What's the "Dileo" with Drew Dileo? After you're done groaning, I'll tell you. Done? Okay.
Two years have elapsed with Denardian quickness, and the lone Louisianan on Michigan's roster, Drew Dileo, is somehow already a true junior. The 5'10'' 172 slot receiver was the quintessential RR recruit: small, not particularly highly rated, and, you know, a slot receiver. Dileo, the rare Wolverine from Louisiana (joining a solid group that, as far as I know, includes: Anthony Thomas, Chris Howard, James Hall, and Ronald Bellamy), did not come in with much fanfare. Dileo, along with with fellow classmate--and now former Wolverine, sadly--Carvin Johnson were a pair of "sleeper" commitments for RR, both from Louisiana. Of course, everybody knows that you don't need to be a 4/5-star guy to be a very good high school football player, and that applies to guys like Dileo (and Johnson). However, rankings exist as, to a significant extent, a predictor of college and/or NFL potential.
It doesn't take long to see why a prospect like Dileo wasn't exactly the most highly touted guy in a state full of talent. Dileo is from Greenwell Springs, a small community in East Baton Rouge, so he basically played right down the road from the Mad Hatter himself, Les Miles. Parkview Baptist, a 3A--so just about middle of the road in LA, competition-wise--seems to be a solid football school with state titles in its recent past (2001, 2007, 2010); he was even selected as the MVP of the 2007 state title game. So, this is not a guy that really should've been able to fly under the radar or anything. If you play for a winning school just down the road from LSU, you're going to get offers if you're a big time talent.
Dileo's only other offers came from Stanford, Tulane, and Rice. Not only did LSU not offer him, it seem that Louisiana Tech did not deem him worthy of an in-state offer.
Thus far, Dileo has just about lived up to his minimal recruiting hype (or lack thereof). The only unmet expectation would seem to be his role in the special teams game (i.e. kick and punt returns). Remember how it seemed like our returners all lathered their gloves with butter before going out to return kicks/punts during the RR era? Well, part of Dileo's appeal was that he was known as somewhat of a punt return specialist. After the legions of amateur recruiting experts of the Michigan Internets got past the fact that Dileo was a mere 3-star (a seemingly ridiculous concept in this day and age of UM recruiting), people got around to the fact that he could at minimum be a dependable return guy during a time when Michigan had no such dependable return guys. We all remember those special teams horrors.
Dileo's role as a ST maven hasn't really come to pass, as Gallon took punts last year. After returning 2 punts and 8 kickoffs in 2010, Dileo only returned 3 punts last year (no kick returns). Things could change, I guess, especially with Martavious Odoms's departure. I could see Dileo filling Odoms's spot on the KR team to similar effect, i.e. he'll get you to the 20, give or take a couple of yards, and that's about it. Boring but dependable. It would be nice to have a Darryl Stonum type playmaker on returns, but I'll settle for not turning it over.
As far his play at the slot goes, Dileo has shown flashes of the ability to be a meaningful contributor. He is what he is: he's not fast, he's not big, he's not even elusive. However, while his 4.5 40 out of high school was easily exaggerated, he's quick in that he can get to an open area to catch a pass as opposed to just burning past coverage en route to one. Although the so called "QB Oh Noes," as MGoBlog calls it, wasn't deployed much last season, Dileo was targeted when Michigan went back to the 2010 passing play du jour. For example, this play, the fist TD of Dileo's career:
2011 Michigan Highlights v. Eastern Michigan (HD) (via parkinggod)
After a freshmen season in 2010 that saw minimal contribution from Dileo (1 rec., 3 yards), his 2011 was better, as he reeled in 9 balls for 121 yards and 2 TDs, with his long of 28 coming on a big 3rd down play, beating Buckeye safety CJ Barnett and snagging what was arguably one of the best tosses of Denard's career to date.
2011: Michigan 40 Ohio State 34 (via WolverineHistorian)
It will also be worth keeping an eye on Dileo's deployment on special teams. WIll he ever be the ST regular that many looking for a silver lining on the heels of his commitment predicted? He's not Steve Breaston by any means, but I'd like to see him get more of a shot; as a junior, I'm sure he'll get it.
Speaking of special teams, Dileo has served as the place holder on field goals, a role which I'm assuming he will continue with. Additionally, it seems that Dileo is the designated chaos-maker on special teams. I don't need to remind you of this ridiculous play from the Sugar Bowl. Also, Dileo carried the ball on a 4th down fake that allowed Michigan to continue its first drive in East Lansing, a drive which led to a score and a lot of hope and good feelings that were summarily pulverized for pretty much the rest of that game. Dileo also carried the ball for a first down on a fake against Nebraska later in the season.
On offense, my hope is that Dileo can parlay his "functional quickness" into a role as Denard's underneath security blanket, especially given that the tight end situation is fairly bleak. Dileo is not a burner, but it seems like he has good hands and can take a hit.
Once again, as with Jack Miller, I'll be honest: I'm somewhat irrationally a big Dileo fan. He's not a big time playmaker, but he's shown the ability to be a dependable pass catcher with the ability to get open. With Hemingway gone, there's a decently sized production vacuum there that needs to be filled by somebody, and Dileo--along with Jerald Robinson and the two freshmen, Chesson and Darboh--will be one of such player attempting to do that. I think that 15-25 receptions with somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-250 yards and a few scores is a reasonable expectation.