Spring preview: Michigan searching for third starter, more production from receivers
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has maintained he expects the passing game to make a leap forward next season, which will be the team's second in his system.
But who is going to catch those balls?
Michigan coach Brady Hoke, ever mindful of trench play, is going to turn the focus on replacing All-American center David Molk and three-fourths of his defensive line when camp revs up next week, but the receiver position is just as much a point of concern.
Michigan will miss Junior Hemingway, who earned the moniker "Big Play Hemingway" for his flair for the spectacular last year. But, more importantly, he consistently was able to beat defensive backs on poorly thrown balls downfield, which became a regular component of the Wolverines' passing attack. Michigan won't have that kind of rangy deep threat next year, unless 6-foot-2 Amara Darboh stands out as a freshman.
The team also loses Darryl Stonum, who was kicked off the team after he was arrested for driving on a suspended license a day after Michigan returned from the Sugar Bowl. He was expected to start next year.
Role players Martavious Odoms and Kelvin Grady also depart.
At tight end, Michigan loses its top two players in Kevin Koger and Steve Watson, and also lost one-time recruit Pharaoh Brown.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Not much, at least in terms of production last year. Roy Roundtree is no doubt the most important receiver to watch in spring camp. He had a spectacular sophomore season, but caught just 19 passes as a junior. He often faded from the passing game, and there were occasional mixups on routes between him and quarterback Denard Robinson.
Jeremy Gallon was the one player who exceeded expectations last year, and is looking to build on that 31-catch performance as a junior. He also brings toughness to the position as a punishing blocker, despite his 5-foot-8, 180-pound frame.
At tight end, there are players back, but none of them produced much. Brandon Moore played a few snaps last year, but mostly as a blocking end. He will be expected to be more involved in the passing game next year. Freshman A.J. Williams could also factor in as a second tight end.
Find a third starting receiver. Roundtree probably is a better fit for the slot, where he broke out as a sophomore, but will start again outside to make room for Gallon. But who plays alongside them? With no incoming freshmen in camp at receiver, this is the time for either junior Jeremy Jackson or sophomore Jerald Robinson to state his case. If neither does, then it might be up to a freshman, Darboh or Jehu Chesson.
Also, the Wolverines need to find a replacement for Koger, although it might not come in the form of one player. Moore is the leader to start, but has only two career catches. He may be used in tandem with Williams, but the latter is not in camp. Moore's development will be one of the top spring storylines.