Roundtree sees hope on horizon

Offensive coordinator tinkering with how he deploys senior receiver

Updated: October 16, 2012, 11:06 AM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- He has waited a year-and-a-half for this, through a coaching transition which changed the offensive style he played in and a slight move in position, coinciding with a massive drop in his production that he couldn't totally explain.

Midway through Roy Roundtree's final season at Michigan, the numbers still aren't there for the Wolverines' single-game receiving yards record-holder. Much of it has little to do with him. Michigan isn't passing as much and the receivers around him have become more talented, so the ball is being spread around more.

[+] EnlargeRoy Roundtree
Michael Hickey/Getty ImagesRoy Roundtree has only 30 receptions over the past two seasons after 72 as a sophomore.
But this, this is getting better because even though the numbers might not be there, Roundtree is starting to be involved in the offense more. Enough that Roundtree, who has never complained publicly about his lack of production or how many balls he has seen from quarterback Denard Robinson, has started to notice an uptick.

"Coach [Al] Borges has been moving me around a lot during practice and also in games," Roundtree said. "He's trying to get me more involved."

Roundtree hasn't switched positions so much as changed where he lines up on the field. Borges has tried to put him -- and Jeremy Gallon -- in motion more. He also has had Roundtree line up more in the slot, where he played during his standout sophomore season, and sometimes even in a spot a tight end would naturally go.

All of this is part of the flow of the offense, but it's also designed to put Roundtree in a position to make plays. It makes sense to him, too, because he saw what Borges did with Junior Hemingway last season.

"Last year around the same time, Junior Hemingway was moved around," Roundtree said. "The first couple games they were trying to see what they had and he went in and just started getting more catches and more movement and more packages.

"I feel like he's doing the same thing with me."

Roundtree is one of three Michigan players, along with Gallon and Devin Gardner, to at least see Robinson throw a pass his way each game. While he still lags behind Gardner and Gallon in the amount of looks he has received from Robinson, he has still seen 22 passes this season. He has caught 11 for 128 yards.

In the past three games, though, Roundtree has been thrown to more, including a team-high four looks against Illinois after two against Purdue and a season-high six against Notre Dame.

The production might not look like it is there, but consider no Michigan receiver has more than 15 receptions and only two -- Gallon and Gardner -- have more catches than Roundtree.

With the offense Michigan is running now, no receiver is going to put up numbers close to Roundtree's 72-catch, 935-yard sophomore season in 2010. Not until the Wolverines shift from a hybrid offense to more of a pro-style one following this season.

Besides, Robinson has confidence in Roundtree, which is the best a receiver can ask for.

"Roy is a great route-runner, a great receiver and a great player, period," Robinson said. "He goes down and blocks for everybody. He's a guy that's going to go 100 percent every time he steps on the field.

"You give him the ball, I'm pretty sure he's going to make plays happen and we try to get him involved a little more. Whenever he's open, he's going to get the ball."

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter