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.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
"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."
Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.
Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.
Jr is a very underrated WR. If he played at a passing program he would have big time buzz. Jr will play on Sundays. We have a good mix of big WRs and some smaller guys... it will help if we can get one of the big WR recruits that we are in on this year. Things look good.
Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.
Devin Gardner played well in this game in the few plays he had and would have played better if he has been given time in preseason. Yeah MSU will check Denard and will be dangerous if they checked Denard next week. MSU is focused on beating Michigan next week.
Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.
Agree XTR that Devin Gardner looks great. I'm so glad for him that the plays are beginning to involve him, and he looks as good as advertised so far, in his limited time. I imagine they will try to get him more involved as the season gets harder. 2 QBs that can lead the team is a valuable thing to have.
Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 11:07 a.m.
Michigan has NOT yet faced its toughest challenges. Denard must get better as a passer and NOT throw interceptions. The Wolverine RB's would do well to get more yardage so Denard isn't forced to work so hard. They need a more balanced attack. Perhaps the OTHER Michigan Quarterback should be given more snaps since he's the true pro passer from the team. Denard is the best offensive weapon we've got, but he's also a major potential disaster ready to happen. Perhap's it is time to throw more, and let the chips fall where they may. Michigan State will be keying on stopping Robinson from running. It will be Al Borges' living nightmare to figure out the puzzle known as the Michigan State defense. Those green and white devils are out to destroy our perfect season. A few other teams will be after Denard as well. Eventually, other Michigan players are going to have to play better and reach their potential - but will it come in time?
Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.
While watching the game yesterday, it occurred to me that he isn't handing the ball off to the other RBs as much as I thought was going to happen due to all the talk about DRob's too frequent carries. But successful running is not all running back. You have to have a good O line that opens up holes and I was frustrated at the inability of the line to do so. A lot of runs, regardless of who carried were shut down at the line of scrimmage. I think the backs are fine, they just need some openings.