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Posted on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

Junior Hemingway is biggest winner in Michigan's scheme changes; who are other winners and losers?

By Kyle Meinke

Just how good of a receiver is Michigan’s Junior Hemingway?

Not even he knows — but we’re all about to find out.

The Wolverines’ switch to a pro-style offense and 4-3 defense will hurt some players, help others. It's unavoidable when roles change so significantly. Not everyone will be happy, but some will be.

Hemingway should be pretty happy.

Thumbnail image for JUNIOR-HEMINGWAY.JPG

Junior Hemingway should be a big winner in Michigan's revamped offense.

The senior doesn’t have burning speed, but he has a big body he uses skillfully, particularly on deep balls. He caught 32 passes for 593 yards last season — both third on the team — for an impressive average of 18.5 yards per catch — first on the team among anyone with more than one reception.

He posted those numbers while missing two games with injury and playing in a spread-option scheme that typically favors quicker, shiftier receivers.

But Hemingway, who is 6-foot-1, 222 pounds, was built for the pro-style. It is, after all, what Michigan ran when the Conway, S.C., native first committed to play for former coach Lloyd Carr.

“Well, yeah,” Hemingway said this week when asked if this is what he initially expected to run. “Coach Carr had more of a pro-style. (But) I’m just trying to adapt to whatever I’m asked to play.”

This year, he’ll be asked to play on the outside, with all-Big Ten receiver Roy Roundtree opposite him. That’s a strong combination for Michigan, which opens its season Saturday against Western Michigan (3:30 p.m., ABC).

The Wolverines' depth beyond those two, however, is questionable. Michigan is stockpiled with smaller slot receivers who had a home in the spread-option, but have undefined roles in the new scheme.

They’ll have roles, certainly, but Michigan will be leaning on Roundtree and Hemingway to carry the load. That means more catches, more yards. Hemingway is a big winner in the scheme change.

"We're just growing and molding," Hemingway said. "I think we've got the potential to be real explosive."

Of course, it helps Hemingway finally is healthy.

The fifth-year senior has battled injury and illness throughout his career. He put up good numbers last year, despite missing the first two games with a hamstring injury.

So, we come back to the question: Just how good can Junior Hemingway be?

“I don't even know that," Hemingway said, a wide smile revealing his bated anticipation for a healthy season to begin. "Just come out every day, work hard, do whatever the coaches and team asks me to do and do it to the best of my ability.

"I feel great right now. I just got to keep it going."

With more emphasis on the passing game — with pro-style routes — where he’s going just might be a big-time year.

Look for Hemingway to be Michigan’s breakout player this season.

Other winners, and a few losers, who will take the field for a new-look Michigan on Saturday:

Winner: Kenny Demens. The junior middle linebacker played well last year, despite anchoring a 3-3-5 scheme that often put him in matchup disadvantages. Now, he has four linemen in front of him and, with Ryan Van Bergen’s move inside, two senior defensive tackles. Demens could make a big leap in the 4-3.

Loser: Slot receivers. All of them. Martavious Odoms, Kelvin Grady, Drew Dileo and Co. would have filled an important role in the spread-option this year. Instead, they will fight for the limited balls slots will get in the new pro-style, which emphasizes power running and big wideouts. The slots’ stats will invariably flag this year.

Winner: Will Heininger. The senior defensive end is a starter in Week 1, which certainly would not have happened if Michigan still were playing a three-man front. It’s apparanent coaches think he can produce, considering they moved Van Bergen inside to get Heininger in the lineup … or was it junior Will Campbell just wouldn’t have cut it in the middle? Either way, Heininger wins.

Loser: Jordan Kovacs. The returning starter at safety still is a starter at safety. So, what’s the problem? A change in job description. Kovacs’ strength is tackling, his weakness is athleticism. The old 3-3-5 pulled him closer to the line of scrimmage, which capitalized on his sure tackling. The 4-3 will slot him deeper in the secondary, and he’ll be in coverage more. Will he be athletic enough in that role?

Winner: John McColgan. The returning starter — yes, returning starter — at fullback now has a more pronounced role in the pro-style offense. He’s still more of a blocker than a runner, but he’ll be on the field far more than he was in the spread-option, which didn’t use fullbacks for much of anything.

Week 1 prediction:
New schemes on offense and defense create a lot of uncertainty, but Western Michigan is an ideal opening opponent. The Broncos simply aren’t talented enough at the right spots to exploit Michigan’s weaknesses, but strong enough in others (passing offense, defensive front) to help the Wolverines find a game-speed rhythm before next week’s tilt against Notre Dame.

Michigan will ease Denard Robinson’s transition into the pro-style early, score a few quick touchdowns on spread or shotgun packages, then work in some new wrinkles once it has a comfortable margin. Michigan 38, Western Michigan 21

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

I really like Jr. being included here in this article also.. He's a big receiver that always gets YAC (yards after catch) ,and when he gets matched up against smaller db's is when he will excel.. After watching the msu game last night, they're db's seem slight,and there is no way Johnny Adams can tackle Jr. is the open field ,he's too small.. and he talks smack alot !! He got run over last night by a YSU reciever,and on the next play he's in the ear of the same receiver talking smack.. imo Jr. will have a solid year ,and breakout with alot of receptions and yds,because he wasn't an A-typical spread receiver and will also have a chance to make an NFL team.. all i can say now is GIDDY UP & GO BLUE..


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 4:52 a.m.

We got to see only a few of Hemingway's spectacular catches while that other guy was in charge. I'm looking forward at long last to seeing Hemingway come into his own. He has tremendous talent and I hated to see him shorted like he was. Good article: I appreciate the strengths and weaknesses break down. It's a needed dose of reality. The question of re-loading on wide receivers is one we'll be talking about this time next year. Hoke's recruiting magic can only do so much.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

Jordan Kovacs was hurt by the "3-4-3" last year. Everybody was hurt by the "3-4-3" last year which totaled 10 players and was the in fact the net effective number of players on the field. There may have been 11 bodies, but they played as if there were only 10. This year, the huge holes in the defense should be filled. (I hope!)


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

I really like the Junior Hemingway part of this article. Here's a kid who hs now played for his third head coach. He's a gamer and now that I got to read about his attributes, it sounds like Junior will be a real contributer on offense this year. I think the slot recieves can be a hidden weapon on a Hoke-Borgess style offense that will be similar to a spread when we need to utilze those kinds of plays. It was also mentioned that we might see Odoms, Grady and Dileo as kick off returners on special teams so they will not be held to their former specialties. Don't be surprised of Western scores a lot less than 21 points tomorrow.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

In the long term, if Denard has any aspirations of making it to the NFL as a QB, this change could benefit him. His college stats will probably take a hit from the video game numbers he was capable of putting up at times, but his only shot at being an NFL QB requires he show some prowess from the pocket. Even then, the odds are against him (he being somewhat height challenged). As for those saying he's a cinch to make it i the pros as a receiver, we don't even know if he can catch a pass!


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 7:58 p.m.

Michigan actually ran a 3-3-5 defense last year. 3 - 4 - 3 only makes up 10 players and not 11. Most times last year their defense looked like it had 10 people out there at a time, but I promise you they had 11. I also don't think there are any losers on the defensive side of the ball. The last staff had the defense playing out of position and had a coordinator that didn't know how to run the 3-3-5. Kovacs was forced to make a lot of tackles because the front 7 let a lot of offensive players behind them.

Kyle Meinke

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 8:16 p.m.

umfanchris, you mean to tell me they actually had 11 guys on the field last year? I don't believe you. (OK, I believe you. And thanks for spotting the typo. I fixed it.)


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

"New schemes on offense and defense create a lot of uncertainty, but Western Michigan is an ideal opening opponent. The Broncos simply aren't talented enough at the right spots to exploit Michigan's weaknesses, but strong enough in others (passing offense, defensive front) to help the Wolverines find a game-speed rhythm before next week's tilt against Notre Dame." Excellent point. The best outcome would be if Western Michigan challenges Michigan -- perhaps challenges to the point of us fans being uncomfortable and nervous -- so that the coaching staff can see where the stress points are. Next year's opener against Alabama in Dallas will be more challenge than we can likely handle, but we can hope it's at least a hard fought game.

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

Don AZ, I agree, we want a challenge this week to spot areas to work on for ND. I'd much rather have that, than some weak opponent that shows us little. ....... I hope Jordon Kovachs has a strong game. The kid has great 'heart' and a fantasic attitude. He's; a 'feel good' story, and I hope he sticks, with the new coaching regime. .........Good luck Blue....the journey starts tomorrow,. Lets' go get title #43.