What will the Michigan football team do with its bountiful receiving corps?
AnnArbor.com file photo
Of all the Michigan football team’s new position coaches, Jeff Hecklinski has the most returning talent to work with.
The question will become, what does the new receivers coach do with it all?
In a recent video profile posted by MGoBlue.com, Hecklinski recalled a conversation he had with quarterback Denard Robinson. It made his role seem simple:
“My job is to make sure you always have somebody to throw to,” Hecklinski told Robinson. “My guys need to always to be open. It’s their responsibility and there’s no excuses.”
The tougher part of the job might be the selection process. Who will Robinson be throwing to?
“They better be ready,” Hecklinski said of his receivers. “It’s all about competition.”
And, barring attrition, the competitor pool should be deep.
The team’s three primary receivers - Roy Roundtree, Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway - all return, and the Wolverines’ roster includes highly touted upcoming wideouts like Je’Ron Stokes, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller and Jerald Robinson.
Roundtree was far-and-away the team’s leading receiver with 72 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns. But he operated primarily out of the slot receiver position in coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread option attack.
The biggest and most talented of Michigan’s slot receivers, Roundtree (6-0, 176) should find a home in the more traditional sets favored by new offensive coordinator Al Borges.
Other returners at the slot position include the small-but-speedy Martavious Odoms (5-8, 175), Kelvin Grady (5-10, 176), Jeremy Gallon (5-8, 188), Terrance Robinson (5-9, 176) and Drew Dileo (5-10, 172).
“We do have a lot of talent back. On the other end of it, we gotta develop that talent. That’s my job. My job is to develop them and put them in a place to be successful,” said Hecklinski, who has been part of new Michigan coach Brady Hoke’s staff since 2004. He coached wide receivers at Ball State (2004-08) and running backs at San Diego State (2009-10).
That ‘place’ likely won’t include many four-receiver sets, but the new Michigan coaches have said they’ll attempt to use the assets on the roster while developing their playbook.
“I think that when you have talented players, it's your job as a coach to mold that into what's best for your football team,” Hoke said at his introductory press conference. “Most the time when you do that, it's what is best for that player.”
Borges, who noted he’ll “have wide receivers galore” to work with during his video interview on MGoBlue.com, said that molding will take place in spring practice.
“We’re going to be hunting and pecking a little bit in terms of which groups are the best groups to be on the field. Maybe it’s three wides, maybe it’s two backs,” Borges said. “We’ll use a multiplicity of groupings, but there’s always one you’re a little better at based on the talent of the players.”
Hecklinski, who has also been busy as the team’s recruiting coordinator, says his initial meetings with the receivers have been positive.
“There’s some nerves there, but believe me there’s nerves on our part, too,” he said. “Once we get going, these kids have played football. That hasn’t changed. That hasn’t changed since they were in the backyard.
“What we have to do now is hone their abilities down, get their skill level to where it needs to be, let them work the offense and work within the offense and we’ll be just fine.”