Roy Roundtree will need to be more productive in his senior campaign if Michigan's offense wishes to take the next step. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ah, Roy Roundtree. The name makes one coach cringe, and possibly two depending on how you look at it. During his time at Trotwood-Madison High School in Ohio he managed to perform well enough to field offers from the likes of a few MAC schools, to go along with offers from Nebraska and Purdue. Now, Purdue hasn't and never will be a true rival of Michigan, but when the timing is right anything can and will be said in the realm of college football.
So what was said? Things of the Harry Potter sort. Roundtree committed to Purdue and head coach Joe Tiller before Michigan came through with an offer, and after mulling over his new options realized that Michigan was his best fit. He wanted to win games, and a big-name coach had just joined forces with one of college football's greatest programs. This was great news to Rich Rodriguez, but not something Joe Tiller was enthralled about, as highly ranked receivers aren't common at a place like Purdue. Fuming, he said, "If we had an early-signing date, you wouldn't have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that's what happened. It makes you wonder about the guy, the people surrounding him, the people in that building who would let that happen. I can say this: We won't go back in that building again."
Because of all of this Roundtree's recruitment is one part funny and one part agonizing. Funny because Tiller's comments were downright ridiculous and agonizing because it would lead to further scrutiny of Rich Rodriguez, but that horse was dead long before Osama bin Laden.
Hailing from Trotwood, Ohio, Roundtree was a paper-thin receiver who never could wow anyone with elite explosiveness or crazy feats of athleticism. He stood at 6'1", 154(!) in high school, drawing attention as a slot possession type receiver. His expectations coming into Ann Arbor weren't extremely high but many expected him to flourish as a consistent player in Rodriguez's spread.
Year one consisted of Roundtree redshirting and adding a few pounds of much needed muscle mass. Heading into his redshirt freshman season in 2009 he was a slightly less skinny version of his old self. He received spotty minutes until the Indiana game, where he would begin his career with a 35-yard reception. Not long after he would make an absolutely crucial catch against Michigan State to force overtime and etch his name into the brains of diehard Michigan fans. He accumulated most of his 434 receiving yards in the later stages of the season, causing many to believe that he was destined for a breakout year in 2010.
As it turns out Roundtree was destined for such a breakout, more than doubling his catches, yardage and touchdowns on the way to All-Big Ten second team honors from the media. Much of this came as a direct result of the breaking out of Denard Robinson, who would often turn safeties and nickel corners into 200-pound lumps of useless football weight with one fake step forward. This lead to many believing that Roundtree would see a drop in production under Al Borges in 2011 after the firing of Rich Rodriguez.
The prediction was correct once again. Roundtree lost most of his production to fellow receivers Junior Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon, watching as his numbers dipped below that of his redshirt freshman year. Michigan moved away from parts of its spread ways, deliberately ignoring the bubble screen despite it being wide open. If I had media access I wouldn't leave the room until I was escorted by security or received an answer from Borges as to why the damn bubble screen can't be thrown.
Anyway, Roundtree avoided being an afterthought with this catch:
Without that one play Roundtree is a side note in 2011. It happened, and in what seems to be no coincidence he'll soon be wearing the same number that was honored that night: Desmond Howard's 21.
Giving Rountree the 21 jersey is gutsy. He isn't a pro-style outside receiver and Michigan isn't hurting for help on the inside. They look scary thin outside, like Roy Roundtree 2008 thin. Physically he's a shortish receiver who can run clean routes and make the occasional important catch, but he's never going to be someone who stretches a defense or uses his frame to box out defensive backs. He's an intelligent receiver who can find openings and make a few defenders miss here and there.
This leads me to believe that Brady Hoke really does put as much emphasis on senior leadership as he claims. Roundtree's production will definitely rise from this last year's numbers but the chances of him surpassing his numbers in 2010 are low. Since he's an established and important senior player on an offense that desperately needs help outside he'll be wearing a legend's jersey. If he surpasses my expectations for him this season he will be one of the main reasons why Michigan's offense goes from good to great, but much of this depends on the maturation and accuracy of one Denard Robinson, who has missed Roundtree a frustrating amount of times in years past.
Ultimately, expect Roundtree's production to end up somewhere between that of his 2009 and 2010 seasons. He'll catch the occasional ball on a slant or post and be one of Robinson's go-to men in short situations. If Michigan is lucky, and I mean very lucky, the two incoming freshman will flourish with Jerald Robinson early and give Roy an opportunity to move around from outside to inside when need be. Either way he's not likely to put up gaudy statistics and is a late-round NFL draft pick at best.
He's still one of the nicest players to have ever played in Michigan Stadium and will forever be remembered for that catch under the lights.