011 Martavious Odoms 15 7 8.7 18.7
20 2011 Drew Dileo 14 9 8.6 13.4

You win a dollar from yourself. Junior Hemingway is the king of yards per target. Not only does he share the #1 spot with Martavious Odoms, he also finishes #6 and #8. It's too bad this data doesn't go a couple seasons further back, allowing us to have a YPT battle royale between Hemingway and Braylon Edwards.

The other thing that jumps off the page is the impact of the spread. The only pro-style WR to crack the top ten was Mario Manningham's 2006 season. Tyler Ecker also made the top ten but on just 15 targets; he made his hay by catching 80% of his limited opportunities. Also, Roundtree does very well to show up at #18 despite being the target of dozens of screens. That target number is off the charts.

This is expected, since the spread came with a huge shift towards running the ball. Passes are naturally more likely to go far when you run 70% of the time.

The bottom 20:

RK Year Player Targets Catches YdsPerTarget YdsPerCatch
42 2005 Antonio Bass 11 8 5.8 8.0
43 2006 Michael Hart 22 17 5.7 7.4
44 2005 Tyler Ecker 40 21 5.7 10.8
45 2007 Greg Mathews 65 39 5.6 9.4
46 2008 Greg Mathews 73 35 5.6 11.7
47 2006 Mike Massey 13 8 5.5 9.0
48 2006 Carson Butler Jr. 32 19 5.4 9.1
49 2009 Kelvin Grady 19 10 5.4 10.2
50 2010 Michael Shaw 14 10 5.4 7.5
51 2011 Kelvin Grady 14 5 5.4 15.0
52 2006 Greg Mathews 13 7 5.2 9.7
53 2008 Martavious Odoms 90 49 4.9 9.1
54 2008 Darryl Stonum 37 14 4.8 12.6
55 2009 Martell Webb 10 4 4.4 11.0
56 2005 Mike Massey 12 8 4.3 6.4
57 2007 Mike Massey 10 4 3.8 9.5
58 2008 LaTerryal Savoy 11 4 3.5 9.5
59 2005 Tim Massaquoi 25 11 3.4 7.8
60 2007 Michael Hart 16 8 3.1 6.3
61 2008 Michael Shaw 11 6 2.9 5.3

This is mostly sparsely-used tight ends and tailbacks with the notable exception of the top three receivers in 2008 and their 200 targets between them. Also I would like to note the presence of Tim Massaquoi towards the bottom of the list. This is not his fault. Massaquoi broke his hand in 2005. Michigan kept throwing the ball at him.

MOST TARGETED

SuperMarioVsPSU[1]

RK Year Player Targets Catches Yards CatchRate Target %
1 2007 Mario Manningham 142 72 1174 50.7% 35.8%
2 2005 Jason Avant 126 82 1065 65.1% 32.6%
3 2008 Martavious Odoms 90 49 445 54.4% 29.7%
4 2007 Adrian Arrington 115 67 882 58.3% 29.0%
5 2006 Steve Breaston 87 58 670 66.7% 27.8%
6 2010 Roy Roundtree 107 72 935 67.3% 26.4%
7 2008 Greg Mathews 73 35 409 47.9% 24.1%
8 2011 Junior Hemingway 58 34 699 58.6% 21.7%
9 2006 Mario Manningham 64 38 703 59.4% 20.4%
10 2010 Darryl Stonum 80 49 633 61.3% 19.8%
11 2006 Adrian Arrington 58 40 544 69.0% 18.5%
12 2011 Roy Roundtree 49 19 355 38.8% 18.4%
13 2009 Greg Mathews 55 29 352 52.7% 18.0%
14 2007 Greg Mathews 65 39 366 60.0% 16.4%
15 2011 Jeremy Gallon 42 31 453 73.8% 15.7%
16 2009 Roy Roundtree 46 32 434 69.6% 15.1%
17 2010 Junior Hemingway 56 32 593 57.1% 13.8%
18 2011 Kevin Koger 35 23 244 65.7% 13.1%
19 2005 Steve Breaston 49 26 291 53.1% 12.7%
20 2005 Mario Manningham 48 27 442 56.3% 12.4%

Note that two of the worst yards-per-target guys—the 2008 versions of Odoms and Mathews—show up in the top 10 here. Guys, I'm beginning to think that Michigan's 2008 offense wasn't very good.

Manningham's 2007 year is a clear winner here, with Jason Avant's 2005 a distant second yet distant from the #3. In context, Avant's stats scream "guy who will be a possession receiver for 20 years in the NFL": Michigan went to him all the time, never threw him screens, and he still checks in with a terrific catch rate.

Also catch Roundtree's 2011: bad. His production fell off not only because he was targeted less frequently but because his catch percentage plummeted from 67% to 39%. No screens, no easy TDs, a lot of doubt about whether he can take over Hemingway's downfield duties.

BEST/WORST CATCHIST

Roy Roundtree Illinois v Michigan lZeXZhi8Z-wl[1]

[NOTE: The spreadsheet erroneously listed Sam McGuffie as the #1 player here with 39 catches on 39 attempts… in 2010. The spreadsheet is right, in a way: those are McGuffie's numbers from his 2010 season at Rice. McGuffie still finishes #1 for his 2008 season, a 19 of 22 campaign.]

Unfiltered, these are of debatable utility since all of the guys at the top are small-sample size guys. Tailbacks, tight ends, and slots dominate. Let's limit it to players with at least 30 targets in a season and see what we get. The "rank" is rank amongst everyone. There are 59 seasons in the DB.

RK Year Player Targets Catches CatchRate YdsPerCatch
11 2011 Jeremy Gallon 42 31 73.8% 14.6
12 2009 Martavious Odoms 30 22 73.3% 12.4
17 2009 Roy Roundtree 46 32 69.6% 13.6
18 2006 Adrian Arrington 58 40 69.0% 13.6
19 2010 Roy Roundtree 107 72 67.3% 13.0
20 2006 Steve Breaston 87 58 66.7% 11.6
24 2011 Kevin Koger 35 23 65.7% 10.6
25 2005 Jason Avant 126 82 65.1% 13.0
30 2010 Darryl Stonum 80 49 61.3% 12.9
31 2007 Greg Mathews 65 39 60.0% 9.4
32 2006 Mario Manningham 64 38 59.4% 18.5
33 2006 Carson Butler Jr. 32 19 59.4% 9.1
35 2011 Junior Hemingway 58 34 58.6% 20.6
36 2007 Adrian Arrington 115 67 58.3% 13.2
37 2010 Junior Hemingway 56 32 57.1% 18.5
38 2005 Mario Manningham 48 27 56.3% 16.4
40 2008 Martavious Odoms 90 49 54.4% 9.1
42 2005 Steve Breaston 49 26 53.1% 11.2
43 2009 Greg Mathews 55 29 52.7% 12.1
45 2005 Tyler Ecker 40 21 52.5% 10.8
47 2007 Mario Manningham 142 72 50.7% 16.3
50 2008 Greg Mathews 73 35 47.9% 11.7
56 2011 Roy Roundtree 49 19 38.8% 18.7
57 2008 Darryl Stonum 37 14 37.8% 12.6

I highlighted it this time. Roundtree's regression from 2010 to 2011 was enormous. He went from the #5 player in this sample to second-worst.

In other news, Adrian Arrington's 2006 was secretly great. And when you combine the catch rates with the yards you have a dead heat between Mario Manningham '06 and Junior Hemingway '11 as the best season in this time frame, with Avant's '05 drawing an honorable mention for moving the chains.

Speaking of…

MOVING THE CHAINS

There are two subsets provided in the data, with attempts split into "standard downs" and "passing downs." Passing downs can come on second and long but using them as a proxy for third and let's-not-run isn't going to introduce too many distortions. The top 20 security blankets:

RK Year Player Targets Catches CatchRate Target % YdsPerCatch
1 2007 Mario Manningham 67 34 50.7% 34.0% 20.5
2 2008 Greg Mathews 51 25 49.0% 31.5% 14.8
3 2006 Steve Breaston 46 29 63.0% 30.1% 18.9
4 2005 Jason Avant 50 33 66.0% 29.8% 18.7
5 2007 Adrian Arrington 54 30 55.6% 27.4% 19.0
6 2011 Junior Hemingway 31 19 61.3% 24.2% 21.8
7 2010 Roy Roundtree 42 22 52.4% 23.1% 19.1
8 2007 Greg Mathews 42 25 59.5% 21.3% 14.6
9 2008 Martavious Odoms 34 14 41.2% 21.0% 10.5
10 2010 Darryl Stonum 36 17 47.2% 19.8% 10.3
11 2011 Roy Roundtree 25 8 32.0% 19.5% 13.4
12 2009 Greg Mathews 26 13 50.0% 17.4% 17.0
13 2006 Adrian Arrington 24 17 70.8% 15.7% 7.4
14 2006 Mario Manningham 24 14 58.3% 15.7% 17.8
15 2005 Mario Manningham 26 12 46.2% 15.5% 19.8
16 2010 Junior Hemingway 28 13 46.4% 15.4% 12.1
17 2005 Tyler Ecker 25 11 44.0% 14.9% 18.9
18 2009 Roy Roundtree 21 15 71.4% 14.1% 16.9
19 2006 Carson Butler Jr. 19 12 63.2% 12.4% 19.6
20 2008 Darryl Stonum 19 5 26.3% 11.7% 13.6

You get a dollar for betting that you should throw it to Jason Avant on third and medium, too. Only low-usage versions of Arrington and Roundtree bested him on catch percentage and they were far less-frequently targeted; Arrington's 7.4 YPC further implies that some of those completions were well short of the first down.

Avant has a combination of catching the ball and maintaining a great YPC that makes it totally unsurprising that he's a solid NFL player and a little wistfully sad whenever I compare yet another incoming WR to him when I know deep in the soul of my heart that there's no way Freshman X will be half as good.

BONUS: Steve Breaston would like you to take your criticisms about his hands and shove them up where Bill Hancock's head is.

Michigan Musenesday is an End in Motion

Michigan Musenesday is an End in Motion

Submitted by Seth on April 11th, 2012 at 8:50 AM

perry-great_0Ecker - NW923c86976d2148b27cf9e3bda1bce767-getty-124586777

Little boxes on the grid-iron, little boxes made of football players, little boxes for positions, little boxes some the same. There's a tall one and a short one and strong one and speedy one and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all seem much the same.

Football positions are things that fans learn very young. Everyone knows who the quarterback and running back and linebackers etc. are. But then coaches start talking, and like any expert they designedly do so with such abstruse and recondite specificity as to elicit from the lay audience a greater appreciation for the mysteries of the speaker’s craft and complexities of Oxford-Dictionarythe imbroglio of disagreements wherein than said audience might have been provisioned in elucidation—much like a writer who uses lots of SAT words to say "they’re being pretentious." Not that our coaches do this; Hoke’s staff is remarkably candid as coaches go.

Anyhoo, as with the penultimate sentence of the previous paragraph, more obscure lexemes, when understood, can communicate greater subtleties as well as pedantry. So that you too can cognize the nuances, or just sound like an insufferable know-it-all during the Spring Game (that’s what you're here for anyway right?), hither a glossary of Michigan’s various names, past and present, for eligible receivers; would that the Oxford was so concise.

Football allows four players of any type in the backfield ("backs")  plus the two guys lined up on the extreme edges of the line ("ends") to be eligible receivers. A QB, RB, TB, HB, TB, WB, SB, FB, UB, YB, FL, Z, SR, or R is technically a back, while a TE, SE, X and Y are ends.

Quarterback (QB): Is an effin quarterback. Mr. Lewan would you kindly show the audience what this look li…

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Eric Upchurch

Ah. The first quarterback at Michigan was on Team 2 (1880): Edmund Barmore, though Elnathan Hathaway played some QB as well. Why "quarter?" When the game was young they played a lot like rugby, with rushers and a goalkeeper and innings and such. The recognizable part of this was that the rushers (blockers) were meant to plow the way forward, and a couple of ballcarriers stood half-way back from that. When the line of scrimmage and downs were established teams lined up in a diamond behind the line with a quarterback, two half-backs, and a full-back. Here's Stanford doing something like that under Harbaugh if you can imagine Luck is lining up in front of the 40 yard line:

diamond

The story is more complicated and took half a century but if you look at this you can see why the quarterback got the ball first. Now imagine the two halfbacks are receiving a lot of lateral handoffs and speeding for the edges more often, while the guy all the way back is set to plow straight forward.

Running Back (RB) is Michigan’s current preferred term for the traditional (first appeared in 1880) Halfback (HB), though RBs can often include fullbacks, e.g. Running Backs Coach Fred Jackson. Scatback or Powerback are unofficial labels that refer to skillsets, i.e. backs who, respectively, might run around or through attempted tackles. Tailback (TB) is slowly becoming an anachronism which seems to have made it into Michigan’s lexicon with Bo’s arrival and left shortly after the 1997 season; Manus Edwards in 1998 is the last player to be listed as "TB" in the Bentley database. That database phased out Halfback in the '60s.

Superback (SB) generally means an RB/WR hybrid. Rodriguez threw it around in 2009 to essentially mean Carlos Brown when Brandon Minor was in there too. It makes more sense the way Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern uses it to mean an RB who can split out to be a receiver, thus creating matchup problems for defensive coaches who prefer to single-wing-offensematch personnel (one LB per backfield member, one DB per receiver). All-Purpose Back is something I think Rivals.com made up.

Fullback (FB) is now the misnomered blocking back.

An H-Back is a fullback/tight end hybrid. An H-Back will line up behind or outside a tackle and usually goes in motion before the snap. A Wingback (WB)—on the far right of the pic at right—is another anachronism from when Single-Wing and Wing-T formations ruled the game and passing was for communists and differs from the H- in that he's lining up outside the ends. Michigan has WBs listed from '69 through '79. This differs from an H-Back in that he lines up outside the tight end—this is Pop Warner-style with no receivers remember. An A-Back is another term for this.

Hoke's staff has been recruiting a position they call the U Tight End or more often just "U" which is almost indistinguishable from H- or A-Backs except that it's much closer to a tight end in the hybridization scale. Calling him an "end" is a misnomer because he's not on the line, therefore he's not any kind of end.

Alley-Diagram-3-Read-Zone-Bubble

Smart Football, also linked on 11W's recent "Let's Bubble" article. I'm using it here to show how XYZ aren't always XYZ and what a 'U' is. Irony not lost.

You may remember the U from such Minnesota tight ends as those other Minnesota tight ends who were not Ben Utrecht or Matt Spaeth. Michigan did it too with Massaquoi and Ecker (right: from MGoBlue.com file, 2004). Nebraska has a U under Bo Pelini (Ben Cotton last year, Mike McNeill before) which he calls "The Adjuster" Ecker - NWbecause he can be a FB, TE, or WR of the converted quarterback variety. Gruden calls this the "joker." In the play that had Greg Mattison cackling maniacally during the latest Spring Scrimmage overreaction you can see Ricardo Miller lined up as a U, which may be a nod toward more WR alleles this year, but Khalid Hill, a fullback-ian recruit, was offered at the 'U' and A.J. Williams came in as one too so Miller is not the coaches' ideal there.

Also Syracuse used this position under Doug Marrone, which I only know this from scouring 'Cuse articles during various GERG-related panics. The thing about the U is you don't know where he'll line up (backfield or as a true TE) until after he breaks from the huddle, so it's kind of a personnel gimmick.

Tight End (TE) is normally an end who lines up flush with the tackles. They used to be just called "ends" before a distinction needed to be made between them and wide receivers; the last ends on Michigan's rosters—OEs to the Bump Elliott era—were phased out in the middle of the 1960s. To Hoke the typical tight end spot is the Y. This is where I would expect Ricardo Miller to line up, and where The Funchess and other more receiverish TEs will end up, since he has a clearer release to receive, and because he can line up flush or as a receiver (ends can't move before the snap).

That label comes from receiver nomenclature: X, Y, and Z. The letters come from reading across the formation most typical when receivers began needing special designations:

I_Formation

Wide Receivers (WRs) are backs and ends lined up outside the box. Having the Y move to the right turns him into the slot receiver. Having him split all the way out makes him a wide receiver. He also would then be outside the Z and screw this up, but NFL players seem to be able to keep straight who's who:923c86976d2148b27cf9e3bda1bce767-getty-124586777

"Some teams, mostly in collegiate and high school football, use route trees and route numbers for play calls. So you might hear a play such as "Spread right, Z zoom, 821 H-swing on two." Knowing what you know now, the play call should make a lot more sense. Spread right is the alignment, Z zoom is the motion, 821 are the pass routes in the order of "XYZ." So X runs an 8, Y runs a 2, and Z runs a 1. H-swing tells you what the H man runs (the running back or often the "H" back in two tight end sets) out of the backfield."

It seems Y and Z don't care who lines up outside; Z is the one that has to line up at least a yard off the line of scrimmage and who's counted as a back. If you turn the fullback into a slot receiver on the other side or bunch him up or whatever, that receiver is the R.

Split End (SE) is the X and was where you'd normally put the 'No. 1' receiver. The nomenclature appeared on Michigan rosters with Bo and lasted a year longer than his career; Greg McMurtry was one of the last listed starters at "SE" in Bentley, although my 2003 program has Braylon as it. Michigan didn't really have a Braylon or McMurtry last year so this fell to Roundtree. As an end the X needs to get out of bump coverage but doesn't go in motion. The Z last year was mostly Junior Hemingway. This is the Flanker (FL) position, and is typically the Jason Avant to the SE's Braylon. That's what Roundtree means by doing more movement before the play; he's kind of the possession guy now; he has moved from an end position to technically a back.

This is where it gets confusing, because the Flanker or the Y or the R can both be the Slot Receiver (SR) or Slot Back. This is because the slot comes from spread formations which differentiate from slot and wide. The slot refers to the area on either side of the line about mid-way between the wide receiver and the tackles. If the FL is inside the Y, he's the slot. If the Z is inside, he's the slot. SR as an official roster position came and went exactly as quickly as Rich Rod did; the leftover guys like Gallon and Dileo are now, with the rest of the receivers, listed as WR.

As Borges, a West Coast guy, well knows, where the slot lines up matters much to the receiver in his area, since they will run routes off of each other to flood a zone or clog the lane for man defenders.

Preview 2011: Receivers Of All Varieties

Preview 2011: Receivers Of All Varieties

Submitted by Brian on August 31st, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, and the offensive line.

Depth Chart

WR Yr. WR Yr. Slot Yr. TE Yr.
Junior Hemingway Sr.* Martavious Odoms Sr. Roy Roundtree Jr.* Kevin Koger Sr.
Jeremy Jackson So. Jeremy Gallon So.* Kelvin Grady Sr.* Brandon Moore Jr.*
Drew Dileo So. Jerald Robinson Fr.* Terrance Robinson Jr.* Steve Watson Sr.*

Yeah, I know the depth chart lists a fullback and crams the wideouts into two spots, but Al Borges keeps saying shotgun and wideouts and even Lloyd Carr rocked three-wide for much of his later period. The slot lives here, for at least another year or two. The slot lives on like whoah, actually: six of the nine guys on that depth chart can't get on the rides at Cedar Point, and one of the exceptions is the returning starter in the… slot.

So they're going to be short. And you should take the above depth chart with as much of a grain of salt as I did the official one and its lack of a slot and placement of Martavious Odoms on the third string. Any of these guys could pop up anywhere save Hemingway, Jackson, and Robinson, who are outside guys exclusively. It sounds like everyone is an outside guy now:

"The difference in this offense is there aren't really slot receivers as much as outside receivers — they play everywhere on the field and we move them around," Hecklinski said. "The switch is big because of all the little things asked of them - they have to convert routes, pick up checks and route changes and coverages."

That is a lot more complicated than what they did last year when the entire passing game was a constraint play. This is necessary to move the offensive forward. I'll discuss it more in the quarterback section, but when Denard's legs were removed from the equation on passing downs YPC dropped to an ugly 5.7—not much better than the 2008 disaster.

There are downsides to this. For example, in the two minute drill stuff after the punting demo Jeremy Gallon twice broke off option routes only to see the quarterbacks chuck it deep. There's going to be an adjustment period here. Roundtree:

“You have to have the timing down in this offense because if the timing is off, then the quarterback is off,” junior receiver Roy Roundtree said. “Our receivers want the ball, so we got to get open and keep the timing good for Denard.

Where is that timing at now?

“We’re getting there,” he said. “We still have two more weeks to get ready.”

Timing's always important and in the long term this passing offense will be more robust. I just hope we get plenty of last year's stuff in appropriate situations.

Outside Receiver

Rating: 3.

junior-hemingway-back-shoulderjunior-hemingway-illinois-houdnii

JUNIOR HEMINGWAY
like Marquise Walker
we totally planned this
drags a toe
also totally planned this
adjusts well
a back-shoulder leap
little high, no problem
underneath stuff
BGSU slant
cover zero in the alps
inexplicable yac knack
Purdue orbit step
Illinois Houdini act TD
rumblin' stumblin'
tough to tackle
yac knack attack
not a replay of YKA

Over the summer Junior Hemingway ventured into the heart of a South American jungle to perform an arcane rite that would free him of the injury jinx that's plagued him since his arrival Ann Arbor. It worked. It wrought a price on Martavious Odoms, but it worked. Hemingway hasn't been laid up with mono, an ankle sprain, a shoulder problem, or the Black Death in quite a long while.

If he can manage that through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.

That's convenient. That main skill is being enormous and jumpy. As the table says, he's like Marquise Walker. He's not a guy who's going to blaze past the secondary. There's going to be a corner in the vicinity. If it's going well they're going to watch Hemingway make the catch anyway. What you see at right emphasizes that theme: there's always a guy around, but he's often six inches too short to do anything about it.

A number of the catches are back-shoulder throws that don't necessarily seem intentional. If they aren't they might become so as Borges emphasizes a more sophisticated, they-tried-to-man-up-Crab passing offense.

The canonical example follows.

It might be a mirage conjured by playing next to Darryl Stonum for the last three years, but Hemingway does adjust to the ball in the air pretty well. He doesn't get a ton of separation, but his leaping/box-out ability is top shelf. He does do a good job of finding the ball and bringing it in.

He's also got this strange knack for picking up yards after the catch. He's a 230 pound monster who should get tackled on the catch every time, but this fails to happen with some consistency. There was that ridiculous touchdown against Illinois, for one. The highlights above have a few more examples.

Put the inexplicable YAC knack with his ability to snag downfield jump balls and good enough hands (he had four routine drops on 27 opportunities last year—not good—but snagged 3/5 circus attempts—very good) and you've got a solid Big Ten receiver. He'll see his production increase significantly. If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.

martavious-odomsmartavious-odoms-nd

MARTAVIOUS ODOMS
kinda slippery
quicks way past safety
jailbreak screen
will headbutt you
extended screen block
opens the corner
reliable option
comes back to ball
wide open downfield
settles down
guy on his back no problem

Martavious Odoms showed up way down the depth chart a few days ago. I'm not buying that. Hoke wants experience, toughness and blocking, and Odoms provides that. He's going to have to put a third wideout on the field, and Odoms is going to be #3 in snaps after Hemingway and Roundtree. So he's a quasi-starter.

He's probably way down the depth chart because his injury thing is becoming a problem. He missed the second half of last year with a broken foot, spent a big chunk of fall camp sporting a cast, showed up with his shoulder in a sling in a CTK episode, and apparently has another cast on now. In context it seems like his depth chart demotion is a health issue and he'll bubble up (HA!) when and if that gets resolved.

When on the field Odoms has been a reliable, unthrilling option. Odoms is from Pahokee, so he's small and would headbutt a goat if he thought it would get him two yards. His elusiveness is just okay—Roundtree and Hemingway probably have better YAC stats. His hands are good. Over the past two years he's 26/27 on routine catches, 7/10 on somewhat difficult ones, and 2/4 on very difficult ones. On the downside, his lack of height makes him a tougher target. Sometimes balls that Hemingway would grab zing way over his head.

The total package is a useful player but not one that's going to show up in the opposing team's gameplan. If healthy he'll at least double his 16 catches from last year; 45 is the guess here.

Backups

jeremy-jackson-osujerald-robinson-camp

Jackson; Robinson (not that Robinson, or that one, or that one)

Since we've shuffled Roundtree off to his old position, there's only two guys bigger than a breadbox left. Jeremy Jackson is the one you've seen. The son of running backs coach and hyperbole enthusiast Fred, Jackson is a lanky, "lumbering" possession receiver who seems like the cream of the four-person WR recruiting class of two years ago. That's not a big hill to climb since DJ Williamson transferred, Ricardo Miller moved to tight end, and Jerald Robinson can't get on the depth chart.

He only managed four catches last year but at least they were all against Wisconsin and Ohio State. He'll see his involvement rise as Michigan spreads Stonum's catches around; 15 catches is as good a guess as any. Hope for reliable hands and an ability to get open thanks to his sizeable frame—a poor man's Avant is the goal.

Jerald Robinson also exists, but not on the depth chart. His recruiting profile makes him out to be a rangy leaper with good hands and some upside on deep balls. His omission from the depth chart was a surprise after the coaches and teammates had spent time talking him up:

“I feel like he’s going to get time,” Roundtree said. “I talked to him the other day, like, ‘Look man, this camp, you got to stay focused, don’t get down because your legs are sore. That’s supposed to happen.’ Jerald’s been having a great camp because he wants to learn and he wants to get better. He can play.” …

“Jerald doesn’t know how good Jerald can be,” wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski said. “There’s a lot of times where he’s really, really come along. It goes back to this is just a process.

“There’s some things he looks really, really good at, and there’s some things that we’re going to continue to work with him on.”

There were reports that Robinson did not Get It and may be in the process of doing so, FWIW. Hecklinski evidently thinks he has not fully acquired It and will wait to put him on the field until he has safely done so. He's a guy to look at for next year. Borges says "he seems like he has a future here," which is not a present here. He's just a redshirt freshman, after all.

Though the short guys are probably going to play outside as much as they do inside I'll cover them in the slot section.

Slot Receiver

Rating: 4.

roy-roundtree-indiana-2010

Roy Roundtree is an eventful dude whether he's hand-wavingly wide open for a touchdown or dooming Michigan to turn the ball over by dropping the ball. Thanks to a massive game in the insane triple-OT Illinois thriller he finished as the Big Ten's second-leading receiver.

A large chunk of that is thanks to Denard's legs. There's a certain theme running through many of Roundtree's long receptions: desolation. When Denard catches the safety the resulting throw looks like post-apocalyptic football. Where is everyone? They're dead. Let's run through this tumbleweed-infested secondary.

That did not take a ton of skill on Roundtree's part.

But there is a reason he leapt off the bench during the 2009 Michigan State game and has been the favorite target of whoever's at QB since. For one, he's more slippery than you'd think. Michigan's recruited a horde of 5'9" YAC guys but it's Roundtree who gets targeted on bubbles. It's easy to see why:

ROY ROUNDTREE
the worst waldo
blindingly wide open
Indiana oh noes
breaks wide open
safety just barely gets him
fourth down TD
toughish catches
gets crushed; hangs on
20 against UW
guy on his back
over the shoulder
YAC snacks
jukes two different guys
smokes him on a juke
shakes CB for TD

Odoms doesn't have much like that on his resume and Gallon is just a rumor. Roundtree's only competition is Hemingway's inexplicable YAC knack.

And his hands are pretty good despite the drops—four in 41 opportunities in the first 11 games last year. He gets targeted a lot. They could be better, sure, but I think everyone remembers them more because instead of converting a first down after Roundtree drops a ball Michigan immediately turned the ball over on three separate occasions. Those tend to burn themselves into your head. Hemingway had the same number of drops in 27 opportunities last year but you only hear about Roundtree's fumblefingers moments. Not that they don't rankle. It's just that I think our subjective memories are not 100% reliable in this matter.

If they move him outside he'll lose his spot as the designated hand-wavingly-open dude jetting past safeties. I think that would be a mistake since he's an easier target to hit than any the other options. When things opened up for the slot last year they often opened so wide that the only things that mattered were 1) how easy is it for Denard to hit him and 2) being faster than a tight end so no one catches him. Roundtree fit on both counts.

Meanwhile, moving outside may make him vulnerable to getting jammed at the line. As a slight guy who hasn't had to deal with that much in his career I can see that going poorly. A corner can get into him—under him—and disrupt his business. He's probably still the second best option out there in those circumstances; he's just not going to be as effective.

Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro the most receiving yards on the team.

Backups

If there's one thing that is a must-recycle from last year's preview it's this stunning Kelvin Grady wallpaper:

kelvin_grady-wallpaper

DOWNLOAD NOW INSTALL NOW KEEP FOREVERRRR

KELVIN GRADY
tough snags
four-verts sit
over the shoulder
gets nailed but hangs on
a bullet he snags
spins to catch it
lit up and hangs on
designated reverse guy
an alley outside
just outruns dudes

I have no memory where that came from, unfortunately. I would like to find this person and see if they have excessively dramatic wallpapers for Nate Brink yet. I bet the text reads "on the BRINK of a REVOLUTION."

Anyway: Grady. He moved over from the basketball team and dropped a lot of balls two years ago, whereupon he was dropped from the lineup when Roy Roundtree burst onto the scene. When Odoms moved outside last year he got another shot and did surprisingly well with it. The hands issues disappeared—while he did have one routine drop on nine attempts he was six of six on more difficult stuff—as he became the designated reverse guy. By the end of the year it was a litte disappointing they hadn't used him more.

Entering his final season Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.

It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time. Gallon came to Michigan with a ton of hype and a stunning resemblance to The Wire's Snoop…

jeremy-gallon-mug snoop-the-wire
annual reminder

…and then failed to do much other than not field the punts he should, field the punts he shouldn't, and fumble kickoffs. He had the occasional nice screen last year.

Normally this would spell another year on the bench making people wonder what the big deal was all about. Stonum's suspension and the injury curse migrating to Odoms gives him an opening. If you listen to the coaches he seems to be taking advantage of the opportunity.

As a result he passed Odoms on the official depth chart, though this preview assumes that's because of injury. Perhaps more interesting is surging ahead of Jackson and Robinson, who are closer to the strapping downfield leapers the pro-style offense generally prefers. Gallon had seemingly fallen behind Jackson in particular late last year.

(Gallon's special teams contributions are covered in a separate section.)

Sophomore Drew Dileo is basically Wes Welker, of course. He had one catch for three yards a year ago and will probably have to wait another year for some of the small guy logjam to clear before he gets significant time. I can't understand why he's not returning punts since that's supposedly what he was recruited to do and Gallon has been maddening, but there are now two coaching staffs who have come to the same conclusion about the depth chart there.

Finally, Terrance Robinson's still around. He's been conspicuously absent from both press conference chatter and the depth chart. He's been passed by younger guys in Dileo, Gallon, and Jackson. He's probably not going to see time. Here's this catch he had last year, though.

Tight End

Rating: 4.

kevin-koger-dropkevin-koger-wow

Kevin Koger can't go twenty minutes without someone asking him if he's excited for an increased role in the offense as if he or Martell Webb weren't on the field for 80% of Michigan's snaps last year. The conventional wisdom holds that blocking ain't playin', apparently.

Koger did a lot of that last year and was effective but not stellar. Webb was clearly a superior blocker and was the preferred choice when Michigan got close to the goal line and things got hairy. While Koger was preferred in the passing game, it wasn't by much. His 14 catches were nine more than Webb's five.

Is that going to change this year? If they run the I-form a lot, maybe. That takes the slot off the field and makes the tight end the natural target in the seam areas that are so deliciously open because of Denard's running. I'm not sure how you get opponents to vacate those when you're under center (fake QB draws?), but if anyone can do it it's Denard. When Michigan's in the shotgun he'll have competition from Roundtree, et al., in those zones and it's clear Denard's comfort level is higher with 'Tree.

Koger's lack of participation in the passing game may be his own doing. Two years ago he started the season by making a series of ridiculous catches, then blew all that goodwill and more by catching just 7 of 11 routine opportunities. He was 9/9 last year on those, which helps but still gets him to 16 of 20 all-time— still worse than anyone on the team last year. If he's dropping stuff in practice the lack of attention is not related to the spread. I know there was that one year that Tim Massaqoui broke his hand and Mike DeBord kept throwing to him, but I choose to believe that little wrinkle was unique to The Avalanche. 

Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.

Backups

Brandon Moore 2steve-watson

Moore; weird guy with weird hat and Watson

There are a couple scholarship options behind Koger but they're not particularly encouraging. Despite being a big time recruit, redshirt junior Brandon Moore has hardly been seen on the field outside of baby seal clubbings. Even if he did have a couple of quality options ahead of him on the depth chart, the third tight end should see snaps here and there if he's quality.

More ominous yet has been the total lack of buzz surrounding him in fall. Borges's only mention of the guys behind Koger was when he was directly asked about TEs other than the starter. The result:

I think Brandon Moore has done a nice job. He is still climbing if you know what I mean. He is getting better every single day and Steve Watson is a solid player. I think we’re pretty deep there. I think we’re pretty deep. Because Kog got hurt in the spring, those other guys got a lot of reps.

That seems to be something to file under coachspeak. We'll see; given Moore's physical talents he could surprise.

And then there's Steve Watson, who came in as a tight end, got moved to DE, linebacker, TE again, and then started playing FB—he appears on both depth charts. I imagine he'll get some time near the goal line as a threat out of the backfield and out of necessity when Borges feels the need for a big set. At this point it's hard to think he'll do much with it.

Ricardo Miller's the lone other TE on the roster. After moving from WR he's up to 234 pounds, which is far too little to see the field unless the roof caves in.

Exit Je'Ron Stokes

Exit Je'Ron Stokes

Submitted by Brian on August 23rd, 2011 at 11:49 AM

jeron-stokes-2

Wide receiver gets even more frightening next year:

Michigan junior receiver Je'Ron Stokes is no longer with the program, athletic department officials confirmed today.

Stokes was a touted recruit out of Philadelphia who decommitted from Tennessee in favor of Michigan after Phil Fulmer got axed, but he hardly played in his tenure. He would have been a senior next year.

Speaking of next year, here's the WR depth chart:

  1. Darryl Stonum
  2. Roy Roundtree
  3. Jeremy Jackson
  4. Jerald Robinson
  5. Jeremy Gallon
  6. Drew Dileo

Actually, that's not too bad. Michigan was probably going to grab two wide receivers in this class anyway but now they absolutely have to.

Meanwhile, remember those concerns Michigan might have to push some guys out after the season to make room for the horde of new recruits? Yeah… never mind. Michigan's at 23 open slots right now with a few fifth years who are obvious candidates not to return. At this point 27 or 28 is more likely than 26.

Preview 2010: Receivers of All Varieties

Preview 2010: Receivers of All Varieties

Submitted by Brian on September 2nd, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, the running backs, the offensive line, special teams, and the conference.

Depth Chart

WR Yr. WR Yr. Slot Yr. TE Yr.
Darryl Stonum Jr. Martavious Odoms Jr. Roy Roundtree So.* Kevin Koger Jr.
Junior Hemingway Jr.* Je'Ron Stokes So. Kelvin Grady Jr.* Martell Webb Sr.
Jeremy Jackson Fr. Jerald Robinson Fr. Terrance Robinson So.* Brandon Moore So.*

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.

Outside Receiver

Rating: 3.

martavious-odoms-game-winner-indiana martavious-odoms-purdue

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:

Pahokee, man.

MARTAVIOUS ODOMS

WILL HEADBUTT YOU
a precious thing forever
great cut
thumps downfield
fantastic block on the nickelback
NOT BREASTON BUT WHO IS
squeezes up the sideline
jailbreak screen
extremely open
avoids the tackle
CATCHIN'
digs this out w/ guy on his back
lays it in there
lays it in beautifully
Odoms reels it in

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.

Michigan's Darryl Stonum leaves nothing but vapor trails behind him as heads 94-yards untouched into the endzone for a first quarter touchdown on a kickoff return against Notre Dame during the Wolverine's 38-34 win over the Fighting Irish, Saturday, September 12th at Michigan Stadium.
Lon Horwedel | Ann Arbor.com
vapor trails

DARRYL STONUM

CATCH?
in between levels in the zone
bursts open 20 yards downfield
POOR ADJUSTMENTS
Mike Floyd catches this, right? 

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!

charlie-sheen-major-leagueYes, 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.

Backups

21, Junior Hemingway during University of Michigan 31-7 victory against  Western Michigan September 5th 2009. (SAM WOLSON/Daily).

JUNIOR HEMINGWAY

NOT DAED
other end of Forcier improv
effective screen
one little shimmy and is then by
New item!
caught from behind on bomb
big punt return.
leaping catch in traffic

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.

Slot Receiver

Rating: 4.

roy

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.

ROY ROUNDTREE

DEBUT
catching in the rain
TRUCK
trucks a safety
great, great block
PUR-DOIN' IT
inverting an interception
20-yard dart downfield
pitch and catch
dig it out, dig it out

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.

Backups

kelvin_grady-wallpaper

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.

Also, here is your annual reminder that he is a dead ringer for Snoop from The Wire:

jeremy-gallon-mug snoop-the-wire

Finally, freshman Drew Dileo (profile) looked pretty smooth this fall but is a very tiny true freshman. If he finds a role this fall it will be on punt returns.

Tight End

Rating: 4.

kevin-koger-wow

KEVIN KOGER

BLOCKING OKAY?
blocks two guys
crushes LB from slot
doubling DE into endzone
springing Brown
CATCHING
wide open in the back of the endzone
hugely vacant flat
brilliant adjustment
zip it in there for a first down
hits him as he clears the second level
OH MY PANTS
WOO HA!
This is just badass.
terrific leaping adjustment
adjusts to his back shoulder

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.

Backups

martell-webb-blockin martell-web-rec

MARTELL WEBB

BLOCKIN'
Webb's great block
picks the playside DT up
crushing downfield block
Kicks out LB
CATCHIN'
in a sea of green wondering where everyone else is.

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.