- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Jeremy Gallon brushed the question off, the entire premise actually. He insisted a 1,000-yard season would not be a big deal for him.
He focused his answers on what he could do for Michigan’s team, about helping the younger receivers the way Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree assisted him when he was a freshman.
Eventually, he couldn’t hold it in any more. Yeah, hitting 1,000 yards receiving in his final season at Michigan would mean something to him.
“It’ll mean a lot, but it’s just me wanting to come out and do whatever for my team,” Gallon said. “Stats and me catching the ball are the least of my concerns at this point.”
Fair, except he is the only one who believes it. His position coach, Jeff Hecklinski, publicly said it is a goal Gallon should shoot for. His former teammate, Roundtree, started pestering Gallon about 1,000 yards before last season even ended.
Michigan wide receivers know the importance of a four-digit season.
“A thousand yards is a big deal for anyone,” senior receiver Drew Dileo said. “It’s a big deal for Junior Hemingway, Roy Roundtree, Braylon Edwards.”
It is a big enough thing for the Wolverines that two of those guys -- Hemingway and Roundtree -- never got there. Edwards is one of two Michigan receivers, along with David Terrell, to have more than one 1,000-yard season. Edwards is also the single-season receiving yards holder, with 1,330.
The 1,000-yard receiving mark is an elusive one at Michigan despite the school's litany of big-name receivers. In school history, there have only been 12 1,000-yard seasons, spread among nine players.
Gallon is attempting to become the 10th. The good news for him if he does: The other nine all had at least brief careers in the NFL. The bad news: Other than Desmond Howard, all were prototypical professional receivers when it came to size.
Gallon, a fifth-year senior, was almost an afterthought in his first two seasons at Michigan. The change in coaching staff from Rich Rodriguez, who recruited him, to Brady Hoke could have been problematic. Hoke and his staff wanted to move to a pro-style offense featuring the big, tall receivers Michigan traditionally featured.
The 5-foot-8 Gallon is not that, and he easily could have been dismissed as another small receiver the staff was unsure of what to do with. Instead, he has the potential to turn into one of the top receivers in school history.
If that 1,000-yard season happens, he’ll finish his career in the top five in career receiving yards at Michigan. Depending how many catches it takes, he could end up in the top 10 in receptions, too.
“It’s a realistic benchmark for him,” Michigan receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski said. “If he reaches that plateau, then we’re moving the ball and we’re doing good things offensively. If he doesn’t reach that plateau, then we are probably struggling.
“I think it’s a good benchmark for us, too, because he is a guy on the outside that we need to make plays.”
In the past five seasons at Michigan this has never been an emphasis. It has been the read option or the reflexive reliance on Denard Robinson’s legs that has provided the offensive impetus for Michigan.
With Robinson gone and Michigan moving to a pro-style offense in which play action and downfield passing will be featured, Gallon’s role becomes more important.
The last Michigan receiver to gain 1,000 yards was Mario Manningham in 2007 (1,174).
Since then, Roundtree came the closest with 935 yards in 2010.
“For a personal goal for him [Gallon], I think he’s saying Michigan is used to having thousand-yard receivers and guys who are used to making plays like that,” Hecklinski said. “I think he’s seeing that as his goal, that he is having the opportunity to put himself in the same conversation as some of those guys.
“There are some huge names in there.”