Nobody was too worried when Roy Roundtree was forced to miss most of fall camp after undergoing knee surgery. The fifth-year senior wide receiver was back in time for the season opener against Alabama and hasn’t missed time since.
But while Roundtree outwardly showed no signs that the knee still bothered him — and he insisted as much — he failed to make an impact until Michigan’s most recent game against Notre Dame two weeks ago. After totaling five receptions for 42 yards in the team’s first three games, Roundtree had three catches for thirty yards against the Fighting Irish.
Part of the receiver’s newfound success, if modest, can be explained by offensive coordinator Al Borges moving him around on the field. That allowed Roundtree to keep the defense guessing and exploit different matchups.
But Roundtree also revealed on Wednesday that while his knee had healed fine, the injury hurt his conditioning to the point that he wasn’t in ideal shape over the season’s first few weeks. The time he’s had since then has allowed him to build his stamina back up, and he said he’s now almost as well conditioned as he was before hurting his knee.
For Roundtree, the correlation between his stamina and his performance against Notre Dame is obvious.
“Oh yeah,” Roundtree said. “I’m pretty sure (Borges) cut back on me a little bit because of my knee, but I’ve played a couple games (now), and he’s getting me back into my rhythm.”
It’s a development that should only continue to pay dividends, given how Roundtree spent his bye week. He used the extra time to catch up on his conditioning, instructing the strength and conditioning coaches to give him more running.
That manifested itself in the form of half-gassers — sprints across the width of the field and back — and 100-yard sprints, according to the receiver. But Roundtree also got in better shape thanks to the running program that he instituted in practice last week for the wide receivers.
For every “loaf” that a receiver incurs — that is, every time one of them is caught not hustling all the way through a rep — the whole position group has to run a gasser after practice ends. (Roundtree claims he enjoys the sprints, but has made sure not to pick up any loafs for the sake of his teammates.)
The new system came wholly at Roundtree’s direction — Michigan coach Brady Hoke confirmed that he had no part in its formulation. The senior wide receivers from a year ago had the same program in place last season, and Roundtree, the new senior leader, felt inspired to reinstitute it after he was unsatisfied with how his position group was performing.
“It kind of showed through (game) film, guys not hustling off the ball, including myself,” Roundtree said. “I feel like it’s going to help us more. … Even though it’s going to be hard in practice because you get so many reps, in a game you’ll just be used to it. I feel like I had to do that because seeing it on film, man, it was terrible.”
Hoke said he couldn’t speak to whether Roundtree’s conditioning is truly as improved as the receiver says, but the coach did say that Roundtree’s move to hold the wide receivers more accountable is just par for the course.
“His leadership, and that’s really been since day one as a junior, that’s one reason that he’s in the jersey he’s in,” Hoke said. “He’s been a guy who you can count on any time, whether it be on special teams, whether it be (on) a team run, whatever it might be. Roy’s leadership and his commitment to his teammates, those are things that stick out to me.”
The receivers also spent additional time after practice getting more reps in, something that could prove just as beneficial to an offense coming off a six-turnover night against Notre Dame.
Roundtree said the biggest facet that the passing game needs to improve this week against Purdue is its timing and anyone that watched the game against the Fighting Irish would have to agree with the wide receiver.
He attributed part of the issues to senior quarterback Denard Robinson having to rush his throws because of pressure. That, in turn, led to the receivers having to rush their routes, which made for a less than ideal combination.
But Roundtree was confident that the extra reps during the bye week will help mitigate those issues. And he also reported that Robinson had “moved past” his post-Notre Dame blues, which Roundtree said was the most down he had ever seen his quarterback.
“Seeing him the next day, he didn’t feel too bad because he let it go,” Roundtree said. “He got over it. It’s college football, it happens.
“I might drop 10 catches, but I can’t be frustrated, because it’ll mess me up for the rest of the season. Short-term memory, so he’ll be good.”
With that, Roundtree had finished his explanation of why the Wolverines’ passing game will get better. But before he could go do his part to help out the Michigan offense, Roundtree had one thing to clarify, and he did so with a smile.
“Nah, I ain’t never dropped 10 passes.”