Jeremy Gallon had a lot on his plate this off-season. The redshirt senior was the presumed No. 1 wide receiver, tasked with leading a talented but inexperienced receiving corps. He wasn’t just worrying about his own play — he had to look out for the young guys for really the first time in his career, too, something that didn’t come easily for him. Gallon was always more of a leader by example and struggled with being vocal until this summer, where he saw a hole in seniority and realized he had to fill it.
And all that was before the starting wideout on the other side, Amara Darboh, injured his foot over the weekend, which will sideline him for the year. The sophomore is going to need surgery on the undisclosed injury, putting even more offensive pressure on Gallon’s shoulders.
“We have some pretty good kids that can fill in, but I feel probably worse for (Darboh) than for anybody,” offensive coordinator Al Borges said. “The kid had an excellent spring ball and capped it off with an excellent two-a-days. He was playing good, and I feel bad because I really feel like it was going to be a big, almost coming-out type of season for him.”
The wide receiver position was inexperienced even before Darboh — who has zero career receptions and played mostly special teams last season — went down.
The two players who could replace him in the starting lineup have a combined 12 career catches between them. Redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson has never played a collegiate game, while senior Jeremy Jackson has been a reserve for most of his Michigan career.
Senior Drew Dileo is more polished than Chesson and Jackson but will likely stay in his slot receiver role and won’t be moved to the outside. Gallon is only 5-foot-8, so the idea in the off-season was to pair him with the 6-foot-2 Darboh — the vertical, down the field receiver — to stretch the opposing secondary.
Now, that stretch role is a little less certain.
“(Darboh is) a hands guy, faster than you think he is although he’s fast on the clock, jumps, good range, he kind of had all that stuff,” Borges said. “He fit what you were looking for. I wouldn’t stereotype him as a possession guy. He’s pretty much the whole package.”
Borges said that the Wolverines don’t anticipate switching a defensive player over for depth, nor do they think any of the true freshman are going to mature quickly enough to fill a big role this season. For better or worse, this is the group, with Gallon at the helm.
“(Gallon is) probably our best receiver right now,” Borges said. “He’s good against bump and run coverage and plays taller than he is. He can win jumps balls even though he’s only 5-foot-8. He does the dirty work too. He’s just reliable, you know what he’s going to do and he has big play potential.”
Gallon had been working alongside Darboh for most of the spring, but said that the injury won’t change his role in the offense too much. It’s not like Darboh is a seasoned veteran — there were going to be some growing pains that Gallon and the rest of the receivers would have to overcome as a group. But after Darboh’s injury, the next guy up, whether it’s Chesson or Jackson, is just another inexperienced player asked to fill a bigger role than anticipated.
“It changes things a little bit,” Gallon said. “(Darboh) was a big factor to the offense and made an impact on the offense, but now we have to have the younger guys step up and take his place and start where he left off.”
NOTES:Borges said the backup quarterback competition between freshman Shane Morris and redshirt freshman Brian Cleary is ongoing, but that they will have a pretty good idea of who is going to claim the spot by the end of the week. Borges also said the other positional battles should be wrapped up soon.