Roy Roundtree's knee injury paved way for Devin Gardner's full-time move to receiver
ANN ARBOR -- Roy Roundtree, thus far, has been replaced by former quarterback Devin Gardner as Michigan's top receiver.
And he -- or at least his knee -- is a big reason for it.
Gardner's foray at receiver began as a part-time deal. He was still taking reps at quarterback, and continued to be Denard Robinson's backup.
But when Roundtree suffered a knee injury during the first week of fall camp and missed most of the preseason, Michigan's receiver depth went from thin to critically thin.
So Gardner began taking his snaps almost exclusively at receiver -- and that continues to be the case.
"After I went down, he started playing a significant role at wide receiver because the depth chart wasn't that deep and it was kind of thin," Roundtree said this week. "So, they moved him to receiver."
As No. 18 Michigan (2-1) prepares to face No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0) on Saturday, Gardner isn't just a receiver. He's a starter, and leads the Wolverines in catches (eight), yards (155) and touchdowns (three).
Roundtree, the projected No. 1, has five catches for 42 yards and one touchdown, which he caught last week against UMass. It was his first score since the Michigan State game last year.
He has no problems with his diminished role in the passing game, though, noting the mismatches caused by the size of Gardner and burgeoning tight end Devin Funchess.
"I feel like it's major for them to contribute to the offense," Roundtree said. "Just having mismatches out there, having them two along with the other receivers and the other running backs we have on the team, is just going to be hard for defenses to cover us."
Receiver depth appeared to be tenuous after top wideout Junior Hemingway graduated and projected starter Darryl Stonum was kicked off the team. Role players Kelvin Grady and Martavious Odoms also graduated.
Then Roundtree went down in the preseason, and didn't return until the week of the opener.
But while the public questioned the receivers, Roundtree knew the rise of the Devins would placate the loss of so much experience.
"Y'all said it was going to be a downfall, but for us, we already knew what we had and what we'd been working on all offseason," he said.
Roundtree knew early in the offseason that Gardner would be a force at receiver, based on his play in spring and summer workouts. Funchess was more of an unknown, though, because he is a true freshman.
But when Roundtree hurt his knee and was forced to observe workouts, instead of participate, he noticed right away that Funchess was going to be a factor.
"I saw him do things I ain't never seen done before, Roundtree said.
Funchess has delivered, snagging six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns. His 23.3 yards ranks fifth in the country among players with at least five catches.
Suddenly, Michigan's passing game doesn't look so meager.