Growing up on the mean streets of Baltimore, no one would have expected that young Jeremy Gallon would one day get a role on one of the most realistic and critically acclaimed cable TV dramas of all time.
Wait, that's not right.
The Rich Rodriguez years saw a heavy influx of short, (mostly) Floridian, slot-receivers that received comparisons to water bugs, jitter bugs, and anything else that is matched in tininess only by quickness and elusiveness. Gallon, however, was the crowning achievement of this new recruiting strategy. There were other slot receivers, but they were either the unheralded soon to be dubbed mountain goat types (Martavious Odoms) or the taller, lithe route runner type (Roy Roundtree).
Jeremy Gallon was the Rich Rodriguez recruit that everyone expected from the moment the coach set foot on campus. Gallon had it all, and in spades. He was fast, agile, and such a remarkable athlete that he ended up playing quarterback in high school despite being just 5'8. Brian of Mgoblog described Gallon as "a swiss army knife" and the kind of player with such a diverse set of skills and abilities that he would find a way on to the field right away.
Of course, this opinion was upheld by Rivals, which listed Gallon as the 11th ranked athlete prospect in the country and the 151st player overall. All of the hype was enough to get Gallon an invite to the US Army All-American game where Gallon, unsurprisingly impressed:
"[Gallon] has been far and away the most productive receiver. He has touchdowns catches in each of the practices and has a knack for getting open and sneaking behind the defense. At 5 feet 8, Gallon is small enough to creep through openings and then pop open for the pass."
The stage was set for Gallon to immediately contend for playing time as Michigan's 2009 slot receiver position consisted of Martavious Odoms and the still painfully skinny Roy Roundtree.
Of course, Jeremy Gallon -- an obvious candidate to challenge for playing time -- redshirted. Those were the days, eh Rich? When redshirts were given out by what I can only imagine was a big, drunken game of "pin the redshirt on the roster" played behind closed doors late at night in Schembechler Hall.
The dawn of the next season meant that it was finally Gallon's turn to fight for playing time, but the tail end of 2009 had seen the emergence of Roy Roundtree as a deadly weapon in the slot, and suddenly the door that seemed wide open in 2009 was very nearly barred shut. Gallon caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. You don't remember this.
You do remember this:
Jeremy Gallon special teams error limit: determined. It is ten billion. I'm obviously on the tolerant side of the scale when it comes to coaching errors (outside of obvious game theory errors, about which I have an Al Qaeda level of zealotry) but JESUS GOD RICH RODRIGUEZ WHY DID YOU LET JEREMY GALLON RETURN KICKS AND PUNTS FOR TEN GAMES.
Jeremy Gallon spent most of 2010 returning punts. He wasn't very good at it. I don't mean in a he only got 15 yards there, when he could have gotten 20 sort of way. I mean in a OH MY GOD WHY DID YOU DO THAT WHERE IS THE BALL HOW DID HE GET ITTTAAARRRRGGGGGGGHHHHH kind of way.
With Rich Rodriguez on his way out of town and a seemingly sensible coaching staff coming in, the thought was that Gallon would be phased out of the return game. On top of that, the offense was moving away from the crazy spread-n-shred of the Rodriguez years, and this would put the receiving burden on the taller, stronger outside receivers like Hemingway and Stonum.
Then a funny thing happened: Jeremy Gallon started to put it all together.
Gallon ended up finishing the 2011 season as MIchigan's second leading receiver with 31 catches for 453 yards and three touchdowns. He showed that, in that swiss army knife skill set that everyone praised before his arrival on campus that there was a cloaking device capable of sheilding him from the vision of Notre Dame secondary players (and only Notre Dame secondary players):
On top of that, Gallon proved to be a capable punt returner that doesn't make me want to slam my head into the wall repeatedly. Who knew, eh? Gallon tallied 19 of Michigan's 22 punt returns on the season and averaged just over ten yards per.
After a 2011 offseason filled with bristling uncertainty and questions about Gallon's ability to ever contribute on a meaningful level, he enters the 2012 season as one of Michigan's most productive returning receivers, and a solid option in the return game.
Given the rest of the options at receiver, we are all very much happy to have Jeremy Gallon back and in a position to contribute major minutes.
Just where Gallon will line up isn't a certainty yet, although with his size, skills, and the already stated move of Roy Roundtree to flanker, it would seem likely that Gallon plays mostly out of the slot. However, given the lack of any proven production from the potential outside receivers on the roster, it wouldn't be shocking to see Gallon play from just about every spot out wide as the coaches
fling shit at the wall to see what sticks experiment with different, unproven lineups.
As for production, unless one of the outside receivers steps up and becomes a true deep threat that will stretch the secondary -- thereby opening up the entire passing game -- and create holes for a slot guy like Gallon to operate, the odds are his stat line hovers just around where it did last year, only maybe with more receptions (30-40 and 500-ish yards). Gallon isn't big enough to compete against dedicated coverage, and without someone to draw away that coverage and get him favorable matchups, he could struggle to break out and lead the team in receptions.
Regardless, 2012 probably won't be a banner year for Michigan receivers. Nobody looks to be the true No.1 target, and Al Borges will most likely have his work cut out for him scheming ways to get his receivers open. Gallon will be one of those go-to guys, and most likely will still be second or third most productive receiver on the team by the end of the year -- opening up the hope that next year, with a real field stretcher on the outside (come on down, Laquon Treadwell) and a taller, stronger matchup problem on the other side (Chesson, Robinson, or Darboh) that Gallon could have his best year picking apart underneath zones and making linebackers and nickel corners cry in one-on-one coverage.
For now, Jeremy Gallon is one of the top targets. After a couple years of uncertainty, I can say with full confidence that this is a good thing.