Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each heading into the offseason.
For the second consecutive season, Michigan will enter a football season with some questions as to who, exactly, will catch the ball. Entering the 2012 season, with the graduation of Junior Hemingway, there were some options but few known quantities.
Entering next season, there once again are options, but even fewer players who have had past production on which to make a reliable projection.
The starters: Senior Jeremy Gallon and sophomore Amara Darboh. Gallon is a given here. He finished this season as Michigan’s leading receiver with 49 catches for 829 yards and four touchdowns and developed a rapport with quarterback Devin Gardner once Gardner took over as a starter. He may end up being one of the top receivers in the Big Ten next season. Darboh is full of potential, but didn’t catch a pass last season as he was used mostly on special teams. Yet the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Iowan offers a good complement to the shorter, speedier Gallon. Also, Michigan doesn’t have a ton of other options.
The depth: Senior Drew Dileo; senior Jeremy Jackson, senior Joe Reynolds, redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson, freshman Jaron Dukes, freshman Da’Mario Jones, freshman Csont’e York. Dileo is a good receiver and a reliable target for the Wolverines, but he likely becomes Michigan’s permanent slot receiver next season since it would seem unlikely the Wolverines would start receivers who are 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-10 in a downfield passing game. But Dileo is a smart option to see a lot of time. Jackson has played intermittently throughout his career, but has never made a big impact. Reynolds saw more time as the season went along and should see time as a contributor. Michigan is high on Chesson, who has a good mix of size and speed and could push the starters for time. The opportunity is there for Michigan’s three freshmen to snag some time, especially in a pro style offense, but one of them would have to wow the coaches during preseason camp for that to happen.
The question mark: Who emerges besides Gallon? Darboh seems a likely favorite, but other than him, the Wolverines have many questions in their receiving corps. It is a lot like last season at this time, although Michigan actually had more proven options -- Gallon, Roy Roundtree and Dileo had all played some sort of role earlier in their careers -- than they do this time around. While running back might end up being the most open competition on the roster, the second receiver slot should be right behind it.
The bottom line: This could be a season where Michigan’s top three receivers are Gallon and then a pair of tight ends. Darboh and Chesson have potential and Dileo showed flashes, but until the two youngsters show something in a game, it is tough to imagine them as a game breaker. One of those two, though, will have to give Michigan something in their first significant playing time for the Wolverines’ offense to reach even close to what it could be next season.