On Wednesday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke was asked what his initial impression of wide receiver Jeremy Gallon was when Hoke first arrived to Michigan in 2011.
“Short,” he said with a laugh.
Two years later, Hoke’s impression has changed quite a bit. Now, Gallon is a “football player,” according to Hoke. That -- a football player -- being the highest compliment in the Michigan locker room.
Gallon isn’t the prototypical receiver the Michigan coaches want in the program. Every player they’ve signed or recruited at the position is at least 6 feet, and the average height among the nine wide receivers this staff has either signed or received a commitment from is 6-3, 7 inches taller than Gallon -- signifying the gradual changing of the guards for the Michigan wide receivers.
But Hoke has no complaints about Gallon's production. The player's career numbers (96 receptions for 1,562 yards and 12 touchdowns) already are impressive, with a lot more to come.
What makes Gallon so tough to defend?
“His quickness,” Hoke said. “He has soft hands. He's not afraid to go battle for the ball, and he makes up for the height because of that."
Of the 154 receivers on the rosters of current top-10 teams, just eight are 5-8 or shorter (5.2 percent) and just one of those players has caught a pass this season (Texas A&M’s LeKendrick Williams). And even outside of top teams, no receiver in the nation 5-8 or shorter has accumulated the numbers Gallon has so far this season.
Part of it is Gallon’s natural instincts. He also has a background in track.
But maybe the fact he was a high school quarterback who didn’t even run a route until he got to Michigan has allowed him to know what a QB is looking for in a WR. The chemistry he has built with Devin Gardner certainly makes it look that way.
When Denard Robinson was quarterbacking Michigan, Gallon was not the primary target. But since Gardner took the reins last November, Gallon has racked up the stats -- seven touchdowns and 742 yards on 43 receptions.
“[He] and Devin have worked together a lot, not just out here but in the offseason,” offensive coordinator Al Borges said. “They have a little chemistry -- that's nice.”
Borges said he hasn’t specifically told Gardner to look for Gallon, but when all things are equal between Gallon and maybe a less experienced receiver, the ball will probably go Gallon’s way.
Gardner has learned to throw the ball perfectly for Gallon.
“It’s pretty tough because he’s putting it in a place where only I can get it,” Gallon said. “And it’s hard for a defender to try and break that ball up and the only thing they can do is tackle the receiver. And I think Devin is really good at throwing passes like that.”
Notre Dame couldn’t seem to find or take down Gallon.
“He just goes and goes,” Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “I mean that guy ... he's as tough as there is. He just comes to work every day. Does everything you ask. Has a smile on his face.
“He's Michigan. I've got so much respect for him it's unbelievable.”