The Michigan football team’s receivers had something few position groups on the team have: depth. Now, with senior Darryl Stonum forced to redshirt, they’re going to have to show how deep the unit is from the outset.
Stonum was expected to start at the position but after Stonum was arrested this summer for a DUI — the second of his collegiate career — he was suspended by Michigan coach Brady Hoke indefinitely. Sunday the hammer came down: he won’t play at all this season.
His redshirt marks the only departure from a unit that was one of the best in the Big Ten last season.
The Stonum move likely causes redshirt junior Roy Roundtree to move outside from the slot after earning All-Big Ten second-team honors and being on the Biletnikoff Award watch list last season. Roundtree has said he can play both inside and outside if needed.
He came just 65 yards short of being Michigan’s first 1,000 yard receiver since 2007, although more than a quarter of that production came in one game — a school record-setting 246-yard performance against Illinois.
With junior quarterback Denard Robinson coming into his second year as a starter and a return to a pro-style offense that should have some similarities to the ones that have created so many Wolverine 1,000 yard receivers over the years, Roundtree should approach the 1,000-yard mark again.
Fifth-year senior Junior Hemingway, who is no stranger to big plays, should step into Stonum’s place on the other side.
The physical, 6-foot-1, 225 pounder had 593 yards and four touchdowns last season. He uses his size well, as seen in his catch against Indiana that set up the game-winning touchdown. He fought off an Indiana defensive back to make a catch at the Hoosiers four-yard line with 21 seconds left back on Oct. 2.
Behind Hemingway are a number of other options on the outside, including sophomore Jeremy Jackson, junior Je’Ron Stokes and redshirt freshman Jerald Robinson. Jackson saw action in nine games last season, but it was Robinson who Hoke mentioned that he was impressed with at Big Ten Media Days.
“I think he’s matured,” Hoke said. “I think freshman when they come in and even into their sophomore year, they’ve got all this free time to some degree, which they think is free time, which really shouldn’t be free time and they don’t pay attention to the details as much as they should. And I think that’s helped him with his ability. He’s letting his ability really work for him.”
In the slot, senior Martavious Odoms and fifth-year senior Kelvin Grady have the inside track. Odoms, who has seen significant playing time in each of his past three years, showed enough blocking ability to be moved outside last year. With Hoke talking everything physical, Odoms’ blocking may push him to ahead of Grady.
Behind those two are redshirt junior Terrance Robinson (who is suspended for the season opener for a violation of team rules), redshirt sophomore Jeremy Gallon, and sophomore Drew Dileo.
At tight end, it’s senior Kevin Koger and then everyone else. Koger, who was utilized more as a pass catcher than a blocker in Rodriguez’s offense, caught 14 balls for 199 yards and two touchdowns in 2010. But over the summer, the third-year starter has been gaining pounds to prove to he can both block and catch.
“From a physical standpoint, muscle mass and strength and that, I think he has made some really good gains,” Hoke said.
And while “everyone else” is a step below Koger, there’s a variety of options. A number of them have been singled out as impressing in captains-led summer workouts. Redshirt junior Brandon Moore hasn’t played much, but appears to be the first option off the bench. Fifth-year senior Steve Watson has impressed in the summer 7-on-7s, leading to Denard Robinson commenting on how good his hands were at Big Ten Media Days.
Redshirt freshman Ricardo Miller, who came to school as a receiver, has bulked up to around 233 and appears ready.
“He’s completely dedicated,” Koger said of Miller. “If they tell Ricardo to gain 10 pounds, he’ll gain 10 pounds. If they tell him to do two back flips and land on his head, he’ll do that.”
Michigan averaged 250 yards per game through the air in Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense.
Whether it’s at wide receiver or tight end, Denard Robinson has options.
While Hoke emphasized that he wants a power run game, he also wants to win. He mentioned that he’s “smart enough not to put a square peg in a round hole” when it comes to Denard Robinson’s rushing ability. He’s also smart enough to use his options.
Preseason grade: A-
Projected starters: Roy Roundtree, Junior Hemingway, Martavious Odoms and Kevin Koger
Key losses: Darryl Stonum
Surprise player: Jerald Robinson