Let's face it, the last few weeks have been really, really depressing on the defensive end. To be perfectly honest, since the Indiana game, the news on the offensive end hasn't been that great either. Now we could break down the injuries, the mistakes, the youth on the team, the general unfairness of your existence... or, we could focus on something positive.
Yeah. I figured you'd take option B.
In Case You Missed It will be our attempt to draw out some positives from Michigan's two game slide. There are actually a lot of things to be excited about on this football team and it's important that we not drown ourselves in sarcasm or forget that there are 5 more games to play this season. So to start things off, I'd like to direct your attention to one Mr. Junior Hemingway, arguably Michigan's most electric receiver.
It's sad to think that in just five games this season Junior Hemingway has either equaled or exceeded his prior career receiving numbers at Michigan. Previously having only 22 catches to his name, Hemingway already has 17 receptions, leads the team with a 21.5 ypc average (more than two catches), and is second on the team in receiving yards despite catching half the balls that Roy Roundtree has. Not bad for a kid that simply couldn't stay healthy, is it?
Hemingway was always slated to be an elite outside receiver. That was his pedigree. A four star recruit out of South Carolina, Scout gave him the appropriate tounge bathing for a guy who could seemingly catch anything thrown his way:
A downfield leaper, Hemingway may not be the fastest player on the field but he certainly stretches it with his ability to go up for the grab. Great hands, catches everything, and his experience as a quarterback helps him understand how important it is to get on the same page.
Unfortunately, it didn't seem like Hemingway would ever live up to that billing. Used sparingly in a "let's burn his redshirt for no reason" kind of way by the outgoing Carr staff, Hemingway ran the ball as much as he caught it and generally played in games he really didn't need to be in or in situations that he probably could've afforded not to play in. So, with his redshirt burned, Michigan fans got their hopes up for the 2008 season with the thought that Junior would take over from Mario Manningham as Michigan's primary deep threat.
Hemingway started off the 2008 season strong, catching a Steven Threet 33 yard bomb to pull Michigan close against Utah. However, in the process of doing that, Hemingway banged up his shoulder and was basically useless the rest of the game. Follow that up with some either really bad luck or ill advised tonsil hockey, Hemingway contracted Mononucleosis and missed the rest of the season. Thankfully, he was granted a medical redshirt and Junior got to start the 2009 season off as a sophomore.
2009 was not as cruel to Junior as 2008, but it wasn't great. Going over 100 yards in the first game of the season, Hemingway never matched that yardage or number of catches again. Sadly, he missed three more games due to injury and only tallied 11 more catches on the year.
Thankfully, 2010 has been a different story. Hemingway did miss the first two games of the season due to injury, but since then he's been a huge contributor to the offense. in just five games he's exceeded 100 yards twice. Against Iowa, Hemingway torched one of the better secondaries in the conference, pulling in a career high 9 catches, 134 yards, as well as a TD.
And it's not just the numbers, it's how Hemingway is doing it. Against Indiana he out ran the Hoosier defense for a 70 yard score. Against Iowa he torched the secondary for a 45 yard TD, as well as collected a 31 yard prayer thrown by Tate Forcier (beating out two Iowa defenders for the underthrown ball), which set up Michigan's last touchdown. Hemingway is also catching the short routes and doing the dirty work necessary to move the sticks. You will never see him kill his momentum on a catch and run. That's not his style. Hemingway is a player that gets yardage after contact on nearly every catch. His contributions this year have been huge, and he stepped up his game against Iowa.
As teams continue to load up against Michigan's running game, the Wolverines are going to increasingly rely on their talented wide receivers, and Hemingway in particular. Hemingway is one of those guys that stretches the field vertically. While he lacks the top-end "game speed" of a Mario Manningham , he is considerably faster than a Jason Avant or Greg Mathews. And like the players mentioned before, he seems to have that adjust-in-the-air ability that Michigan's been lacking in its downfield game.
With just 17 catches this season and some missed time, it may have been easy to overlook Junior Hemingway. But, in case you missed it, he's pretty good. And Michigan will be calling his number a lot this season and next.