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.

Comments

WolvinLA2

August 31st, 2011 at 6:19 PM ^

Why do so many people think 234 is soooo small for a TE?  It's on the small side for a TE, but it's not that small.  I'm sure I could find teams who have starting TEs smaller than 234, and Miller would be a situational guy. 

If he doesn't see the field this year, I don't think it's because of his weight.

msoccer10

September 1st, 2011 at 11:18 AM ^

some Miller blocking highlights from his senior year. I remember them because it was  unusual for a kid to  include that on his tape. Miller seemed like  a good blocker and was willing. If we use the TE in the passing game Miller seems like a viable option but he is younger than those other guys and recently made the switch so those things also probably put him down on the depth chart

.

BlueFordSoftTop

August 31st, 2011 at 6:58 PM ^

If I download and lick it will I experience a trip?  I expect our team receptions to be mindbending and cosmic.  I will report back about my experiences no later than December.

nofunforfu

August 31st, 2011 at 8:42 PM ^

I'm not sure I'd put them up against ANY group, although off the top of my head I have problems naming any other WR in the B1G then McNutt with Iowa. On their own I 'like' the WR's we have, but the lack of size does concern me. I put my trust in Borges to roll Denard out of the pocket or have him throw from the shotgun, but dropping back from under center with shorter (other than Hemingway) WR's is concerning. Their lack of size also presents a problem from the LOS. Given room off of the line to get going I think our wide outs could be fine getting to their spots, but any physical contact could present a problem if they can't fight through the contact and keep their timing.

 

With that said, from what I've heard I trust that 6 foot Roundtree and Odams/Gallon won't have plays called as if they are 6 ft 2. We'll see Saturday how they've prepared around the collective height issue.

BlueFordSoftTop

August 31st, 2011 at 9:04 PM ^

I am spewing hairballs because of this.  But I must admit that OSU has the receiver corps talent to deliver during clutch plays.  We do too this year.  More than OSU, our chief ball tosser should be dialed-in with his targets.  Prove me wrong but I hope not and believe that come December our receivers will singularly add up to two W's in the appropriate column.  Call me wishful, it trumps Ishmael.

mgopat

August 31st, 2011 at 8:30 PM ^

Are we sure that that's actually a picture of Jeremy Jackson? I know that he is relatively light-skinned but the player in the picture above looks pretty caucasian to me.

Winged_Knight

August 31st, 2011 at 10:13 PM ^

After watching the clips from the IU game I have concluded that  Pam Ward may be the only person in the world that can make Denard frown. She made an incredibly exciting play by Hemingway with :20(!) seconds left sound like Mike Hart just ran left for the 3rd time in a row. (No disrespect intended for Mike)

imafreak1

September 1st, 2011 at 10:08 AM ^

You get the LB or Safety to ignore or forget about the TE by getting them to cheat onto some other assignment. Last season, Denard got them cheating on him running but that is certainly not the only way or even the most popular way.

Running well with anyone will get the safeties to cheat up to the line on run support--play action isn't even necessary but certainly helps.

Here is a beautiful example that should brighten everyone's day. Grbc, no running threat, under center in a distinctly MANBALL formation. You can judge for yourself if that is playaction or not. I don't think it mattered. Washington was reading run all the way. (Full props to Wolverine Historian.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej-NKrkvfPY&t=4m44s

Michigan did this again in the second half. The safety had learned enough to avoid the TD but it still gained big yardage.