Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Michigan Preview 2008: Part 3-Receivers and Tight Ends

So, Kevin Newsome decommitted yesterday and that means he probably won’t be coming back. Come on down Tate or Eugene Smith. But, today is for the receivers and tight ends that Threet and/or Sheridan will be throwing to. The outside receivers won’t be looked to as much for big plays. Their role should be third down conversions so just hanging on to the football. The inside guys actually will have to be the big play threats after they get the ball in their hands. Speed is what those guys have and they will be dangerous after the quarterbacks get them the ball. Everyone is still wondering what Rodriguez will do with all these tight ends. He insists he will use them, since there are so many talented ones, and I’m starting to actually believe him a little bit, at least for this year. With a weak offensive line, the offense will need some extra bodies for blocking so expect tight ends to be in there often mainly to block. Also, since the offense has athletic tight ends like Butler and Webb, he will be able to use them for some quick 5-10 yard pick ups from time to time. I believe Rodriguez will make the most of what he has this year regardless if he really likes having tight ends or not.

Outside Receivers:

1. #13 Greg Matthews 6’3” 207 Jr. Orlando, FL (Edgewater)
Matthews really came along last season, especially towards the end of last year with 7 catches in the Capital One Bowl. He will be the top deep threat and third down target for the Wolverines this year. Matthews will have to have sure hands throughout the year for the Wolverine offense to stay on the field. While the freshmen and slot guys will be looked to for yards after the catch, Matthews will have to be that reliable guy who will pick up whatever yards are needed either down the field or across the middle. His experience from the last couple of seasons should pay off and he should be ready to be the go-to guy for this offense. He will have to also make some very tough catches with the raw quarterbacks this team will have. He is no Braylon Edwards, but some Edwards-esque catches will certainly help and might even be needed for this offense to be successful.

2. #22 Daryl Stonum 6’2” 190 Fr. Stafford, TX (Dulles)
Stonum was a highly touted recruit, was here early, and could make a big splash at outside wide receiver. He will be on the field a lot, being in the top two with Matthews. He was highly sought after as many know with the whole Urban Meyer being a complete scum and lying to Stonum in an effort to lure him to Florida after the coaching change. But Stonum stayed true and is loved by the coaches. He should be a legitimate deep threat and will be relied on to make some tough catches with the questionable quarterback situation. Matthews and Stonum will be forced to step up their game early either making spectacular plays on poorly thrown balls from the QBs (since there will be a lot of poorly thrown balls) or simply making sure defenders don’t pick them off. Stonum has the speed, size, athleticism, and hands to be a great outside threat. He should be fun to watch as the season progresses.

3. #21 Junior Hemingway 6’1” 214 So. Conway, SC (Conway)
Sidelined with an injury in the spring, Hemingway fell behind Daryl Stonum for that second spot at outside receiver. The fact that he played last year as a receiver and kick returner, plus his talent, pretty much ensures that he will see the field. He even got a couple of snaps from the quarterback spot against Penn State which is something Rodriguez certainly will not shy away from doing. He’s too talented to keep off the field when healthy, but he probably will not play as much as Matthews or Stonum. I think he will get to play a little bit of slot and outside receiver throughout the year and will have a chance to become a playmaker.

4. #16 Roy Roundtree 6’0” 154 Fr. Trotwood, OH (Trotwood-Madison)
Roundtree most likely will not be red-shirted, but I don’t see him playing as much as the other freshman. The coaches have said he’ll probably play on the outside and he is way too thin right now to play IMO. 154 is probably right on with how skinny he is (about as skinny as me). But he has impressed the coaches enough to be discussed for playing time and maybe he makes up for his size with speed, athleticism, and hands. Still, he isn’t getting as much buzz as the other guys and should get in a couple times a game. But I’m not expecting much production from him comparatively speaking.

5. #82 Laterryal Savoy 6’3” 210 RSJr. Mamou, LA (Mamou)
Playing with the twos on the outside, in the spring, Savoy was mentioned by Rodriguez as an experienced guy who he liked. However, not much has been said about Savoy since the spring. There were not really many newcomers to the outside spot, since Stonum was here in the spring. The only one really would be Roy Roundtree, if he is still playing with the outside guys. Savoy has played the last two years on special teams and has one career reception which came against Eastern last year. I would like to say Savoy will contribute positively as a backup, but I have to wonder if the reason he never played the last two years is because he simply isn’t good. We’ll see, but don’t expect much from Savoy offensively. On special teams he should have a chance to make an impact.

Inside (Slot) Receivers:

1a. #17 Toney Clemons 6’3” 201 So. New Kensington, PA (Valley)
Clemons was the number one slot guy in the spring and was the main target in that spring offense. He was the recipient of a lot of short passes where he would have to pick up a majority of the yards after the catch. Clemons has conceded that the freshmen, Odoms and Robinson, are faster than him and would beat him in a foot race any day. But, if Odoms and Robinson have trouble hanging onto the ball, Clemons certainly will be the guy the coaches look to for ball security. I expect to see Clemons in more on third and long situations where the offense needs someone to catch it beyond the sticks instead of making a big play after the catch. He should play plenty, but the big plays will most likely come from the freshmen and not him.

1b. #9 Martavious Odoms 5’9”171 Fr. Pahokee, FL (Pahokee)
Rodriguez said he, along with Shaw, McGuffie, and Robinson, will play as freshmen. The reason: speed. Odoms is extremely fast and will play often at the slot position. He will be one of the main guys the quarterbacks will try to get the ball to in open space, or on quick slants. If he gets going it will be tough for anybody to stop him. Odoms should rotate with Clemons and Robinson at that slot position with often times two of them out on the field at the same time. He has a chance to become a fan-favorite really early as this position is an intricate part of the offense and he can fly.

1c. #7 Terrence Robinson 5’9” 170 Fr. Klein, TX (Oak)
Robinson’s little preview is pretty much the exact same as Odoms; he is fast very fast. He played quarterback in high school even though he ran a majority of the time. Some of his highlights are unbelievable. He is extremely fast and he will also rotate at the slot position with Clemons and Odoms. This is based off of nothing really except the little I have seen of the freshmen, but I like Robinson a little more than Odoms coming in. He played in Texas and his highlights are simply more impressive than Odoms. Regardless, both are lightning fast, will be exciting to watch, and have a chance to become huge playmakers early.

2. McGuffie, Shaw, and other backs

3. #26 Zion Babb 6’1” 189 So. Montibello, CA (Alhambra)
Babb got some reps with the first and second team in the spring, mainly the second, and most of it was from the slot. With the incoming freshmen he’s screwed out of playing time at wide receiver, probably. But he could be a big contributor on kickoff coverage and punt coverage. Not something most people will see, but he played a lot of special teams last year and will try to impress the coaches there.

Tight Ends:

1a. #85 Carson Butler 6’5” 250 RSJr. Detroit, MI (Renaissance)
Butler is better known for dropping balls, holding calls, and off the field troubles with Carr, but is extremely athletic and talented, and will most likely split starting time at tight end with Massey. Butler’s athleticism will make him the pass target from the tight end spot and he could come up big in third down situations, if he hangs onto the ball. If Rodriguez does indeed try to use the tight ends, Butler might get the ball thrown his way often. Let’s just hope he decides to block and not hold.

1b. #83 Mike Massey 6’5” 225 5thSr. Brecksville, OH (St. Ignatius)
Although he has played for two and a half years (sat out most of last year with an injury) Massey has never been too impressive. Still, he has played a lot. IMO he will be used quite a bit as an extra blocker at the tight end spot. Again, this all hinges on whether or not Rodriguez will actually use the tight end spot, but I do think he will, especially for blocking. Therefore, Massey should split time with Butler, with Massey handling most of the blocking duties. But really there is no way of knowing what Rodriguez has in mind for this group.

2. #80 Martell Webb 6’4” 249 So. Pontiac, MI (Pontiac Northern)
Webb is a very athletic tight end who was recruited by many schools to be a wide receiver. When he came to Michigan though, Lloyd and co. made him gain 25 pounds and move to tight end. That kind of sucks for Webb now as Rodriguez might have used him at WR, but really doesn’t seem to have the affinity for tight ends. Still, Webb is very talented, playing in ten games as a freshman last year. He should play rotating in for Massey and Butler. If he’s improved his blocking he may play quite a bit. Otherwise, he will probably used to gain 5-10 yards receiving a few times throughout the year. I would say Rodriguez might use him as an outside wide receiver, but I don’t think he is nearly fast enough any more to play wide out. But with Barwis you never know.

3.? #86 Kevin Koger 6’4” 220 Fr. Toledo, OH (Whitmer)
Despite the thought that Rodriguez’s offense does not have a spot for tight ends, Rodriguez has mentioned Koger multiple times as a guy who he likes a lot and who will have a chance to play. I’m skeptical of this simply because Koger plays tight end and there are already three experienced guys at the spot. But the fact that Rodriguez likes him probably should not be ignored and might be a sign that he does want to use tight ends this year. Or, perhaps, Koger will be a special teams contributor. Or, he might like him, but redshirt him anyway. Nobody knows, but Koger is an athletic tight end who also plays very physically and blocks well. I doubt he could beat out the experienced guys but who knows.

RS: #88 Brandon Moore 6’6” 221 Fr. Trotwood, OH (Trotwood-Madison)
Moore was also a highly recruited tight end, but Rodriguez has not mentioned him as much as Koger. I expect him to be redshirted, but he has a lot of talent for the future. If Rodriguez does indeed start to include the tight end into his offense, Moore is someone to watch out for in the next few years. Not this year though.

The receivers, especially the slot guys, are going to have to be great after the catch in order for this offense to be successful. With a weak offensive line and very inexperienced quarterbacks, there will be a lot of quick few step drops and short throws to the receivers. If they can’t make something happen after the catch, let alone catch it, this offense will be lucky to score 10 to 17 points a game. If they can make plays after the catch, the offense could surprise a lot of people. They won’t be great, but could be good. Each group has its role and the outside guys are average right now and with balls that will be underthrown, overthrown, and thrown far to either side, they will have to become great at adjusting to the ball. Matthews has shown that potential, but never really has had to make plays on poorly thrown balls, while everyone is hoping Stonum will be able to. The tight ends also are pretty solid, but will probably be used mainly for blocking and sparingly for route-running.

Current Grade: B- The reason this is not higher is because, although we are expecting big things from the slot guys, they have no experience. Also, the offense lost its top two receivers from last year which does not help and we have not seen how Matthews will respond when being the go-to guy. Hopefully this improves as the year goes on, because if the receivers are dropping balls and not making plays with our terrible QB situation, the offense will not find the endzone. I expect this position to improve and be extremely exciting to watch especially with the young slot guys.

Tomorrow we’ll preview the O-line…again, YIKES.

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