Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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On The Playground Jeremy Gallon's After-Hours Workouts With Devin Gardner Paid Off In 2012 And Will Continue To Benefit The Wolverines O By Michael Spath ver the past six years, NFL teams have drafted 185 wide receivers, ranging from 5-7 to 6-6. The majority of those wideouts fit the pro model, standing in at 6-0 or taller. Less than a third, 52 (28.1 percent), have measured 5-11 or shorter. Among those, only three shared the same height as Michigan fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon (5-8). However, Gallon and his fellow diminutive receivers were buoyed in April when the St. Louis Rams selected 5-8 Tavon Austin with the eighth overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. Austin was incredibly productive during his four-year career at West Virginia, tallying 288 receptions for 3,413 yards and 29 touchdowns, while also returning punts and kickoffs. "I've been hearing that criticism — that I'm too short — my entire career, like I have some sort of control over it. It's always motivated me, and then when you see a guy my height go in the first round, it just proves that it's about more than size," Gallon said. "It's all about your heart, your ambition and your will to win. "I'm not thinking about the NFL right now. I'm focused on what I have to do for this team, but it seems to a little more realistic now than maybe a few years ago. There are teams out there willing to take a chance on guys that are great players but maybe don't have the height." Gallon has flourished over the past two seasons, increasing his grabs from 31 to 49, his yards from 453 to 829 and his touchdowns from three to four, and is on the brink of an even greater senior season. He has earned his coaches' respect, and could hear his name on draft day. "There is no doubt in my mind he can play in the NFL, but it has to be the right team and a organization that is willing to think outside the box," U-M offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "I think he can be an NFL player because this kid plays much taller than he is. He's very, very tough. He's strong. He is fast enough. He catches any ball close to him, and he's highly competitive. "I would draft him." The Apopka, Fla., native will likely have to put up monster numbers this fall to grab In 2012, Gallon pulled down 49 catches for 829 yards and four touchdowns, improving his numbers in every category from 2011. photo by lon horwedel the attention of pro scouts, but that this discussion is even taking place before the 2013 season is a testament to how hard Gallon has worked to overcome a slow start to his Michigan career. Adapting To His Surroundings A four-star recruit, Gallon was supposed to slide into the slot in Rich Rodriguez's spread offense and put up the kind of numbers — 133 receptions for 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns — that Darius Reynaud enjoyed during the 2005-07 seasons with Rodriguez at West Virginia. However, after redshirting, Gallon spent only one season in the slot, catching four balls for 49 yards and a score in 2010. With the arrival of Brady Hoke and Borges in 2011, Michigan implemented a spread/ pro-style hybrid offense that still utilized the slot but not as a preferred target. Gallon was, thus, forced to adapt his game to an outside receiver role, a position that at 5-8 and 187 pounds he seemed ill-suited for. Gallon, though, defied expectations. "I couldn't do anything about my size, but every other criticism I took in stride, listened to my coaches and tried to make changes," he said. "I watched a lot of film. I worked with Devin Gardner every chance the two of us got to improve my route running and breaks. I did releases with the defensive backs and talked to them a lot about what makes it tough on them to defend a wide receiver on the edge. "It was a big transition because you're going up against a No. 1 corner that is faster and more physical, and someone with the skills to keep up with you versus maybe seeing a safety or a linebacker or a fifth defensive back in the slot. But I embraced that change, my coaches showed confidence in me and I worked to be great at it." Gardner and Gallon became fast friends, and the quarterback quickly learned that his receiver would not be outworked by any teammate. "He's special because of his attitude," Gardner said. "Maybe it's because he's always had that chip on his shoulder, but he's willing to put in the work that a lot of other guys don't. He's so tough and so explosive, and he's always taking on a new challenge. If you tell him he can't do something, it'll drive him to work twice as hard." Putting In The Extra Effort Sophomore defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins was marveling at the chemistry between Gardner and Gallon, but he didn't believe it when Gardner boasted that he could throw a square out to his receiver with his eyes closed. In a six-second clip captured on video and tweeted out by Gardner in early May, the two do just that. "I was actually a little worried because I was a little slow out of my break, but Devin threw it right on the money," Gallon said. "It was pretty amazing, but we practice that play so much together that I was confident Devin could throw it with his eyes closed and I'd be there." Before Gallon was a No. 1 receiver and Gardner was the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan, the friends were just a pair of backups trying to find a role on the team. They were willing to do whatever was necessary to impress their coaches, playing catch long after practice or conditioning ended. They would even drive to Ann Arbor Pioneer to continue their sessions when facility administrators shut down the indoor practice fields for the day. The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 97

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