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This turned out to be a lot longer than expected. I will only answer the first three questions. I’ll put together a list after everyone lays down their overview of each team. I have my opinions, but honestly, I don’t know all the numbers to be informed enough at this point.
The main returning WR and threat here is Jeremy Gallon (49 catches, 829 yards, 4 TDs). As is the narrative for the UM passing offense last year, Gallon took off when Gardner stepped in at QB. He started off the season well gaining 107 yards against Bama, but that was mostly on one deep pass where he burned the Bama secondary. When Gardner stepped in, Gallon went for 511 yards on 31 catches and 3 TDs in the last 5 games. His best performance came against South Carolina with 9 catches, 145 yards, and 2 TDs (all season highs for him). Gallon has elite change of direction and quickness. What he gives up, obviously, is size, only being around 5’9ish. He does have very good ball skills however, and can time jumps/locate balls in the air.
The rest of the returning WR are meh, or unproven. As for the meh, Dileo leads the pack (20 catches, 331 yards, 2 TDs). I know lots of people love him, and he has a knack for catching everything and being in the right place at the right time for critical plays. But he just doesn’t have any elite measurable to be a consistent threat for D’s to have to plan for. He’s 5’10ish and doesn’t have the athleticism that Gallon has. He is however, smart, reliable, and is also our holder on special teams. While he might not scare defenses, I can almost guarantee that he will burn someone next year at a critical moment because he’s that heady player who can find soft spots in zones and makes good decisions. Ask MSU last year.
Other meh players include Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds who neither broke 50 yards receiving last year.
That brings us to the young receivers. Armara Darboh (true sophomore) saw time last year on special teams, and was one of the ‘obvious blocking receivers’ along with Joe Reynolds. He’s a bigger receiver, 6’2” 213, and decently fast (supposedly tested at 4.5 40 in off-season workouts). He’s the most polished of the young receivers and UM will be looking for him to step up. His rep coming out of high school was having great hands and being big. He perfectly located an over the shoulder pass 35 yards down field on the first play from scrimmage in the spring game after putting a nifty double move on senior corner Courtney Avery. UM fans went “WEEEEEE!” Darboh was initially a soccer player before making the transition to football in high school.
The second young receiver is Jehu Chesson. He’s coming off a red-shirt his first year, and is kind of the opposite of Darboh. He’s tall 6’3” but slight, currently at 193 lbs, hence the redshirt. His rep was being raw and having speed. He was a two time state champion in the 100m, won the 110 hurdles his junior year, and the 200 (I believe) his senior year in Missouri. Ran a 10.7 100m in the championship I believe. So not crazy elite fast, but for a guy who is 6’3”, pretty impressive. Tested in offseason workouts at a 4.4 40 last year supposedly. UM fans are looking for a deep threat to take the top off the defense, and they’re looking at Chesson.
As for TE’s, the main returner here is Devin Funchess (15 catches, 234 yards, 5 TDs (to lead team). He started off really hot at the beginning of the season and saw production drop off through the season as 1) UM abandoned the pass game after ND until Gardner came in, and 2) he was not at all ready to do things TE’s are supposed to do that are not catching the ball. He’s 6’5” and 228lbs. He had trouble blocking considering he’s still basically just a really, really large receiver. The next step will be for him to because a plausible blocker so the run game improves and the defense doesn’t just know PASS whenever they see him. He has a great frame and crazy long arms which makes him a huge pass catching target and hopeful safety blanket for errant throws.
AJ Williams is the other TE, and the anti-Funchess. He came in at 6’6” and 280. Some thought he would move to tackle. They threw him out there as a true freshman because UM had 0 depth, and he blocked like a true freshman despite his massive frame. He was only targeted minimally, and was the obvious RUN TE. He did not record a catch. Apparently he worked his butt off or something, because now he’s down to 265 (wow), and looks more like a TE. Same things said about Funchess blocking could be said about Williams except he’s bigger and could plausibly hold defenders up a little.
As for who’s gone, first is Roy Roundtree. He saw his production plummet during the transition to Borges where he was moved from his natural position as a slot, to an outside receiver. He finished his senior season with 31 catches, 580 yards, and 3 TDs. He had trouble consistently getting separation as on outside receiver due to his willowy frame. However, he did have a knack for coming up with clutch plays throughout his career (sorry ND and NW). The replacements have higher ceilings than him, but he will be missed as a reliable receiver.
UM also technically lost Devin Gardner who had 16 catches, 266 yards, and 4 TDs. He did not turn out how UM fans were hoping for at WR. He had trouble locating deep passes and really looked like a QB player WR. Glad the whole QB thing seems to be working out.
Also lost Jeral Robinson (5 cathes, 69 yards), who was the consistent 'next year breakout' winner for like two years. He never broke out. Great size and athleticism. Could never get it done though. I will remember him for dropping that perfectly delivered deep slant that Gardner threw while stepping into a blitz on 3rd down in the NW game. Man, that was such a perfect throw. He left the program after seemingly getting passed by the 'meh' receivers listed above.
As for the coming true freshman at WR, I am not expecting any to contribute significantly. Maybe one of them does, but none look like polished WRs coming out of HS, and Borges seems to expect his WRs to do a lot of route reading which takes time to learn. All are large 6’2” to 6’5”, but only one (De’Mario Jones) seems to have that raw athleticism that coaches can mold into great products (and even then, he’s uncertain because his HS played the option and rarely threw the ball).
Then there’s the incoming freshman TE’s. Jake Butt headlines as an early enrollee and spring game TD scorer. He has great size at a legit 6’6” and showed up at 231 lbs which already makes him bigger than Funchess. What can I say about him? He was highly rated out of high school, and a good athlete, and probably going to be the most well-rounded TE we have on roster. But he’s still a true freshman and looked like one in the spring game. Kahlid Hill is an H-back at 6'2" but built. He seems solid and has great hands, but nothing about him really screams athlete.
3) Are there reasons you expect improvement compared to last year, or reasons that the position may be worse off?
The receivers will be better with the indroduction of size on the outside (outside of Gallon), and better use of TEs. However, the biggest improvent will be because of the QB. Borges likes to pass. His second year at SDSU saw him have two 1000 yard receivers to go along with his 1500 yard rusher. With a plausible QB and a more mature passing game the likes which will see much Unleashing the Dragon, the WR numbers will improve.
Gallon is very good. I know some will dismiss him because of his size, but his has elite quickness and change of direction. Despite his size, he can still go up and get balls out of the air and doesn’t have the trouble with press coverage like Roundtree had. He’ll hitch and slant you, and then BAM, he’ll double move you and get over top the defense. If he can do it to Bama, he can do it to the B1G. There will be times when Gardner will wiz balls over his head that a 6’2’ receiver would have caught. I am very high on him and he and Gardner have great chemistry. Gardner apparently throws to Gallon blindfolded in workouts for the heck of it sometimes.
If you extrapolate his numbers from the last 5 games after Gardner stepped in you get 81 catches and 1330 yards. That’s well, um, really good. Will that happen? Probably not, but there is evidence to show that Gallon’s production will greatly increase with Gardner at QB. And to head off certain arguments I know are coming, those last five games saw UM face the 23rd, 29th, 33rd, 34th, and 75th pass efficiency defenses. So not world beaters, but no MACrifices either. It evens out.
The two new WR stepping in, Chesson and Darboh, both has great measurable and athleticism that coaches can mold (hopefully) into great products. There is uncertainty, but both have great potential.
Funchess is the big threat here for receiving production at TE. He has the hands, the height, and athletic ability. The key to really opening up his game will be to become a plausible non receiving TE so teams just can’t key him as a WR. Once UM can get running production out of two TE sets, the passing game will open up more for the TEs as well. I expect production to go up as well, and he should be a fantastic red zone threat. And even though his production trailed off last year, he did pretty well for a true freshman. Williams and Butt will add depth, but I’m not sure yet how they’ll develop. Honestly, we haven’t really seen what Borges wants to do on offense yet especially with the TE’s, so this is difficult to project.
TL;DR – Gallon is very, very good. Funchess is very good. Gardner throwing the ball means lots of passing yards and Unleashing the Dragon. Depth is young/uncertain. UM fans are very optimistic mostly because tons of potential and not Denard Robinson throwing.
This post has been edited 3 times, most recently by MercuryHayes 13 months ago
And we could also reverse the argument and say receivers can make a QB look better than he actually is, but we didn't do that during the QB portion. You can always spin something in a direction to make your team have a stronger argument.
I will put mine together later tonight or tomorrow morning but I think you have it covered.
Most PSU guys have talked about us already, but I'll just add to it and say we have to be #1. Allen Robinson is by far the best receiver in the conference, he was scary last year, and has only gotten better in the off season. Then we arguably have the top two TEs in the conference as well. Carter was the top guy last year and honestly he probably isn't even the best TE on our roster. Jesse James is going to be one of the best TEs in the nation by the time he is done. Then you add in a bunch of other good players to compliment those three and I don't see how we can not be the top unit.
I put PSU #1 based on their WR/TE combo that most teams don't match up with right now in the B1G. I do believe that Funchess has a shot at being the best TE in the B1G when it is all said and done.
1. Penn State
You guys can fight for the rest.
Meyer4Prez "This is wut happens when ur team site analyst are huge homers glad Bill K+Alex G keep it real instead of getting our hopes up."
Also how BoB uses the TE position. See Gronk and Hernandez in 2011.
So you admittedly just arbitrarily put UM 4th? Based on what? Gallon and Funchess are solid but there is zero depth and a lack of overall playmakers. PSU, Nebraska and OSU and possibly Indiana make up the top four. After that, it's a crap-shoot.
Gallon and Funchess alone are better than your whole two deep at wr and TE
1. Penn State
id call UM and OSU even, but I don't think any of the teams 6 - 12 have the same amount of talent as Michigan. Zero depth is a gross understatement... I'd say its youthful depth if anything.
What haven't you put osu at number one.
I'll be surprised when you don't put Osu first in one of these.
I wouldn't. It isn't.
I'm not sure how you have MSU, UM, Wisc or Neb over Ohio St..
With the talent we lost and have coming in... I can see going Penn St and Indiana maybe but the rest... No way.
How bout some data or scouting reports to help justify this claim. Isn't that what these threads are for?
You're the type of person who makes it so we can't have nice things.
This post was edited by MercuryHayes 13 months ago
Went with IU over PSU just based on who is back overall and how much IU throws it. Not over the moon for OSU like some posters- who is proven outside Brown/Smith? There's actually a lot of depth in the B1G- Neb, MSU, NW all return multiple pieces. Abby/Pedersen more proven than Gallon/Funchess, but it's oh so close. And who knew Purdue had the #3 pass O in the B1G LY.
Because it's hard to project "talent coming in"
Who is proven on OSU outside Brown and Smith?
how do you not consider a QB that can't hit the broad side of a barn. you have to be delusional if you think psu ranks high in the throwing and catching category, unless you are ranking blocking.
I think you are the delusion one
Who's proven on UM? MSU? Same thing can be said for all those teams I listened.
1. Penn State
How about data for them then? Same thing...
MSU brings back everyone at WR from an O that was 4th in the B1G in passing
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