Al Borges: 'You're going to see more' of Roy Roundtree in end zone
ANN ARBOR -- Roy Roundtree led Michigan in receiving as a true freshman. His 72 catches as a sophomore ranked second in the Big Ten.
Two years later, he's sort of the forgotten man in the Wolverines' receiving corps. He caught just 19 passes last year, and has been bypassed this year by first-time receiver Devin Gardner and even true freshman tight end Devin Funchess.
Over the weekend, though, Roundtree found the end zone for the first time since last year's Oct. 15 matchup against Michigan State. Offensive coordinator Al Borges anticipates more of that is on tap for the senior.
"You're going to see it more," Borges said Tuesday during a news conference at Schembechler Hall. "'Tree's a good player, and he does exactly what we ask him to do. You don't have favorite players -- I try not to have favorite players, but if I did, he'd be one of 'em. He's the essence of a team player."
Roundtree, projected to be Michigan's top wideout, has five catches for just 42 yards on the season, but his 18-yard touchdown to open the second half against UMass could serve as a spark.
The senior certainly was fired up, waving his arms around and jumping along the sideline after the score. His teammates even gave him a hard time for the celebration.
"He was just going crazy," junior receiver Jeremy Gallon said. "He was pointing at everybody and hugging everybody. Just going crazy. It was a good time.
"We was just having a good time laughing about it. Celebrating. He came on the sideline acting crazy."
Michigan is a run-heavy team, with quarterback Denard Robinson and 1,000-yard tailback Fitz Toussaint manning the backfield. That was expected to be especially true this year, after the Wolverines lost No. 1 receiver Junior Hemingway to graduation.
Another projected starter, Darryl Stonum, was kicked off the team.
So, Michigan's receiving corps was projected to be one of the team's biggest concerns entering the season. Yet, the Wolverines racked up 699 yards of passing offense in their first three games, up 31.6 percent from last year's three-game total of 531 yards.
The emergence of Gardner and Funchess has helped turn the position into a growing strength. If Roundtree indeed regains his form, as Borges projects, it could become a true second threat to Robinson's running.
Not bad, for a position considered by outsiders to be a weakness.
"Going into camp, the perception was we lost some key players," Borges said. "Yet, we knew we were working with Devin Gardner at that position, because we had done so much of it in the spring, and then Devin Funchess kind of manifested himself. We knew he was a good player, but we didn't know to what degree.
"As Devin Gardner developed at the position, he would hopefully supplement some of the things that Junior had done. Plus, with 'Tree and Jeremy, they've been productive players, and both of our inside slots too. So we were number up in arms about our receiver corps.
"And the way they've developed, even more so. It's a position that, could be, a position of strength."
That also is a key to beating No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0) this week. The Irish, allowing only 10.0 points per game, feature one of the best front seven's in the country and will present a difficult challenge for Michigan's running game.
If Michigan can keep Notre Dame honest vertically, it would become much more difficult to stop.