- Torehan Sharman/Daily
BY TIM ROHAN
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 29, 2010
Every dog has his day. And for the wide receivers on the Michigan football team, the saying has been all too real this season.
Against Massachusetts, it was junior Darryl Stonum leading the way with 121 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore Roy Roundtree had 118 yards of his own last week against Bowling Green. And junior wideout Martavious Odoms led the team with 91 yards in the Wolverines’ close win over Notre Dame.
Additionally, redshirt junior Junior Hemingway is back from an injury and caught three passes against the Falcons. And don’t forget about the slot receivers, Terrence Robinson, Kelvin Grady and Jeremy Gallon, who are also in the mix.
With the spotlight squarely on sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson, Michigan’s deepest group has been trying to take the pressure off of its quarterback.
“You never know when the ball is going to come at you, at any time,” Stonum said on Monday. “You never know who’s going to be the one having a big game. It’s fun, because everyone runs their routes as hard as possible and on any route, anyone can get the ball.”
With the offensive reads up to Robinson, he can choose to hand the ball off, keep it himself or throw to a wide receiver. He can take what the defense gives him — and Robinson has made it look like child’s play.
Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said that his scheme was “trying to dare (Michigan) to throw the ball.” In an attempt to stop the dynamic Robinson on the ground, the Falcons tried to get eight or even nine defenders in the box and have two people account for Robinson — which left favorable matchups for those Wolverine wide receivers.
Robinson completed 4-of-4 passes for 60 yards including a 36-yarder to Roundtree on a seam route toward the left sideline before Robinson left the game with a minor injury.
But it’s the growth and development of this group of receivers — together with Robinson — that has the offense running on all cylinders.
Stonum said that over the summer the receivers and quarterbacks worked on getting their timing and route running down. The goal was “that (the quarterbacks) could do it with their eyes closed,” and that the receiver would be in the correct spot. There were a few times the quarterbacks did actually close their eyes — and still completed the pass.
The receivers also got better acquainted with Robinson, who didn’t start a single game in 2009.
“Denard has always been — since day one since he’s been here — out there on the field trying to get timing down, trying to work,” Grady said. “And it just comes that time when his opportunity came and it was right on target because he had already been working. He had already been fixing his eyes on that prize and that was one day being the starting quarterback, one day being out there getting the reps with a lot of these guys, Darryl Stonum, Roy Roundtree.
“He’s been working with us all summer and he’s been working with us since he’s been here. It was key. He’s always wanted to strive to be the best.”
Most of the wide receivers have now had two full seasons to learn Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread option offense. The Wolverines find themselves at the point where experience and potential and talent meet — a group that now is coming into its own and will probably return everyone in 2011.
“If you have an inexperienced offensive line, or inexperienced quarterbacks or receivers and you try and make an adjustment during a game, boy sometimes there’s panic that sets in,” Rodriguez said. “Now, sometimes not only can we make adjustments, but sometimes they’ll come over and say, ‘Coach, maybe we can do this.’ Or they’ll remember plays we ran in practice or something may work. It is night and day between the way it was two years (ago) as far as their input and their ability to handle game adjustments.”
Rodriguez didn’t have that luxury on offense during his first two years in Ann Arbor. He said it was that type of experience and playmaking ability that allowed his offense to be so successful at West Virginia. In 2007, Pat White and Steve Slaton’s last year together as Mountaineers, the offense threw for more than 2,000 yards and ran for more than 3,800 yards. Michigan is on pace to surpass both of those marks.
And yes, extrapolating stats is dangerous, especially since the Wolverines haven’t reached conference play yet, but Robinson did miss more than three quarters against Bowling Green and the offense is still on track to arguably be one of Rodriguez’s best.
It’s an offense predicated on playmakers making plays. Michigan now has the playmakers to surround Robinson and its up to him to distribute. He certainly has a lot of choices.
“Everyone’s comfortable just for the fact that everybody out there wants to learn,” Grady said. "Everybody out there wants to get better. Everybody out there is waiting for their opportunity, their ‘Denard Robinson moment’ when they can be out there and prove themselves right — that they’re able to come out and play, that they’re learning."