The long ball brigade: Michigan receivers make the most of their opportunities
Michigan senior receiver Junior Hemingway has, and always will have, one glaring advantage against opposing defensive backs.
"Junior's a big guy," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Saturday following a 42-24 victory at Northwestern. "We call him an offensive guard sometimes."
The 6-foot-1, 222-pound Hemingway wasn't lining up in a three-point stance or trap-blocking defensive tackles Saturday, but he was abusing defensive backs.
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"Junior always makes big plays," Robinson said. "And I think he's one of the best receivers in the country."
With Robinson struggling to throw the ball to anyone wearing a winged helmet during the first half, Hemingway's early efforts were seemingly the only thing keeping Michigan alive.
His 48-yard jump ball grab to set up the Wolverines' first score of the game was vintage Hemingway. Robinson heaved it, Hemingway spotted it, used his body and out-worked his opponent for it.
"I just went up and made a play on it," he said. "I knew we needed it. So I made it."
Hemingway finished the first half with four catches for 106 yards, but wasn't alone in his efforts.
Sophomore receiver Jeremy Gallon continued his impressive season, hauling in five passes for 73 yards (including a 25-yard second-quarter touchdown pass).
And arguably the biggest kickstart to Michigan's stagnant passing offense was the emergence of junior receiver Roy Roundtree.
Entering the day, Roundtree had just five catches through five games. Quite a bit off pace from his 72-catch sophomore season.
Earlier in the week both Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges insisted Roundtree wasn't struggling, he simply wasn't getting a high volume of balls thrown his way.
He didn't have a great deal thrown at him Saturday, either. But the chances he received, he cashed in on.
Roundtree finished with three catches for 83 yards, with his 57-yard jump ball grab early in the third quarter being the play that sparked the team's entire second-half comeback.
After the game, Hoke said there was no concentrated effort to involve Roundtree more. He just got open and made the most of it.
"I don't know if we purposely tried to get one receiver more involved than another," he said. "But there were some things that Roy was able to do, and get loose, and Denard made some good throws."
Michigan's wide receivers haven't been called upon a great deal this season. And often times, they've had to deal with questionable throws from Robinson.
But through six games, Hemingway, Roundtree and Gallon have combined to average 19.5 yards per catch.
The group has just 40 catches between them, but they don't seem to mind. They're just quietly biding their time, knowing that when they get a chance, they'll make the most of it.
"We're just going out there blocking like we've never blocked before," Hemingway said. "And we're just making plays when it's time to make plays."