Roundtree rallies in final games

Senior wide receiver benefits from switch at QB, change in offensive scheme

Updated: December 23, 2012, 9:40 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It looked, for a season-and-a-half, like his career could fail. That his sophomore season would be the highlight, the aberration where three other seasons saw one- and two-catch games as the norm.

Sometimes those games came due to his own drops, other times to poorly thrown passes, and other times because he barely saw chances.

[+] EnlargeRoy Roundtree
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIRoy Roundtree caught 15 passes in Michigan's final four regular-season games.
His coaches, his teammates, even Roy Roundtree himself said he was fine, said his chances would come if he continued to work and encourage younger receivers, run routes well and block at all other times.

But words can go only so far. Talk, often times, can be just that. Eventually, production needs to return and for Roundtree, he started to look like his sophomore self at the last possible moment.

Over the last four games of his final regular season, Roundtree has caught 15 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns, matching or besting his yardagte and touchdown totals from his entire junior year. With the NFL in the not-so-distant future, that became increasingly important.

"Yeah, the football gods are on my side," Roundtree said. "I just believed and my teammates believed in me. I believed in myself all year. I told you guys I know what I can do and it showed."

Pro football teams draft just as much on potential and intangibles as production, which is both good and bad for Roundtree. He has shown enough from a production standpoint -- Michigan's single-game receiving yards record holder (246 against Illinois in 2010), his 72-catch, 935-yard sophomore season and the final four games of this year -- but his potential is tough to gauge.

ESPN.com ranks him as the No. 31 wide receiver with a grade of 42, which puts him as a fringe late-round draft pick or priority free agent. Last season, 33 wide receivers were drafted. In 2011, 28 receivers were picked, in 2010, 27 receivers were picked and in 2009, 34 receivers were selected.

It leaves Roundtree, who according to the ESPN scouts grades has above average durability, competitiveness and intangibles, average production, height-weight-speed, separation skills and big-play ability along with below-average ball skills, right on the cusp.

For so long, though, Roundtree's game was complementary. He split time with Jeremy Gallon last season while Junior Hemingway became Michigan's top receiver. Then Roundtree moved into that spot and for two-thirds of the season, didn't get much production, catching more than two passes once in the first nine games of this season.

What could be intriguing to teams is his recent production when the Michigan offense turned into more of an NFL-style offense with Devin Gardner at quarterback and pro-style routes instead of the spread option, zone read offense the Wolverines ran with Denard Robinson at quarterback.

"Devin Gardner being at quarterback has helped Roy," Michigan wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski said. "The ball has found him more and we're doing more things that somebody like Roy is made to do. That's the vertical stretch, getting down the field and those kinds of routes. Roy is a very, very good wide receiver and has great speed, good hands, tough, strong. But when Denard is at quarterback, we're a different team and I'm not saying anything that anybody can't take a look at and watch on TV.

"When Devin is in the pro style, we're more vertical, throwing the ball down the field, and that's what Roy's game is."

When Robinson injured his elbow and Gardner was inserted as the starter, Roundtree showed he still had some big plays left in him. He made a critical catch on Michigan's final drive of regulation against Northwestern. He caught touchdowns against Iowa and Ohio State.

"I just continued to play my role," Roundtree said. "Once the ball was in my area, I had to make a play for it."

After Jan. 1, Roundtree has four months to show the player teams will get if they invest in him.

"Anybody that takes the time to get to know Roy will want to give Roy a chance," Hecklinski said. "Where that all filters itself out, that's for those guys to decide. Roy's got to perform over the next six months in order to get that chance and he will.

"From a personality standpoint, from a learning standpoint, from a character standpoint, from a team standpoint, Roy is one of the best people you could be around and one of the best people you could have around."

Now he has more production to go with it.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter