Is Junior Hemingway ready to prove he is a prime-time receiver slot?
Junior Hemingway entered last season eager to crack the starting lineup at Michigan. But mononucleosis sidelined him for eight games, and the sophomore receiver put his breakout potential on hold.This fall, he entered the season focused again on making his mark. And if his five-catch, 103-yard, two touchdown performance against Western Michigan is any indication, Hemingway may be headed for big things.
All that was needed was a clear vision of what his mission is.
"The pace of our offense is real fast, and you have to have the mindset everyday to come out and be able to stay composed and so everything you have to do," Hemingway said Monday.
"I'm just going in (to the season) with the mindset to just play and whatever happens happens."
Against Western Michigan, Hemingway connected twice with quarterback Tate Forcier for touchdowns. He first scored on a 28-yard pass before reeling in a 44-yard Forcier strike that gave the Wolverines a 31-0 lead.
Like slot receiver Martavious Odoms, who registered at least five catches in six different games last season, Hemingway could be a consistent player. Only his role will be as the Wolverines' top downfield threat.
"His athleticism makes a difference for us when he's out there," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday. "He's a big-play wideout, and when he's not out there, we miss him."
Hemingway won't go unnoticed Saturday by a Notre Dame defense that allowed just 154 yards of passing and picked off two passes in a 35-0 victory over Nevada. He, along with teammate Greg Matthews, could be effective against Notre Dame (3:30 p.m., ABC-TV) if Michigan's offensive line gives Forcier time to operate.
"I just have to continue to come out and playÂ - play my game and make the plays when the ball's in the air," Hemingway said. "As a group, all the receivers just go out there and play.
"If the ball's not coming our way, we make our blocks. If the ball's coming our way, we make the catch. That's just what we do."
Jeff Arnold covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at 734-623-2554 or firstname.lastname@example.org