ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Perhaps the biggest compliment Michigan coach Brady Hoke can give any member of the Wolverines is also the most obvious: that he’s a football player.
And that’s what wide receiver Drew Dileo was on Saturday for Michigan in a 12-10 win over Michigan State. He was a football player.
Hoke admits that Dileo doesn’t have the size (5-foot-10, 180 pounds), nor is he the fastest player on the field. He didn’t come to Ann Arbor with the accolades of many top players. In fact, his only FBS offer was Michigan.
But Dileo earned himself that basic but flattering compliment from Hoke for his play against the Spartans, which included four receptions for 92 yards. All of his catches were big, but none was bigger than the one on the next-to-last play to get the Wolverines in position for the game-winning field goal.
“He’s not the biggest guy, he’s not the fastest guy, but the one thing Drew is, is he’s a football player,” Hoke said. “He’s a football player. That’s what he is.”
Dileo was just as excited to end his team’s four-game losing streak to its instate rival as he was about his individual performance.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Dileo said. “I have a role on this team and to fill my role like I did today, it was nice. It was nice for the seniors and Team 133 and Coach Hoke.”
Dileo didn’t just fill his role, he exceeded it. Because before this game, the junior had been targeted just nine times this season. And while he had been reliable (catching six of those passes) Dileo hadn’t been a big-time gamer. He had never had more than two receptions in a Big Ten game.
That is, until the Wolverines played in one of their biggest games this season.
Dileo was the most effective receiver for the Wolverines on the day. He set career marks for receptions and yards, and on top of that he proved himself sure-handed as the holder on all four of Michigan’s field goals.
Hoke referred to Dileo’s ability to catch long snaps and position them for his kickers as a special skill set, which is perhaps another compliment, but Dileo downplayed it.
“It really comes naturally to me,” he said before praising the abilities of the team’s long snappers and kickers.
But on Saturday, even during a season in which he hasn’t been the main receiver, it looked like big catches came naturally to him as well. Each of his receptions resulted in a first down. Each came on a scoring drive.
“You have to make the big plays and stay focused,” wide receiver Roy Roundtree said. “I felt like Drew did a great job.”