Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mailbag question: Slot receiver talent

Posted at 8:00am EST -- 2/21/2010

Mailbag question: Slot receiver talent

Hey fellas,

Wonderful job with this site, I've been reading this blog for a long time, and the consistency and quality of the commentary is top notch.

My question (several questions, really) concerns the glut of talent at the slot position, which extends to the WR corps in general.

With Odoms as a junior (and our best blocking slot IMO), Roundtree emerging as a very consistent pass-catching contributor, and the dynamic Gallon waiting in the wings, who sees the field? Is it best to stick with one guy and get him in the groove, or spread opportunities around to see who takes advantage of theirs? Especially with D-Rob splitting out from time to time at slot, as well as Koger and Webb getting involved in the 4- and 5- wide sets, can you see a scenario where we'd have more than one of these three guys (Odoms, Roundtree, gallon) on the field at the same time?

Furthermore, would it be feasible to move Roundtree to the X or the Y for some plays to get one of these dynamic kids on the field at SR? I just get giddy imagining Roundtree, Gallon, V. Smith and D. Rob on the field at the same time. I know that not much can be said until we actually see these players in the spring, but if you could venture a good guess, I'd love to get your opinion.


Greg J.


Thanks for the question and also the comments, and keep sending in those e-mail questions.

Coach Rod has been consistent with his position and expectations concerning slot numbers and use. Coach Rod has stated multiple times he likes to have eight slot receivers on a roster. This is for a combination of reasons: first, slots are a vital part of the offense and, second, they also are used as valuable special teams players.

Our concern with slot receivers is not numbers, but the lack of a difference maker at the position.

The key to becoming strong at slot receiver, in our opinion, is getting superior athletes matched in space against an outside linebacker or a nickel back who is usually a third safety.

To make this work (slot use) a team must have players with dynamic movement skills, who can create and make defenders miss in space.

We believe we will see more two slot receiver formations, such as Gallon and Odoms on the field at the same time, where last year UM did not really have the quality of slot receivers to effectively use this set and instead primarily used Koger or Webb in the offensive scheme.

As implied above, a problem we have had with slot receivers is the quality of receiver Michigan has recruited the past three recruiting classes. As many noticed, a basketball player who did not even have on a pair of cleats for several years came out and moved ahead of a couple of slot receivers that had/have been on the roster for a couple of years. So to us that does not bode well for those players or the quality of slot receivers Um has on the roster.

What the spread demands is athletes on the flank, who can take a short pass and turn a normal play into a long gain, if the defense makes a mistake. Below is an evaluation of the slot receiver talent and a small breakdown on the players we see playing this year at the slot receiver position. Not all the slot receivers are listed for several reasons (we believe many will not play for reasons such as red-shirt, lack of talent, etc.).

1) Martavious Odoms:

He has been Michigan's best all-around slot receiver to this point. Martavious has solid hands and is a decent blocker, but he is not as dynamic in space as we would prefer.

Martavious must stay healthy. Ever since his arrival, he has been banged up and not 100% (which will happen to most players), but when the offensive staff is counting on him to be the main target at slot receiver, and he does not have the needed explosion and getaway speed because of injury, that factor really limits the effectiveness of this offense.

2) Roy Roundtree:

Roy has the best hands of the group and shows good quickness. Roy Roundtree is a flat-out football player. He is not the fastest or biggest guy on the field, he just makes plays and is very good at getting open. If only Roy had a little more speed. He has attempted to play some split end, but his lack of strength has made getting off the line of scrimmage and beating press coverage difficult.

Last year, during the spring practices, we all agreed (MaizeMan, CoachBt, Doc4blu, twebber55, Morencie124 and ErocWolverine) that Roy was the best receiver we saw during the spring practices.

We caught some (uninformed?) flack for the above evaluation of Roy. But when finally given his chance, Roy took good advantage of it and showed why we thought he was a very good player in the spring. As Doc stated, somewhat mocking Buddy Ryan’s infamous comment about Chris Carter (all he can do is score touchdowns), “All Roundtree can do is catch the ball.”

3) Jeremy Gallon:

Jeremy is one of the players we are most interested in seeing during spring practices this year. He is the type of explosive athlete this position needs. Sometimes it just takes longer to learn a new position than fans would like.

Not only will Jeremy probably help Michigan out at slot receiver, but he is also likely to be a returner on special teams, at either punt return or kick return, possible both.

With Jeremy coming in late last year, this really put him behind and in some ways it was a good thing that Jeremy was allowed to red-shirt. He was able to learn the offense and also received valuable insight on what it takes to be a student-athlete at a place like Michigan, without having the added pressure of producing on the field as soon as he arrived.

4) Kevin Koger:

Even though Kevin is a tight end, Michigan uses him in the slot receiver position as well, so this is why we are listing Kevin and Martell Webb at this position (slot) for discussion.

If Kevin can regain his confidence, he has the talent to really help. With his combination of size and athletic ability he can be a nightmare for defenses to match up with, especially if he is matched up with a safety who might be fast enough, but not big enough, and if defenses put an outside linebacker on Kevin, he will probably be faster than the defender.

5) Martell Webb:

Martell looked very good last spring. He has very good movement skills and good explosiveness for a player his size. If Martell beats the injury problem, he could help at slot receiver and split end on certain formations and positions on the field.

It will be interesting to see how involved this offense gets the tight ends this year, either at their position or when spread out in the slot position. Will the past couple of years, with the UM staff working with Missouri and Oklahoma finally pay off and benefit these great athletes we have at the tight end position?

Written by GBMW Staff

Go Blue -- Wear Maize!

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